Dear Belladonna Rogers,
Unlike last week’s advice-seeker, I have but one sibling. He’s 58, two years my junior. He hosts Thanksgiving dinner every year because our mother lives in a nursing home near him. He’s liberal and belligerently so.
If I want to see our mother at Thanksgiving — and I do — I have to drive 430 miles from Pasadena to Napa. During Thanksgiving dinner in 2009, my brother asked what I thought of Obama’s stimulus package. I knew we’d disagree bitterly, so I tried avoiding an answer. He persisted like a bulldog until I said I was against it. My wife and I gave specific, fact-based reasons we opposed it. He, his wife and grown children all piled onto my wife and me, trotting out all the liberal bromides against anyone who differs.
The following morning when we visited for breakfast, we were shocked to see he’d posted a new magnet, one that hadn’t been there the night before, front and center on his fridge door:
Both my wife and I took umbrage at such a hostile message intended as an obvious rebuke to our candid replies over dinner.
Thanksgiving 2010 he asked us about ObamaCare, and we calmly said we were against it, offering specific reasons for our opposition. The same pile-on recurred. Our mother has very high blood pressure, and she becomes visibly agitated when we argue. I don’t want to be any part of the cause of her fatal stroke, so I cleared the table, and was again confronted by the insulting fridge magnet. I was so offended I moved it to the far side of the fridge near the floor, and left not long afterward.
Our mother’s now 85, and in very fragile health, and I don’t want another pitched battle when my brother asks me which candidate I support. I can’t refuse to go because it means so much to our mother to be with both her sons.
What to do?
— Pissed in Pasadena
Your brother’s behavior is deplorable. I’d be pissed, too.
In considering your options, imagine a speedometer from 30 to 80 mph, representing six potential approaches at increasing levels of confrontation as you pursue your goal of a politics-free Thanksgiving.
Just in case, though, I suggest arriving at your brother’s house with a few of your own favorite fridge magnets to leave behind as thoughtful gifts if, despite your efforts, your brother is unable to attain maturity by November 24.
Such trinkets are available here for $5 each. They’d be amulets in your pocket –protecting you from evil and providing you with a measure of cheerful confidence as you enter his house. Think of them as good luck charms. Cue Elvis…
Now for your approaches: starting at a leisurely 30 mph, email your brother that you’d like to talk on the phone before Thanksgiving. Tell him you’re looking forward to it but want to air your political differences beforehand to avoid another debate at the table. “It isn’t healthy for Mother, and it’s not so great for me, either. Let’s discuss whatever questions you have now, so we can keep politics off the table on Thanksgiving.”
If he fails to agree, kick it up a notch: “We’ve had two consecutive Thanksgiving dinners ruined by our political differences. You’ve seen how it upsets Mom when we bicker. For her sake, let’s get it over with now.”50 mph: “I know you get off on goading me until I tell you what I think, but I’m not playing that game this year. I’m 60 years old, and I’m the one who has to drive 430 miles to be with you and Mom. It’s a pain to make so long a drive knowing the whole way that you’re determined to pick a fight with me.”