Column: Let’s talk turkey (not politics)

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It is interesting to consider childhood memories that are seemingly random, yet remain vivid and meaningful into adulthood.

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I don’t mean our memories of milestone events: weddings, births, funerals, graduations. It’s no surprise that I might add to that scene of Dad returning from Mom’s side in the hospital, breaking news of the latest sibling birth. Or when Mom came home from the hospital, her maternity blouse indicating her advanced pregnancy and her eyes, to let me know that Dad had died. It was a beautiful April morning. I remember the weather as a taunt for an 11-year-old; It should have been black and stormy.


opinion columnist

jackie cool

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Jackie Callums takes a critical look at the national political scene. He has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.

by Jackie Calmes


No, the everlasting memories I’m referring to are those that add up and persist for no apparent reason, things that only “make an impression”, as the apt saying goes. One such memory especially often returns to me around Thanksgiving Day. This is the admonition I heard more than once from aunts or uncles at large family gatherings, given with all seriousness, but perhaps a hint of teasing to the little girl before them: “There are two things you can do when you grow up. Do not discuss in groups. , “They’ll tell me.” “Politics and Religion.”

I can’t remember if he explained his supposed words of wisdom, or what I asked for. But I thought about it a lot. I thought the advice of adults primarily reflected that we were Catholics in a community of mostly Protestants, many of whom apparently thought we were Catholics and that our rituals were strange, even subversive.

My awareness of anti-Catholic animosity came from an earlier random memory, most likely my introduction to politics: at age 5, I once saw some adult relatives gathering around a table, As he eavesdropped, he believed how Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy would probably be defeated simply because he was Catholic. And the Irish, like most of us. The German descendants in the family had reason to be wary of politics: they spoke so deeply of anti-German sentiment in Ohio during World War I that state illegal language education.

Not all relatives in the extended family were Democrats. Most of the older people were Republicans who remained on farms and small towns in northwest Ohio after World War II. But many people in their children’s generation, including my parents, had come to the big city of Toledo to vote for the Democrats. That division, we believe, probably explained family rule against talk politics.

I definitely broke that rule. I have made a living by talking to people about politics, religion and anything that reflects their opinion of our chaotic democracy.

This kind of talk sometimes invited the kind of unpleasantness my elders tried to avoid. During my first job at a West Texas newspaper, I was finishing an interview when the guy said he wanted me to be okay with his son. The man suggested that maybe we could all go to church together. “Where do you worship?” He asked. Turns out it was a litmus test. When he found out I was Catholic, he awkwardly ended that line of conversation, noting that the only Catholics he knew were “Mezacans.”

Mostly, though, I loved the license that journalism gave me for being a busy person, the kind of personal questions I was warned to ask. I did not want to take sides; I wanted to understand how and why people believe what they do, and wanted to share that insight with readers and viewers.

Politics is not a beanbag, as the saying goes, and yet no matter how divisive the subject may be, over the years my discussions with politicians and voters on all sides were enjoyable and instructive. Correspondence from critics was generally civil.

This began to change back in the ’90s, between Republican Newt Gingrich’s rise to power in Congress, the birth of Fox News, the expansion of talk radio, and the polarization of our politics.

Slowly it seemed that politics was all that many wanted to talk about, and religion too, but with less chivalry, more hostility. Social media hastened things. Donald Trump turbocharged the trend with President Obama’s American birth, his call to ban Muslims, and more after he became president.

I came a little less to enjoy my communication with readers because more missiles were profane to me; I once gave a letter to the Secret Service that was left on my porch because it was too dangerous for Obama (and me). I avoided open talk of politics in family and social gatherings. Before a niece’s wedding in October 2016, some of us ladies, including our matriarchs, sat sneakily in a bedroom to discuss the newly released video of Trump. porn, misogyny With former “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush. We didn’t want to get into arguments with our pro-Trump relatives, mostly men, and spoil the occasion.

The nation’s divisions have only gotten worse after four years of Trump’s presidency and one year of his lies about his loss. When members of a family find themselves on opposite sides, conversations about politics should not be served at the holiday table. My grandparents’ generation had it right, I’m sad to say. Avoid the topic if it will prove to be absolutely inappropriate.

Taste the good stuff.


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