Talking Politics at Thanksgiving: Using the Better Angels of Our Nature

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“So God created humankind in God’s image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

Genesis [1:27]


A friend of mine, Gary Goldman a radio talk host on WCRN in Boston, told me he would like to discuss politics during Thanksgiving day dinner. Wow, I said to myself, that’s very brave. At first, I wanted to counsel him out of trying this noble act. But earlier in the day, I had read an article about discussing politics at Thanksgiving day dinner on The article gave a very clear and practical approach to how it could be done. An article largely focused on paying attention to other points of view and listening to learn. I passed this information on to Gary.

The article focused on being respectful as the primary attitude to the discussion. Not just waiting to reply with a pre-recorded narrative, but truly listening. Listening to hear the person’s background and why they came to their conclusion. Not to sit back and wait to pounce all over their point of view, but truly understand their perspective.

Such a bold thing to do, discuss politics at Thanksgiving. In listening to Gary, I heard in his voice a sincere desire to get at why Americans feel polarized, not to say what he thought, but to hear what others thought. Perhaps Gary will be successful. I will be most interested to hear.

I discovered the Better Angels website while doing research for an independent forum to get the whole news and hear differing opinions. Better Angels is a little known organization that has cropped up as part of a quiet movement to unify our country, since 2016. They are one of a handful of groups set up to give those looking for both sides of a story a forum to hear and to speak.

Like all swings in the societal pendulum, the current civil discord will swing back to a desire to hear all points of view. It is inevitable and makes me hopeful. Gone will be the day when politicians espouse violence against others. Gone will be the day when name calling dominates the news. These acts of civil discord will push the pendulum back to the center. My hopefulness is well supported by history, the only effect of extremism is to push society to the center. While polarization is the terrible state of our current national attitude, it is also the start of change. Americans will not allow discord to rule the day.

Perhaps the most famous speech, given at the dawn of our worst calamity as a country, was Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address. Lincoln was desperately trying to fend off the pending civil war and said;

“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

At the worst time in our country’s great experiment of freedom, we had a leader who sought to reconcile. At the same time understanding that all humankind has a better nature. Lincoln knew what lied ahead and appealed to the essence of humankind. Made in the image of God we all, man and woman have inherited the desire to do good. Sure there are examples when this didn’t appear to be the case, but Lincoln felt that all humankind had the nature of being better angels.

Lincoln’s appeal at a time when it would have been easy for him to take the tact of rushing in to war,  was that of seeking reconciliation.

The website Better Angels does the same. It taps into, not our weaknesses, but into the inherited gift from God of our desire for peace, freedom and civil discourse. A way to see the world through multiple lens, without acrimony or dissent. A true desire to reconcile our life’s path with others that have walked a different journey. An end to malicious gossip and debilitation caused by discord. A noble attempt that will probably not win the Nobel Peace, but should. A way of talking with others that is respectful of their life’s journey and open to changing points of view.

Perhaps, more than any other Thanksgiving, Gary is right, we need to be able to have civil discussions about our views. Not to win the argument but to find a connecting middle ground. I do believe that when we use the better angels of our nature, inherited through God we can reconcile.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Harli Marten

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