The popular sentiment this holiday season seems to be, “I’m going to save so much money this Christmas by talking politics at Thanksgiving.”

Yet there is a larger malaise at work than the political rancor roiling America, and that is the fact that we are starting to take our political rancor at par while painting our political adversaries as enemies. A mounting contempt filters our personal views of the news, while suspicion of conspiracy generates a sense of cynicism; a cynicism that I fear might soon metastasize into violence if we don’t lighten up.

I can imagine the following Thanksgiving scenario:

I heard from my Aunt Rachel that my cousin Ray, who is to the right of a young King Lear, politically, was invited to Thanksgiving dinner, and she warned me not to provoke him.

At no extra cost, Aunt Rachel cautioned that my cousin Lem, who is to the left of Timothy Leary, politically, was also invited to Thanksgiving dinner, and she warned me not to provoke him.

Well, Aunt Rachel’s cautions were for naught, because cousins Ray and Lem started right in without any provocation from anyone, with Lem getting his shovel in first.

“So, Cousin Ray, how’s this American monarchy working out for you?”

“Well, Cousin Lem, I do say it beats your American anarchy like a drum.”

Aunt Rachel tried to interrupt, “Boys, please pass the gravy!” But she was too late.

Cousin Lem put his hand on his steak knife, and though there was no steak to be had, he said in his soft, silky way, “You know, Cousin Ray, oligarchy begets autocracy.”

Cousin Ray placed his hand on his steak knife and raised the decibel level a bit with his riposte: “Yes, Cousin Lem, just as socialism begets communism.”

Again Aunt Rachel tried to intercede, “Boys, please pass the stuffing.” But it did no good, for they were back at it.

“So, Cousin Ray, how did someone to the right of Henry VIII acquire an invitation to this fine family gathering, anyway?”

“Well, Cousin Lem, it beats me how somebody left of a Sandinista rebel could wangle an invitation to this fine family gathering.”

Aunt Rachel interjected, “Boys, please, how ’bout them Niners?!”

“Yeah!” shouted Cousin Lem, “Let’s talk about the champion of mistreated minorities, Colin Kaepernick!”

“Not on your life!” shouted Cousin Ray. “Kaepernick is a turncoat!”

At this juncture, Aunt Rachel fanned herself profusely.

A biscuit whizzed past my nose, and this brought Uncle Ralph into the fray. Uncle Ralph is a man of few words, but his few words are always weighed and measured before leaving his presence.

“Boys, imagine for a moment if you will, what that first harvest must have been like for those starving Americans. We are honoring here, with a sense of grateful remembrance, those surviving pilgrims and Native Americans. Now clam up before I brain the two of yous and send the both of yous down the coal chute into the basement, and keep you there till you remember how thankful we are to be Americans!”

The table got quiet and Aunt Rachel smiled a smile of satisfaction as she passed the mashed potatoes.

McAvoy Layne is a 30-year impressionist of Mark Twain who can be reached at


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