You probably were. I know I was. And with post-election division fueled by delusion and demagoguery, this Turkey Day was poised to be a bloodbath.
And then the heavens opened up, angels sang and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminded us we’re in the middle of a deadly pandemic and it’s safest to stay apart — thus handing every divided family in America a Get Out of Thanksgiving card.
“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC scientists said.
This covid-19 shutdown is the small respite that everyone needed, the pass that is going to prevent an entire subcategory of familial angst in 2020.
It was the reprieve that David Yancey hoped for.
“Besides not spreading COVID, I think it’s a good thing families should not get together for Thanksgiving this year,” tweeted Yancey, a stained-glass artisan and former Texas firefighter, who will not be seeing extended family this year. “The way things are going, I don’t think opposing political party family members should gain access to carving knives under the same roof.”
Despite the warnings and the exponentially skyrocketing infection rates putting America in the lead for coronavirus cases and deaths, more than 3 million people still got into airplanes over the past three days, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Oh wait — I forgot that we’ve managed to politicize even that tiny virion with glycoprotein spikes.
“Don’t lockdown the country. Don’t impose curfews. Don’t close schools. Let Americans decide for themselves. And celebrate Thanksgiving,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said in a recent tweet.
Whether you do a big Thanksgiving has itself become a thing to argue about, said Amy Janan Johnson, a communications professor at the University of Oklahoma.
The Thanksgiving political smackdown is almost as important to the holiday as sweet potato casserole, and Johnson did a research paper on it: “Talking Turkey: Effects of Family Discussions About the 2016 Election over the Thanksgiving Holiday.”
She’s been updating it every year and is already finding interesting developments in the covid-19 edition.
“In Oklahoma, there’s a lot of conflict over social distancing,” Johnson said. So the disagreements can happen before the turkey is even basted, because choosing safety over showing up for dinner can be the first hostile shot across the political bow.
“But if you and your family have political differences but agree about social distancing and have a Thanksgiving over Zoom, that can help,” she said. “The distance that Zoom gives you can help, emotionally, with that problem.”
And if arguments do begin, “you can always say you’re having problems with your Internet connection,” she said.
Not so easy to do when the combative relatives are staying in the guest room.
Sure, not every family is fighting. Many folks want to see their loved ones.
There may be comfort and reassurance in being ensconced with like-minded relatives, or simply in keeping to cherished traditions.
There’s a reason I have to make three kinds of cranberry dishes every year — tradition!
But this year has looked like no other, in all kinds of ways. Why should Thanksgiving be normal?
“My Thanksgiving is going to look very different this year,” Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with CBS News. “I would love to have it with my children, but my children are in three separate states throughout the country, and in order for them to get here, they would all have to go to an airport, get on a plane and travel with public transportation.”
They’re all staying home, Fauci said.
These are tough decisions for every family. My family has been aching to see our West Coast relatives — especially our boys, who have been lonely and struggling with months of isolation.
But the disease statistics are horrific, with infection records being set daily — we’re almost at 200,000 new cases every day, and more than 256,000 are dead.
“It’s almost exponential when you compare the curves in the spring and the curves in the summer with the inflection of the curve where we are right now,” Fauci said.
The way to flatten that curve — limiting travel and gatherings, like ones at Thanksgiving — is the kind of sacrifice that should be pretty familiar to plenty of Americans.
Those in essential jobs — police officers, nurses and doctors, EMTs, dispatchers and members of the military — are used to going without holiday meals with family. I spent years working Thanksgiving as a police reporter before I got the day off — I understand how lonely it can feel.
But one year with fewer dishes to do and fewer people around to potentially infect can help make sure we’ll all be around for New Year’s Eve. Because can’t we all agree on saying goodbye to 2020?
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