If you read the title of this post and are completely and thoroughly confused, that’s okay. When I say ruin Christmas, I don’t mean set the presents on fire, and begin a shouting match that turns into a food fight, or anything wild in that nature. So relax, put the matches down and let’s talk about what I mean when I say Ruin Christmas 2016.
For most of us, Christmas is a joyful as it is uncomfortable. We gather our families together and talk about the year and other things that have happened since the last time everyone was united. Someone will ask you if you’ve gained weight, or make a snarky remark about the fact that Cousin X has a new job AND is engaged, while you are neither.
You hug and kiss your parents and then retreat to your childhood bedroom that is more like a museum of your past. And everyone agrees not to talk about politics at the table until someone has one too many and begins blurting out their opinions about Banned Topic Y.
Everyone will ignore such comments, yet feel emboldened to begin conversations about other seemingly less politically charged conversations. If one wasn’t listening for them racially charged, homophobic, xenophobic and other dangerous comments might slip from several different members of the family.
The correct holiday response would be to ignore such comments, or bookmark them for a conversation that is supposed to happen later, but you only see Sexist Uncle #2 twice a year, and you’ll probably forget the incident by Thanksgiving of next year anyway. Thus, a teaching opportunity has been lost, while the world keeps turning and incorrect opinions and thoughts remain unchecked.
So, here’s how we ruin Christmas this year:
Challenge those statements.
Call them in for healthy discussions rather than calling them out as being blatantly wrong.
Openly disagree with what someone has to say, and then defend your opinion.
Don’t attack the person, dismantle their argument.
Be polite, but firm.
Express your love for them, but remain strong in your conviction.
Know when to table the conversation and move on.
Accept that not everyone is ready to learn, and that at the end of the day you can’t change the mind of someone who is not willing to listen.
On paper, it doesn’t look that bad right? In real life, that’s another ball game. Sometimes the people we love the most can say some of the most conflicting things. And if conversations of importance are not happening, then we cannot progress as a society. Some people are too afraid to start these conversations for fear of losing a relationship with a loved one. But people are losing their lives because of those misconceptions and stereotypes. Families no different than our own are being ripped apart and demolished because of the actions of those who have not been morally challenged.
While it may be hard to think of the right words to say to combat the Islamophobic language that has been said by your favorite aunt, there are women and children who fear for their lives, who have been threatened and abused in the “land of the free”.
Don’t know where to start? Ask a few questions:
What do you mean by that?
Where did you hear that?
Have you thought about speaking to someone with that specific experience and seeing how they view the situation?
Is the information you got from a credible source?
How would you feel if the situation was reversed?
Have you had a conversation with someone of that ethnicity?
Do think your truth is the only truth?
Could you be more open minded about the subject?
What other research have you done on this topic?
With questions, not only does it force the other person to become more introspective of the things that they said, it allows you to worm into the conversation in a less hostile and aggressive manner. If one cannot answer the question and defend their statement, then you can offer a teaching moment or then begin to explain why such language is worrisome.
So go out there and ruin Christmas everyone! The future of this country is depending on you.