Food Fights: Political Debates around the Family Dinner Table

Watching my Grandpa separate ravioli, I knew two things for certain: Grandma’s luscious Sunday tomato “gravy” would be served shortly and then Grandpa would lead a raucous political discussion at the dinner table. Being young, I often went outside to play, but could still hearing the intense debate among the grownups.

Today, there was a whole lot of shouting going on during Michael Cohen’s House Oversight Committee hearing, notably only by Trump supporters. This prompted me to think of an axiom that could be appended to the old idea that you should never shout at a shouter because they have been doing it their whole life and will be better at it than you: do not shout at someone who refuses to shout back because eventually you just look silly.

While Grandpa certainly raised his voice, he wasn’t shouting down anyone. I think he really just relished a good debate. I witnessed innumerable arguments between my parents at our dinner table, some of which became heated because she is very liberal and he is staunchly conservative.

That left me in the middle, listening carefully to their points, seeing the merits in some and failing to embrace the wisdom of other ideas. This is how I became a political hybrid. I believe in fiscal conservatism, the rule of law and individual responsibility. I also believe small government means staying out of the bedroom and embrace individual liberties, including those that are flashpoints in the social culture wars.

I want to hear the points of view of people, even when I am not likely to agree with them on a certain topic. I also recognize that we may disagree on A, B and C, but agree on D, E, F and G.

In the digital age, keyboard warriors fight in social media comments, which is best portrayed in a fine video, “21st Century Debating,” posted to Facebook by Ozzy Man Reviews with two dogs arguing over immigration, climate change, vaccines, etc. (It’s not safe for work without earbuds).

Confession: I am trying to resist commenting on certain things, but I do still comment a lot. I try to be as logical as possible and avoid outright insulting people. Now, go to your favorite social media platform and just select a news story post on any topic. Watch the meanness roll in. And the ignorance. And the meanness about ignorance. And accusations of people being Russian trolls (some possibly are). And so on and so on. Now, imagine a random grouping of those antagonized people suddenly teleported to an Italian grandma’s Sunday dinner table with platters of ravioli, meatballs, sausage, braciole, and, for the vegans, a big healthy salad.

Face to face, would they be so rude? I’m not suggesting that the vaccine debate would be settled over great pasta alone. Perhaps an infectious disease specialist should be invited too. At least, people might be inclined to be more open-minded or less dismissive. Better yet, they could learn to be more persuasive.

Please pass the meatballs and some interesting, well-argued points.