Students brace for family political clashes at Thanksgiving table

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Political and social tension has made some BYU students apprehensive about potential conflict with family members at Thanksgiving gatherings, whether in person or via technology. (Pexels/Craig Adderly)

Families will likely have a lot to talk about over turkey and stuffing this year between the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic. Some BYU students fear these conversations could cause strife between family members with differing opinions.

Political debates over Thanksgiving dinner between extended family members have become so common that internet memes have started to circulate on the topic.

“I feel like people almost go into family celebrations dreading when there will inevitably be a fight instead of being excited to celebrate and gather with the people that they love,” BYU student Ali Costley said. “The political climate now can make family gatherings really, really hard.”

A September Pew research study found that nearly 80% of American voters have little to no friends who support the opposing party’s candidate in the presidential election. This means those who share a political side don’t usually consort with those of the opposite affiliation. However, during Thanksgiving family members of diverse backgrounds and political opinions all gather together in the same room.

“We have become so divided that we can’t even listen to our own families, let alone strangers with different opinions,” Costley said. “It’s hard, and it feels dangerous to me.”

BYU undergraduate Bryndee Helquist is celebrating Thanksgiving with her family over Zoom this year to keep her elderly family members from getting sick. And although she will miss her family, she admitted that it might make difficult holiday conversations a little bit easier.

“Most of my family have different opinions, and they don’t really listen to each other, and I don’t want to fight, especially during Thanksgiving,” she said. “Even though it’s an election year, and COVID’s been happening. We’re pretty civil, but I don’t want to talk about these things around my whole family.”

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