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.

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Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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