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Thanksgiving: Rivalry Week

This Week in the Narrative 107

Nigel Clarke

At last, there is something which those across the political spectrum seem to agree on. From Fox News to CNN, The New York Times to the New York Post, from conservative talk radio to NPR, the message is the same this Thanksgiving – that the family gathering is probably going to be hell.


I knew a man once who presented to me a life hack – ‘watch out for absolutes,’ as in, “always,” “all,” “never,” things like that. The idea was that since absolutes are both the most forceful way to say to say something and the most easily disproven, they should draw our attention. I believe the tongue-in-cheek way the man put it was, ‘watch out for absolutes, because there are no absolutes.’

I like to apply this theory to mainstream media, that is to say, to watch for places where usually oppositional media sources promote something universally – the easiest example would probably be war – as these spots are often the most diabolical, and thus the most deserving of our attention.

On the road between Richmond, Virginia and Washington D.C. this Thanksgiving ‘travel day,’ I had ample time to ponder the mainstream media’s insistence on family antagonism, on an unavoidable vitriol stemming from an increasingly polarized political discourse, like they have nothing to do with it, like we were all the type of people who hated our neighbor because they went to a different college.

54 million people – that’s how many people are said to be traveling this week; the roads were a parking lot. I flipped through radio stations. The sports stations were talking about ‘Rivalry Week’ in college football, the news stations were talking about political rivalries at the Thanksgiving table.

The idea is simple: people are supporting their team so voraciously that they are unable to enjoy a holiday with family.

You’ll notice I said ‘team’ and not ‘ideological stance,’ since that, really, is what this is about.

Who could have foreseen only a few years ago when Robert Mueller was leading the illegal War on Terror mass-surveillance charge as director of W. Bush’s FBI, that he would become a messiah-like figure whom liberals would stand with ahead of their own families? Who could have foreseen good old boys from the south doing the same with some rich asshole from New York City? Who could have foreseen southern immigration becoming a hill to die on for conservatives a thousand miles from the border, or that after years of terrorism, tyranny, and destabilization, liberals would finally turn on Saudi Arabia? Who could have foreseen fist-fights over a stupid red hat?

We are at a point where ideological belief has been replaced by a sort of perverted fandom, which, I would suggest, is just how the mainstream media likes it. Those who are ideologically steadfast can at least hope to hold a corrupt corporate media – to say nothing of the political system – to account. Fans can only clap when the applause sign turns on.

For anyone seeking to avoid the narrative that your family is your enemy this or any holiday season, I would like to suggest a game, particularly to those families which are politically diverse, at whose family get-togethers political discourse is bound to take place.

The game is called ‘Thought Boggle.’ It is based, of course, on Boggle, the game where you shake up the little container of letters then take the top off and try to write as many words as possible based on the letters which sit face up. Doesn’t matter if it’s cat, caterpillar, or pillar, just write as many words down as you can.

Thought Boggle is similar in that a topic is introduced, then a collaborative effort is made to compile as many thoughts on that topic as possible. These thoughts are not a projection of opinion, or an attempt to convince or argue. Rather the idea is to uncover as much of the mosaic as possible, to collaborate with those of different generations and stances to better grasp the full scope of what exists around an issue.

Plus, it’s fun, the pleasure of eccentricity evident, since the thoughts can come from anywhere, whether the realm of Mark Zuckerberg of Mark Levin, Charles Manson or Marilyn Manson, Richard Pryor or Richard Nixon, Saddam Hussein or Barack Hussein Obama … you see what I’m getting at.

Thought Boggle, it’s what’s for dinner. Happy holidays everyone.


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Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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Thanksgiving: Rivalry Week