Talking about politics with your family during Thanksgiving doesn't have to turn into a fight.
"A Thanksgiving Truce"/ J.S. Pughe

The holidays are supposed to be a time for families to come together, yet it seems harder and harder in these divisive times.

We once lived in a world where the most dreaded thing about the holidays was fielding Great Aunt Karen’s questions asking why you’re not married. Former chief strategist for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, Mark Longabaugh, once said that political debate today is a "cage match of emotions."

And when facing one’s family, it feels like one has to gear up for the fight. But it doesn’t have to be that way.


In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, many families altered their plans due to the tense political climate. A study found that many families shortened their Thanksgiving dinners by 20 to 30 minutes, and the New York Times stated that some families even cancelled theirThanksgiving plans due to political divides. The 2016 election was a significant source of stress for over half of Americans.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

While this year’s holidays don’t come on the heels of a particularly heated presidential election, many rifts of 2016 seem to hold firm. Non-profit research institute Public Religion Research Institute found that 90 percent of Democrats have a negative view of the Republican party, and the dislike is mutual. 87 percent of Republicans also harbored a negative view of Democrats. Furthermore, a Huffington Post/YouGov survey revealed that 40 percent of voters in the 2016 presidential election had at least one family member that voted for a different candidate. 40 percent of that group said that, since the 2016 election, the difference in political opinion had been either a major or minor problem with other family members.

Is it possible to get back to where we were before politics divided us all?

Jan Steen/Streit beim Kartenspiel

Can the stress of the holidays involve presents and baking and travel plans, instead of worrying whether or not Uncle Bill will bring up the boarder wall or wondering how to explain the significance of #MeToo to your grandmother?

Discussing politics so fervently might not be as effective as we want to believe. A Pew Research poll found that just 14 percent of Americans changed their mind about a political or social issue because of a post they saw on social media. It has been suggested all the conflict might actually be counterproductive. While you might not agree with your grandmother’s generation’s views on who should be president, that generation might have had a point when they advised against talking about politics in polite company.

Perhaps the best course of action is to accept those things you cannot change, that your "crazy" cousin will always be different.

When we come together and try to understand one another, the holidays can be harmonious – until Great Aunt Karen wants to know when you’re planning on having kids.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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We know that mammals feed their young with milk from their own bodies, and we know that whales are mammals. But the logistics of how some whales make breastfeeding happen has been a bit of a mystery for scientists. Such has been the case with sperm whales.

Sperm whales are uniquely shaped, with humongous, block-shaped heads that house the largest brains in the animal world. Like other cetaceans, sperm whale babies rely on their mother's milk for sustenance in their first year or two. And also like other cetaceans, a sperm whale mama's nipple is inverted—it doesn't stick out from her body like many mammals, but rather is hidden inside a mammary slit.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less