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How people should deal with sensitive topics during the holiday

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

As family and friends gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving, it might feel impossible or really difficult not to discuss the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. So how should you wade into these conversations? Joining us now for some suggestions is John Della Volpe. He's the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics and focuses on young Americans' political beliefs. Now, John, you recently wrote about this, and you use polling to kind of figure out exactly how different generations approach certain aspects of the conflict. So what's something that zoomers and boomers can agree on, because on the surface, it doesn't seem like Gen Z and baby boomers have a lot of common ground.

JOHN DELLA VOLPE: That's right. Sixty-one percent in the Quinnipiac poll said they just want to avoid conversations about politics with friends and families over Thanksgiving. However, as you said, easier said than done. And if trying to find common ground, if the issues of the day come up, the best advice I have, especially across generational lines, is to talk about the humanitarian assistance. That is a subject where younger people and their parents and then grandparents can generally find some common ground.

MARTÍNEZ: How do you do that, though? How do you shift from the more emotional parts of it to something that maybe doesn't seem like it would be very emotional to talk about?

DELLA VOLPE: Well, I think talking about what they're concerned about and the idea that there are innocent civilians who are in need of humanitarian assistance on both sides of the border is something that really can try to defuse a situation. Of course, you're not going to ever be able to avoid something with that crazy uncle, necessarily, on Thanksgiving.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

DELLA VOLPE: But again, the purpose of my piece here is to say, if something happens, here's something that we can agree on and hopefully change the conversation to something, you know, like the weather.

MARTÍNEZ: What if things start to shift? What would be something that would give you red flags to think, OK, maybe we should stay away from this.

DELLA VOLPE: I think the idea of, quote, "choosing sides" is something that is the huge red flag, and that's really the most divisive of points today. And I'm not talking about sides of Hamas versus Israel. I'm talking about the idea of which side you're on - the Palestinian side or Israeli side. Overwhelmingly, the parents and grandparents of Gen Zers, teenagers, folks in their 20s, overwhelmingly, by factors of 4 or 5x, would say, I support the Israelis and not necessarily the Palestinians, whereas for younger people, there is net support for, quote, "the Israeli side," but it's far more nuanced. Almost as many also indicate support for Palestinians, which is essentially saying both sides. They see the humanitarian crisis that is happening and affecting so many people in the Middle East right now.

MARTÍNEZ: John, what if there's no way around it, and that is where this conversation is going around the dinner table? Can't get out of it. It's going to happen. From your experience, how should people handle these extremely difficult conversations?

DELLA VOLPE: I think that it's going to be very difficult to convince someone with this kind of conversation, within this environment, of their side, and I would always go back to the way in which they see it - their experience, their values. But again, you're not going to convince someone. I think moving it to things that we can agree on and perhaps have the conversation at a later point. We can agree on humanitarian assistance on both sides. We can agree on the freedom of speech. Both sides agree on that. And we can also agree that today and the next couple days is not the best time to have this kind of conversation.

MARTÍNEZ: John Della Volpe is a pollster and author of "Fight: How Gen Z Is Channeling Their Fear And Passion To Save America." John, thanks a lot.

DELLA VOLPE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF VITO CANTADOR'S "WAITING FOR YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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