I’m from a large family, and we have a tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving at a different family member’s house each year. The host determines the exact menu and passes out recipes for side dishes to the other families, and then everyone comes together on the day itself for a happy feast.
There was a period a few years back when attendance at the family feast was tapering off. Several cousins who had developed gluten allergies decided they’d rather stay home and make their own meal. Some of the grandkids wanted vegetarian or vegan options. The meat eaters wanted free-range turkey. Others spoke up—why can’t there be some healthy nonalcoholic beverages? After all, poor Uncle Harry, with his failing kidneys, should have something to drink besides water. The family as a whole made some accommodations because of course we wanted everyone to come and enjoy themselves. We were also concerned because some family members who used to come to the annual feast were actually starting to attend a shockingly racist and sexist comedy routine in town rather than join our Thanksgiving party.
This year was supposed to be the year we would win everyone back into the family holiday tradition and drive the comedy act into bankruptcy. Aunt Hillary was chosen as this year’s hostess, and she passed out the recipes and instructions well in advance. Yet to the dismay of many in the family, all of her recipes were for the same traditional dishes we had been serving for years. Uncle Bernie and his kids spoke up and said, “Where are those healthier dishes we were going to offer? Organic options, special dietary options, for the family members who really wanted them? Don’t you want them to attend?” But Aunt Hillary stood her ground: “The party is at my house this year, and I write the rules.” Uncle Bernie said, “That’s true,” but he continued to ask politely, “Maybe we could have just one vegetarian recipe?” We kids, however, were more vocal: “This is crazy, Aunt Hillary! We might come anyway, because we like the family feast, and one day of traditional, not-very-healthy food won’t kill us, but what about the more distant cousins? The ones with serious illnesses and allergies? The ones who aren’t speaking up right now? Maybe you haven’t heard them complaining, but we have! Please, give them a reason to attend our party!”
Sadly, Aunt Hillary remained almost completely inflexible. She added one beverage and one vegetarian side dish to the menu but spent most of last month just talking about how bad the comedy show was and how stupid anyone would be if they attended that show instead of coming to her party. This approach, as predicted by Bernie’s family members, did not go over well with the more distant cousins. Many did indeed stay home this year. The comedy show was attended by its usual fans plus a number of the distant cousins who were feeling miffed at Aunt Hillary and thought they would just go check out the competition. It is not really clear which event was more heavily attended, Aunt Hillary’s party or the comedy show, but it is clear that the comedy show is not about to go bankrupt, even though it has now publicly revealed itself to be some kind of horror freak show, with no comedy at all.
Nearly everyone is feeling hungover right now.
The crazy thing is that Aunt Hillary and her children are trying to blame Bernie’s children for the fact that her party wasn’t a success! She, like all hosting families in previous years, had a budget for sending out invitations. Bernie’s children got their invitations and they came to the party—even though we were not happy about the menu in many ways and were already planning how to make improvements for next year. But it seems that Aunt Hillary’s family didn’t send invitations to the distant cousins and instead expected people like us to go out and sell the party to them. This is totally illogical—if my distant cousin has heart disease and there won’t be any heart-friendly dishes at the party, I am not going to insult his intelligence, waste my time, and damage our friendship by trying to convince him to attend. In fact, a high-pressure sales pitch might be more likely to sway him from deciding to stay at home to a deciding to check out the competition.
Bernie’s supporters, myself included, did what we could to warn the party organizers that they needed to improve the menu. Now we are ready to offer a helping hand to clean up the mess—on several conditions:
We don’t want to hear anything more about how this year’s failure was our fault.
And we want next year’s party to be organized entirely by members of Bernie’s side of the family so that EVERYONE in our large extended family gets invited and feels welcome, including progressives, working-class voters, and traditional Democrats.