Guide to safe top­ics for pol­i­tics-free hol­i­days

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Insight - COLIN McENROE Colin McEnroe ap­pears from 1 to 2 p.m. week­days on WNPR-FM 90.5. He can be reached at [email protected]

Have you no­ticed that Thanks­giv­ing has be­come the de­fault ex­am­ple of a time when con­ver­sa­tion can jump the rails?

Here's Colin Jost last week on “Satur­day Night Live's” “Week­end Up­date”: “A county in Flor­ida be­came the first all-LGBTQ lo­cal gov­ern­ment in the state's his­tory. For more on this, bring it up to your grand­fa­ther on Thanks­giv­ing.”

Thanks­giv­ing is when we fight? That's weird, given the hol­i­day's peace­able ori­gins. (Per­son hold­ing dish of green beans: “Are you kid­ding me? Don't you read Howard Zinn? That's a myth, draped over en­slave­ment and ag­gres­sion. Six­teen years later, the same ‘pil­grims' at­tacked a Pe­quot vil­lage and burned every­body in it!”)

Maybe don't bring up the hol­i­day's peace­able ori­gins.

We're a lit­tle low on top­ics about which we can po­litely dis­agree. But in the pe­riod from now through New Year's we're go­ing to need some. Let's make a list.

PROB­LEM: He­roes and vil­lains. Based on a sci­en­tific study of email I get, I have con­cluded many Amer­i­cans have boiled pol­i­tics down to a set of bad ac­tors be­set­ting us and some good folks who could ride to the res­cue. (Usu­ally, this is a Repub­li­can vs. Demo­crat thing, but bear in mind that Hil­lary vs. Bernie ar­gu­ments in 2016 were of­ten worse than Mithras vs. Ah­ri­man ar­gu­ments in the first cen­tury A.D. of the Ro­man Em­pire, which of­ten ended in blood­shed.)

SO­LU­TION: Talk about the death of Stan Lee, the founder of Mar­vel En­ter­tain­ment. Lee died last week at 95. Lee's huge rev­o­lu­tion — and we're still liv­ing in it — was to hand su­per­heroes a full emo­tional pal­ette, as op­posed to the un­flinch­ing sto­icism of DC he­roes such as Su­per­man, Green Lan­tern and Mitt Rom­ney. He­roes were sud­denly ca­pa­ble of grief, self­loathing, wry­ness, joy, angst, en­nui. Lee ac­com­plished this al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously with his artis­tic bed­fel­low, Charles Schulz. Just as Lee in­sisted that peo­ple with su­per-pow­ers would be just as (in­deed, prob­a­bly more) screwed up and vul­ner­a­ble as the av­er­age per­son, Schulz, in “Peanuts,” said the same thing about chil­dren, who had been pre­vi­ously de­picted with un­vary­ing Eisen­hower Era sun­ni­ness. No, they were sad and scared just like the adults. The as­cen­dance of Schulz and Lee fol­lowed close on the heels of

Walt Dis­ney's death. Dis­cuss.

PROB­LEM: “Ned La­mont will (or will not) plunge this state into deeper fi­nan­cial ruin!”

SO­LU­TION: Col­or­ful Con­necti­cut gover­nors of the past. Ev­ery Thanks­giv­ing should in­clude a read­ing aloud of Wil­bur Cross's fa­mous “time out of mind” procla­ma­tion. (I can even get gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­nee Bill Curry to come to your house and read it, but he wants $100 plus gas money.)

Even bet­ter, dis­cuss Charles Wil­bert Snow who was (a) gover­nor for 13 days (b) a for­mer Inuit teacher and “rein­deer agent” (no idea what that is; maybe he got them gigs in Christ­mas movies?) (c) par­tially re­spon­si­ble for the Her­man Melville “re­vival” (which was more ac­cu­rately the dis­cov­ery, 20 years af­ter Melville's death in ob­scu­rity, of Melville's sig­nif­i­cance) (d) a pub­lished poet and good bud­dies with Carl Sand­burg ( e) a left­ist who stumped for “Fight­ing Bob LaFol­lette (f ) the great-grand­fa­ther of con­ser­va­tive writer Ross Douthat and (g) the per­son who smug­gled prob­a­bly the first copy of “Ulysses” to ar­rive in this coun­try.

BONUS TOPIC: I've been told that Douthat and fa­mous ac­tress Lau­ren Am­brose ap­peared in the same New Haven Gil­bert and Sul­li­van pro­duc­tion while in high school. Dis­cuss.

PROB­LEM: Trump. You can­not talk about Trump.

SO­LU­TION: A game I made up called “Glover, Suther­land, Duck.” The idea is to talk about other Don­alds. (No Dons.) For ex­am­ple, Don­ald Plea­sance was the first Blofeld (the white cat­stroking Bond vil­lain) to fully ap­pear in a movie. (Be­fore that, they shot one guy from the back and used a dif­fer­ent guy's voice.) Fu­ture Blofelds in­cluded Telly Savalas, Max von Sy­dow and Christoph Waltz. Don­ald Fa­gen was in col­lege bands with Chevy Chase be­fore found­ing Steely Dan. End by read­ing Don­ald Hall's Novem­ber-y poem “Ox Cart Man” aloud.

Then re­pair to the liv­ing room and lis­ten to sooth­ing mu­sic. I rec­om­mend Ravel's “Mother Goose Suite.”

Try not to think about how much a goose is like a turkey.

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