It sounds like the opening to a bad joke.
A Bernie Sanders voter, two Trump supporters, three Hillary Clinton Democrats and two Never Trump Republicans walk into a bar…or, in this case, Thanksgiving Dinner.
What happens next? Something wonderful.
Every year my friend Sonia and her husband Clay invite the same eclectic group of people into their home for Thanksgiving dinner. Some of us are friends. Others are family. We agree on almost nothing, except decency, good humor and tolerance.
I could define tolerance as the acceptance of those who are different from me. But that’s just the low hanging fruit of tolerance.
True tolerance is the ability to accept those who THINK differently than I do and as a result, VOTE differently than I do.
Over turkey and gravy, we ask those on “the other side” which columnists we should be reading, and which podcasts we should be listening to. We ask because we are curious to know how “the other side” thinks and sees the world and forms their opinions. We discuss books, tv shows, movies, history ancient and modern and of course, politics.
No one shouts. No once calls anyone names. No one assumes anything about a person’s character, intelligence or integrity based on the way they vote.
I know. Radical isn’t it?
Maybe this is because we start the meal knowing everyone at the table is smart, decent and thoughtful.
Most years we have an epidemiologist, a computer science professor, a retired CIA station chief, a hedge fund guy, a senior Democratic Senate aid, a trade expert, a Justice Department lawyer, two Czech economists from the International Monetary Fund and my friend Sonia’s father, who risked his life to escape Communist Czechoslovakia as a young man. Oh, yeah. And a writer. I’m always the least interesting, least educated person at the table.
We discuss the merits of the Universal Basic Income, taxes, China trade policy, The Walking Dead, North Korea, homework, the next presidential election, education reform, food allergies, NAFTA and the epic Nerf gun war our children are waging in the basement.
I walk away from Thanksgiving dinner each year grateful for the feast of food and the feast of ideas. I walk away grateful to live in a part of the country where such an eclectic group of people can gather for a meal.
I’m grateful to have an open mind. And I’m grateful to have funny, kind, generous, thoughtful friends who invite us over for dinner each year and in return ask only that I bring my green bean casserole.
We live in interesting times. We can use this as an excuse to hate or as an opportunity to learn. I’d rather try to understand those I disagree with than dismiss them as one-dimensional cardboard villains in the ongoing saga of American history.
Breaking bread with people who have completely different ideologies doesn’t just made me a better person. It also makes me a better writer.
Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasionor unloading the dishwasher.