With Thanksgiving coming up this week, while we're excited by the prospects of enjoying the company of family and/or friends over a huge, traditional meal, many of us also approach the holiday with some amount of trepidation. We can only take so much of bad, FOX News-generated opinions of current events before the meal begins to feel a bit abusive and then, no matter how much we know it's a bad idea... well, we just have to say something.
Based on current headlines, these are some topics that are likely to come up during dinner, with some suggested responses.
SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS
"We can't let these Syrian refugees into the U.S. because the Paris attacks proved there are terrorists hiding among them."
Let's put aside the fact that it is fundamentally against the American character to turn away those in need for a second just to address the inaccuracies here.
The Paris attacks were orchestrated and carried about by mainly European nationals - that means people born and/or nationalized in Europe. There was one Syrian passport found at the scene of one of the attacks and that turned out to be a fraud.
Also, denying Syrians refuge and turning them back to Syria and/or closing the borders is exactly what ISIS wants. They want people to rule. So by turning them away, we're giving the terrorists what they want. So, offer congratulations to anyone arguing this point as they are actually supporting ISIS here.
"We can't even take care of our veterans. How can we take care of refugees?"
I like to think Americans have the capacity to walk and chew gum at the same time. Oh, and the reason we can't take care of our veterans? Because numbskulls keep voting Republicans into office who vote against Veterans' Affairs. Read this.
"But they aren't being screened! We don't know anything about these people."
Actually, the Syrian refugees are subjected to a long and rigorous screening process before they are placed in a country.
Just show this segment from John Oliver's show where he breaks down the process.
You can also share with them the national shame that is the plight of the St. Louis. In 1939, this was a ship of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. The U.S. refused to provide this ship safe harbor and it had to return to Europe, where a majority of its 900+ passengers are thought to have been killed by the Nazis. This is blood on the hands of America's so-called "Greatest Generation" and it's a national shame. Let us not repeat the same mistakes.
And finally, turning away "your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore" is NOT SOMETHING WE FUCKING DO.
THE MUSLIM DATABASE
"I think that Donald Trump has a good idea, we should have a database of Muslims."
They have to realize what this sounds like, right? No? What if we add the suggestion that we pass a law requiring all Muslims to wear a yellow Islamic Star and Crescent (that way we can more easily tell the difference between a Muslim and a Brooklyn hipster)?
They still don't get it? Then suggest instead of focusing just on Muslims, we require all people of every religion to register with the government, including (and especially) Christians.
Do they balk at that? If so, why? We are far more likely to be a victim of an act of Christian Extremist Terror in the United States than Muslim Extremist Terror.
Either way, ask them to just stop advocating for policies that the Nazis used. Okay? They should know what it makes them sound like, right?
THE ISIS PROBLEM
"What do these crazy people want?"
Well, they're basically a doomsday cult that is now the size of a European nation. You know how people on the American Christian Right are such strong supporters of Israel because they think it will bring about the Apocalypse? Well, their goals and ISIS's goals are similar.
"We need boots on the ground to stop them. We need to send in American troops."
This actually helps fulfill part of their Doomsday prophecy. And sending in American troops would be the single greatest enlistment ad ISIS could have. Their ranks would swell to incredible numbers.
Here, read this. It's a pretty good accounting of what ISIS wants and why.
OBAMA'S NOT DOING ENOUGH/IT'S HIS FAULT
"This is Obama's fault. ISIS grew on his watch and he's not doing enough to stop it."
Go back to what I said about American boots on the ground in Syria being the single greatest recruitment tool ISIS could wish for. There is only so much America can do about this. We can bomb. And we can train, support and aid other armies, preferably made up of folks in the region, to fight ISIS. The problem is there aren't many Middle Eastern nations willing to go on offense against ISIS despite the threat they pose (or because of the threat they pose).
"Well, it's still Obama's fault."
Wow. People really don't remember things, do they?
Okay, remember when George W. Bush and his administration lied us into an unnecessary war in Iraq? Remember when a number of us pointed out that would have a destabilizing effect on the region? That such a power vacuum would have unimaginable consequences? But the Bush Administration and its supporters just keep parroting the same talking points that the war would be weeks instead of months and that we would be treated as liberators? They were all completely wrong. Bush was wrong. ISIS is an example of the unimaginable consequences many of us warned about at the time.
Look, people don't get to support an Administration for destabilizing a region despite a number of us warning against it, and then blame those who warned against it for the results of the acts they were warned about.
Christ, what are they, toddlers? And oh yes, if they voted for George W. Bush, then they endorsed this bullshit.
If all else fails, try diversion. Simply ask who they like in the Republican field for president and if they think that person is likely to win a general election.
And for play-along fun, enjoy this Shank Thanksgiving Conversation Bingo card.
(Note: To play, you can't bring up these conversational talking points, someone else at the dinner table must. Just keep plying Uncle Richard with his "Iced Tea for Grown-Ups" and see how many of these he gets around to).