Every time you see an ad for the holidays, it features the all-American family, smiling and laughing, carving the turkey. What you don't see are the political arguments.
A few days ago, I was reminded of this not-so-grand tradition, which has exploded in recent years. While dining out, I overheard a couple at the next table (maybe married, maybe not) erupt into a noisy discussion about President Trump. The man was boasting of his financial gains in recent months, and the woman countered with her disgust over the president's remarks on immigration. Eventually, they settled down, and left in the same car. I assume the debate continued on the highway.
America hasn't been getting along well lately, and I'm not just talking about protests in the streets or online insults. The dining room table can be a battlefield if family members have differing political views.
There appears to be no middle ground on President Trump: Those who are in his camp love him dearly. Those who do not absolutely detest him.
It's not unlike college football rivalries. If you've ever seen a Tennessee-Alabama couple go at it, or a family divided on a Georgia-Florida game day, it isn't pretty. A loving couple can be celebrating their golden anniversary, and may have frequently compromised on food, TV shows, and even religion. But their loyalties on the gridiron cannot be swayed.
So when I asked some friends about how they cope with a political adversary who shares the same bed, their answers were eye-opening. The couples I heard from are still together, but don't be surprised if we start to see some long lines at the marriage counselor's office.
"Someone asked me if it bothered me that my husband wasn't a Christian," wrote one woman. "I said no, I knew that when I married him. What bothers me is that he supports Trump. I wish I had known that!"
Another woman told me that political conversations are strictly banned at family gatherings. This isn't easy to enforce. It takes practice to change the subject. "I can't stand that guy in the White House," says Uncle Fred. Across the table, Aunt Martha shouts, "Well, he's a whole lot better than the last one we had!" That's when you interrupt, praising the cook for her delicious squash casserole. Can you find the recipe for me?
One long-suffering wife complained that her hubby is "a yellow-dog Democrat," and even took it a step further. "If a candidate was green with purple hair, it wouldn't matter as long as he was a Democrat," she said. You will never win that argument.
One man said his secret to a long marriage was simple: "I never comment on anything her president says or does," he told me. When he said, "her president," I figured out who's supporting who in that household.
Of course, family political disputes are not limited to husbands and wives.
"My 83-year-old sister and I share an apartment," one woman told me, "and we disagree loudly on Trump." Let's hope those apartment walls are well-insulated for the neighbors' sake.
The political divide also creates sibling rivalry.
"My sister and I no longer speak to each other because of this," wrote one man. This may be happening more than we realize.
Sometimes, the kids also get involved.
"My husband and 15-year-old daughter are Trump supporters, while I voted for Clinton," one woman told me. "Things get very dicey around here." I can only imagine.
A man who supports Trump reports no issues with his spouse, but added, "Somehow my youngest daughter turned out liberal. I wish I knew where I went wrong."
It helps to have a healthy sense of humor.
One woman wrote, "My husband likes Trump for some reason. I don't hold it against him though; he can't help it!"
A newlywed barely a year into her marriage told me, "We've only had one big argument, and that was right after the election. We agreed right then we would just never talk about it again, and we haven't. All is well."
Others worry about friction not just between spouses, but groups of friends.
One man said, "I know two families who went to church together, and vacationed together at the same place for twenty years. They shared everything. Then one of the families found out the other family voted the wrong way. They stopped going to the church and never went on vacation with them again because of politics."
Before we lose more friends and family members to these nasty political wars, let us remember what Mama told us all those years ago. She said, "If you can't say something good about a person, just don't say anything at all." Thank goodness Mama never saw Facebook.
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of "Chattanooga Radio and Television" and "Volunteer Bama Dawg," a collection of his best stories. He can be reached at email@example.com