We’ve all been there—reaching for the last crescent roll at your tall cousin’s engagement party, feeling blessed for the incoming sedative rush that the carb brick will deliver (plus, you’ve just inhaled a pile of crushed expired Xanax), when your uncle snatches the roll out from under your nose. “Immigration,” he hisses. Also, “Barack Hussein Obama,” and “the disintegration of the American dream.” Now you have to break down each of your uncle’s erratic slurs and teach him why he is misinformed. And there you have it: another family barbecue to end in tears.
In an article published Monday in The Atlantic, Olga Khazan explored these partisan tiffs, and how they are supposedly fucking up our social well-being.
“People start seeing themselves or their political views as the main representation of their values, and what is right and wrong,” said Emanuel Maidenberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, to Khazan. “[Partisan hostility] deprives people of social connections and social support that they will need at some point. It’s very troubling.”
Khazan wrote that Maidenberg, as well as University of Texas communications professor Anita Vangelisti both see these arguments as futile—you’re not going to convince your bad uncle to change his mind about The Mexicans, so your best bet is to refuse to argue. They suggest saying something like, “I continue to disagree with you, but I’d prefer not to fight about it,” and to avoid negativity. Play the smug lamb for your own mental health.
I am enthusiastic about maintaining what moderate mental health I currently enjoy, but I am also proud, and unwilling to smile and hand my uncle my bread roll of political integrity. So, sorry to impinge on your professional turf, Maidenberg and Vangelisti, but I also have some ideas about how to de-escalate a political argument.
- Bring up a memorable funeral.
- Take off your top and say, “Is it hot in here or have I just started premature menopause?”
- Find the nearest tree and climb it all the way to the top.
- Put your phone to your ear and say, “I have to take this—it’s my mortician,” and walk away.
- Fart loudly while maintaining eye contact.
- Ask, “Do you know where the restroom is? It’s an emergency,” and then wink.
- Start frantically yelling, “Do you hear that?” until everyone is listening hard.
- Somersault out of the room.
- Congratulate them on their recent divorce (doesn’t matter if they are married or what).
- Dig a hole with your hands. When they ask you what you’re doing say, “I’m preparing my own grave.”
- Find a notable mole on their face and poke it and say, “Beep.”
- Do an inappropriate slapstick fall to the ground.
Or, don’t do any of these things and win the argument, or fight until you die.