The Thanksgiving roundtable, full of hot plates and hot-button issues

Travelers are hitting the roads, rails and skies for Thanksgiving.
By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 25, 2010; 12:00 AM

Celebrants of the sagging table of Thanksgiving, let us wish.

Grasp that forked wishbone tight (toward the top is best for leverage) - and while hoping that the knobby knuckly part breaks off on your end, you may wish for economic salvation, or the renewal of "Covert Affairs," or for the office vending machine to start stocking Diet Dr Pepper.

Or you may hold tight, yank and wish with all your goodly might that you retain grace and self-possession when your semi-estranged uncle turns to the rest of the table and says, in a pleasant, quizzical tone: "Well, why doesn't the president just show everyone his birth certificate?"

Wish long and hard when your sister's weird roommate says casually, "I don't see why I couldn't marry my toaster."

Wish deep when you hear a sentence begin with "Those people," because that sentence never goes anywhere good, no matter if those people are gay, or immigrants, or Republicans, or the contingent that genuinely thought Bristol Palin was a fine dancer.

Once a year for the holidays you come back to your place of origin or, as a plus-one, to someone else's place of origin, where they get the stuffing recipe all wrong.

Today, the country feels redder and bluer than ever. The hot-button issues are the size of hot plates.

"I'm flooded" with complaints from beleaguered family members, says Judith Martin, better known to the world as Miss Manners. "They always say they don't want to see their family, that they'd rather be with friends. But I hear from their friends, and they don't want them there, either."

Still you come back, navigating the feeling of being the Other or accepting the Other. You gird your plate with marshmallow yams, smile at the other guy at the buffet - the new neighbor your mother invited because he was alone - and listen benignly when he says, "I would have voted to legalize marijuana, but I'm waiting for the legislation that also legalizes crack."

The defining moment of Thanksgiving is the one where you must decide whether to break bread with this guy or throw it at his head.

Meghan McCain, the sassy blogger, gay rights supporter and daughter of John, recently told the Christian Science Monitor that certain issues would be taken off the menu on Thursday. "I'm going home for Thanksgiving tomorrow," she said. "When we sit around Thanksgiving dinner, I'm not going to be talking about 'don't ask, don't tell.' "

It's all not asking and not telling at Thanksgiving, balancing how much you love your principles with how much you love the people at that table.

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