MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
What you’re hearing right now is the sound of war breaking out in homes across the United States. The shrieks and yelling are the battle cries of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors divided over the high-stakes, high-vitriol, and sometimes just plain high 2016 presidential election.
While we have been submerged in this boiling pot for two years, the disdain has grown to a crescendo in these last few days before Election Day, Nov. 8. Oh yeah, the pot is boiling over now. In fact, 82 percent of people are “disgusted” with the election, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll. That’s practically everyone. No one is immune.
I myself have gotten loud at dinner a few times this cycle, mostly when my jaded brother has suggested voting doesn’t matter and that all the candidates in every election in every country, including ours, have ulterior motives and won’t do anything for him or any of the rest of us. Wrong all around, but I’ll avoid the temptation to digress. Love you brother! Really, I mean it.
The kids have even gotten in on the act. “We want Hillary,” shouts my 5-year-old son.
“Yes, I would like Hillary to win because she will be the first female to get the job,” says my 6-year-old niece.
“Uh, maybe I want Donald Trump,” says my 4-year-old nephew, who just really wants to be contrary. Much like when I break up one of their wrestling matches, they all can agree on one thing: “We like to battle,” they shout at me. Mamma is left over here wondering when is this election ever going to end. When it does, will we still have a family? Will we even be able to have Thanksgiving this year?
Confess. I’m not alone. You’re facing the same seething anger. It’s dousing your meals in acid and keeping you up at night. You’re losing your will to go on, and you’re pretty certain you’ll never see such-and-such loved one in the same light again. I’m right there with you, sister. And I’m not even exaggerating, right? Well, now’s the time for mamma to take charge and lift our people from the ashes. You can begin your work before Nov. 9. Here’s what we must do:
1. Agree to Disagree
There was a time when families never talked politics. The subject made people get touchy and caused unwanted friction when people really just wanted to digest the turkey and cranberry sauce and get a hug from grandma. Let’s get back to zipping it; stuff your mouth with Nonna’s meatballs instead. If some of you can’t help yourself and the passion spills out, then take a deep breath. Remember people are entitled to their own opinions, even if you think they’re wrong. Then, put out your hand and say, “Let’s agree to disagree,” and get back to the Sunday sauce. Never bring it up again. Seriously. Never. There isn’t enough Brioschi in all the land to deal with the kind of indigestion it will bring on.
2. Lower the Volume
The T-shirt, “I’m Italian, I don’t have an inside voice” speaks truth, so I know this one is going to be a challenge. Many of my loved ones will tell you I – the Italian Mamma – often fail miserably at this. But I’m going to try harder. We must not yell at each other. You can’t listen, which is half your responsibility when communicating, if you’re too loud. Besides being grating and inciting more arguing and resentment, shouting sends the message to the other person that you don’t care what he or she has to say. That’s an ugly reveal among family and friends.
3. Change the Subject
For goodness sake, quit talking about the election. Watch a silly sitcom. Remember those? Talk about your cousin’s wedding, the funny thing your toddler did, or turn to Nonna’s meatballs, which should be renamed “pure salvation” for all the messes they’ve allowed you to escape. Just bring up anything but politics (except maybe religion and sex, which can be as damaging, and really who wants to hear about your aunt and uncle’s crazy sexcapade poolside in Italy? Still trying to un-hear that one.)
4. Ban Saying “Strunzo, Chidrool, Stu Ca–” and All the English 4-Letter Words, Too
Regardless of what any of the candidates are doing, the rest of us must truly take heed when First Lady Michelle Obama says, “We go high when they go low.” Never tolerate or participate in name calling or demeaning behavior – or God forbid physical violence – in your home or anyone else’s for that matter. Be respectful and expect the same from others. Spread the love. Stop the hate. This should not be controversial, by the way. This is the one place – Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Green Party, Pirate, and the Rainbow and Unicorn Coalition members (well, it could be a thing) – should meet.
5. Serve More Wine, Top It with Limoncello
If all else fails, take everyone’s keys at the door, prep the guest rooms and haul out the sleeping bags. Then, let the spirits flow. If tolerance is high as it is in my family, add the limoncello to the mix. Keep ’em comin’. People who know me well will be shocked I’m suggesting this because I don’t drink. I certainly want you all to be safe. No trips to the emergency room or drunk driving, please.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. With my family, vino works every time. Even if they get louder under the influence (seems impossible but it happens), they are usually laughing and having fun. If any drunk anger rises to the surface, it’s usually about some argument they had with Zia back in 1986 that they haven’t quite gotten over yet. A couple of Va Fa Napolis later, they’re snoozing at the table. And they forget about it by the next morning anyway. With any luck, they’ll blackout on this entire election, and we’ll have our family back. Let us pray.
Di Meglio has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10. For more handmade crafts and party gear, visit the Italian Mamma store on Etsy.