“Pass the gravy.”
“How ’bout them Packers?”
“I wonder how much of this food is genetically modified.”
Hmm…which line doesn’t belong? The table talk at many holiday gatherings often fluctuates between strained and superficial at best—as most folks try to keep the family peace. This reality can leave the radicals in quite a quandary: maintain proper etiquette or exploit a golden opportunity to spark a crucial conversation?
Then, as you sit there agonizing over the right way to broach a touchy topic, the person next to you suddenly blurts out something that makes your blood boil. Do you react or do you “mind your manners”?
Can I get a “Mic Check”? It just may be time to…
When Aunt Betty sez: “If the planet is heating up, why is it so cold today?”
What you want to say: “Listen, you old bat, if you stopped tuning in to right wing radio long enough, you might realize how ignorant you sound.”
Another approach: “The term global warming can be confusing. If we perceived it as climate change instead, it’d make more sense because shifting weather patterns often result in unusually cold weather in certain areas.”
Link for Aunt Betty: Changing the climate…of denial
When Grandpa sez: “You eat what you like and I’ll eat what I like. What we eat is a personal choice.”
What you want to say: “I’m sure Jeffrey Dahmer would’ve agreed.”
Another approach: “On the surface, Grandpa, that sounds logical and fair, but reliable evidence shows that our food choices have a major global impact like, for example, 51% of human-created greenhouse gases being produced by animal food industries. Lifestyle changes like avoiding GMOs, supporting organic farms, eating local, and going vegan can enable us to make the ‘personal choices’ that benefit all life on the planet.”
Link for Grandpa: Your cheeseburger causes deforestation
What you want to say: “I’m curious, Uncle Ray, what’s it like to live your entire life as a brainwashed drone?”
Another approach: “If they were lazy, they wouldn’t be working so hard to change the system and if they could find meaningful work, they might not be protesting. Did you that even the New York Times admits that 100 million people—one in three Americans—live ‘either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it’.”
Link for Uncle Ray: Declaration of the Occupation of New York City
When the niece who just started college sez: “My Environmental Science professor has gotten me totally into the green thing. Now I drive 40 miles each way just to shop at Whole Foods.”
What you want to say: “Your Environmental Science professor could use a swift kick in the ass.”
Another approach: “Part of the green lifestyle involves remaining aware of food miles. By choosing locally grown food, we can drastically reduce the carbon footprint of our eating habits. I’d be happy to help you find an organic market closer to your campus.”
Link for your niece: Living La Vida Locavore
When your second cousin (once removed, on your spouse’s side) sez: “I eat whatever I want and I’ve never been sick a day in my life.”
What you want to say: “Well, there’s still time.”
Another approach: “I was just reading an article that explained how the meat-based diet can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more. Would you like me to send you the link?”
Link for your second cousin: 101 Reasons Why I’m Vegetarian
When everyone’s favorite sister-in-law sez: “I don’t care what you say. I love my SUV and I’m never giving it up.”
What you want to say: “I hate you. I really fuckin’ hate you.”
Another approach: “It’s not just what you drive individually but how much the car culture is damaging the eco-system that matters. For starters, if you tried participating in car pooling, using the public transportation option, and riding your bike whenever possible, you just may find yourself loving these options even more.”
Link for sis-in-law: Why cars suck
When dear ol’ Dad sez: “Ah, the planet was here before us and will be here long after we’re gone. It all doesn’t matter so let’s just enjoy ourselves while we can.”
What you want to say: “Father, are you out of your denial-loving mind?”
Another approach: “I also think Earth will exist long after humans are gone but what concerns me is how much our lifestyle is negatively impacting so many other species. It seems unfair—even selfish—to not change our habits when animals and plants are going extinct at such an alarming rate.”
Link for Dad: Extinction is forever
When your precocious but sometimes whiny nephew sez: “Can’t we please just focus on Thanksgiving and all the great traditions?”
What you want to say: “What traditions might that be, Little Timmy? Slaughtering indigenous people, perhaps?”
Another approach: “Sometimes it’s exciting to create new traditions or maybe even discover other traditions we’re not familiar with.”
Link for your nephew: The annual unThanksgiving on Alcatraz Island
When everyone complains that you’ve served Tofurky and waxes poetically about the joy of eating a charred turkey corpse.
What you want to say: “You’re nothing but a bunch of murdering zombies!”
Another approach: “Did you know that domesticated turkeys cannot fly but wild turkeys can soar at speeds up to 55 miles per hour? If we stopped eating turkeys and turkey farms became unnecessary, eventually all turkeys would be able to fly. I don’t wanna restrict anyone’s flying freedom, do you?”
Link for everyone: Celebrate turkeys, don’t eat ’em
Whenever someone suggests I should mind my manners, I can’t help but wonder: When does it become more rude to be polite? Our overburdened planet is crying out for help but some of us are too concerned about offending to speak up and act up?
On the grand scale of offensiveness, I submit that being forward and informed about social change displays far more etiquette than ignoring, say, 29,158 kids under the age 5 dying each day from preventable causes.
Of course, if all else fails…inhale deeply, collect your thoughts, calm your mind, and let loose with a thunderous: MIC CHECK!
#OccupyDebate&Dialogue. #OccupyYerVoice. #OccupyThanksgiving.