How to Get Along With Friends and Relatives Stupid Enough to Be Voting For the Wrong Side

Surviving the holidays… and the rest of your life • Merrill Markoe
Art by David Chelsea

Art by David Chelsea


ren’t we all getting a little sick of living in a country that operates like a big dysfunctional family, so perennially disgusted by large numbers of our fellow Americans that we have no choice but to dread any mandatory gatherings? Isn’t everyone fed up with living in our Two-Conspiracy-Theory System, wherein the minority party spends four years trying to prove how the majority party is dismantling the Constitution and hastening the apocalypse?
     I bring this up because the holidays will soon be upon us — no matter when you are reading this, holidays are always about to descend. That means lengthy, utterly unavoidable encounters with friends and family members possessing horrible political opinions.
     This year, before it all starts again, I suggest we rethink things. What choice do we have? We’re all in this together (though I can be talked into excluding those who refuse to stop texting). In the name of finding more civil, adult ways to communicate, allow me to offer a few time-tested methods for defusing any potentially explosive social encounters with theoretical loved ones definitely on the wrong team.

1: Hit the Gym

Before attending any social event that will require close contact with contentious people, be sure to get lots of physical exercise. Studies have found that “tired” looks almost exactly like “peace and serenity.”

2: Be a Good Sport

It’s important to call a moratorium on partisan gloating. No more rocking back and forth while whistling and making that face with the raised eyebrows and the faint smile that says, “Don’t look at me. I’m just sitting here, minding my own business!” Remember, a well-timed silence can be just as infuriating as name-calling.

3: Diagnose

At the same time, be sure not to take someone else’s explosions of political rage personally. A good way to do this is to identify which childhood traumas may be at the root of the terrible choices this person is making. Prepare yourself for unavoidable social events by purusing the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The more quickly and specifically you can affix someone with an official personality disorder, the easier it will be to shift building hatred into simply finding this person pathetic. 

4: Soothe, Don’t Seethe

When the impulse to punch begins to arise, instead reach out, hug the person gently and whisper, “I hear that you are angry. Know that I’m here for you if you want to cry.” As you dry their tears, pull out your phone or iPad and share a few of your favorite animal videos — taking care to avoid those where the animal does something so dunderheaded that it could be construed as a metaphor for Donald Trump. (For example, that Golden Retriever who lets tennis balls just bounce off his head.) Try to stick to cats sleeping someplace unexpected: A paper bag! A sock drawer! A frying pan! Or anything featuring a wallabee! Hey! Where has all that seething hatred disappeared to now?

5: The Pity Party

Here’s an idea that always works: Have a pity party! Everyone is always saying, “Don’t have a pity party,” but that’s because most people don’t know how to throw a good one! The key is to invite a large number of vain people prone to histrionics about thinning hair, gaining weight or developing nasal labial folds. No matter what their political inclinations, anyone exposed to this crowd for more than a few minutes will be unable to focus on anything but an escape plan.

6: Ryan? Or Chris?

If none of the above seems to help, remember that the best counterattack is an unexpected response. When your uncle says, “People don’t want a democracy. They want a babysitter!” pause for a minute, then say, “I can’t figure out who you remind me of. What’s the name of that blonde actor in his 30’s who is always the reluctant superhero? Bradley someone? Or is he a Ryan? Or a Chris?” This will launch you into a tranquilizing, endlessly distracting whirlpool full of undifferentiated celebrities and their interchangeable movies, which can last as long as necessary.

7:Redirect and Distract

Remember that living in The United States means more than just feeling like a helpless piece of a paralyzed system drenched in political hatred. Its also about learning to navigate a culture that routinely exalts the worst in products and entertainment! In the end, the key to getting along with people on the wrong side of the aisle is finding the things upon which everyone can agree, thus redirecting all the free-floating anger toward a common enemy. That means it’s your responsibility this and every holiday season to be sure to invite any friends or relatives with substance abuse problems to every one of your gatherings. In the event that they forget to attend, as is often the case, have at the ready a list of the names of obnoxious anchor people, conspiracy theorists and reality show contestants as a way to redirect acrimony. There is nothing like a rousing discussion of worthless pop-culture egomaniacs to remind political antagonists how much common ground they still share.

In closing, I would like to propose that before the next Presidential election, we the people of the United States (if we are still calling ourselves that by 2020) create a brand new methodology for dealing with the days on which we vote. Since we now live in an era where our elections, like our winter holidays, are both nerve wracking and endless, why don’t we soften things a little by adding a few beloved holiday trappings? How about Election Trees, red, white and blue lights, and a post precinct-closing gift-giving celebration? If all those who picked the winning candidate had to buy gifts for those whose candidate lost, it would soften the blow, stimulate the economy and simultaneously create new, more traditional avenues for releasing partisan anger. After all, there’s nothing like a national holiday celebration that involves the giving of gifts for bringing Americans together in a terrifying ritual of pent-up rage. ◊

This piece originally appeared in The American Bystander #3.

writes for all the existing forms that still allow the long spelling of the word "you."
Merrill Markoe writes for all the existing forms that still allow the long spelling of the word "you."
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