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Milt Hankins: Thanksgiving table is no place for politics

Dec. 06, 2013 @ 09:19 AM

So, be honest! How many of you escaped a political discussion at your Thanksgiving table? I hope you did.

If you have a small or a large family, it's a safe bet a number of political persuasions were represented around the Thanksgiving table. My family was no exception. We run the gamut from extreme right-wing fundamentalists to far left-wing liberals. I, of course, am the liberal.

Whenever we get together, there will inevitably be a few choice innuendoes thrown from both sides. Actually, in my family, no one has ever been what one could say in the middle.

My maternal grandfather and grandmother held to opposite political parties. I remember, as a youngster, the one trying to keep the other from voting. They would go to great extremes to make their way to the polls, thinking that the other one had been unable to arrange a surreptitious departure. Their antics were never successful; they always managed to cancel each other's votes. I know they canceled out each other's votes because they always voted a straight party-line ticket!

The same was true of my parents. My mother held to one party, while my father held to the other. I can't remember that they ever argued about their political differences; it was just an inescapable conclusion that they would go to the polls and that one would vote one straight party ticket, while the other canceled it out. But, election after election, they emphasized the importance of voting!

At the Thanksgiving table, politics were never discussed. I don't think anyone dared bring up the subject lest they be forever banned from the family gatherings.

Of course, this created no little angst when I was growing up and when I began to think about which political party I should align myself with. I held both my grandparents and my parents in high regard, but I knew I could not get sufficient (or adequate) guidance from them. So, I went off on my own.

All three of us kids (my sister, brother and I) wound up being staunch conservative Republicans. At least, at first. I still remember how excited my sister and her family were about the John F. Kennedy campaign in West Virginia. I couldn't understand (I was too young to vote) how they, being intransigent Baptists conservatives, could be so excited about a New England Irish Catholic -- and to beat it all, he was a Democrat!

The first time I cast a ballot, I voted for Sen. Barry Goldwater. And I voted Republican in every presidential election until President Bill Clinton ran for his second term. I've been voting Democratic ever since. My family continues to be staunchly conservative, right-wing Republicans. It's rather apparent that I'm the "odd man out."

Whenever a political argument breaks out in our family, it can become vicious, mean and hateful. So, we do everything possible to refrain from talking about politics at the holiday table! Which, as far as I'm concerned, makes the occasion pretty boring!

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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