Why All the Uncle Bashing?

Drunk UncleThe fine people at Vox have put together, How to Survive Your Family’s Thanksgiving Arguments. It deals with everything from football to Common Core to Bill Cosby. And it is really good — as usual. But I couldn’t help but notice a whole lot of avuncularism — or uncle bashing. Why is it always the drunk, Fox News watching uncle who everyone is protecting themselves from at the family gathering? As an uncle, I am sort of offended.

Do you know what I’m doing on today? I’m at my sister’s place cooking dinner. And do you know what I did yesterday? I spent all day cooking in preparation for today. Now you may think you have me, “If you are doing this, how is it that you are writing this article?! Hmm?” Well, I’m actually writing this on Tuesday and I started this article on Monday. Such is the commitment that I have to you, gentle reader, that I write like a madman before holidays so that you are constantly informed and entertained. Speaking of which, look: cool motorcycle dog:

Cool Motorcycle Dog

Let’s consider the Midterm Elections. Brother says voting is pointless. Sister-in-law has read her Thomas Frank. And Uncle says:

It’s over for Democrats. Since they got destroyed this year, they’re doomed in 2016, too.

Because you know Uncle: he’s stupid and drunk. But on this one issue, he’s surprisingly reasonable. Here he is in all his glory on Ferguson:

I’m angry that Americans aren’t standing behind Darren Wilson. He’s a standup cop who was just trying to do his job. I’m outraged that anyone would criticize a law enforcement officer.

I guess I should be pleased that it wasn’t, “Those goddamned n*****s deserve to die!” But really, it’s still bad: totally predictable and lacking any empathy. Uncle is an authoritarian, who doesn’t even have reasonable things to say about The Hunger Games:

These books are trash, because kids read trash, and kids read The Hunger Games.

Translation: “I’m a bitter and hateful man!” But this isn’t me! I’ll admit, by the end of Thanksgiving, I’ll probably be modestly drunk. But that is much more likely to cause me to bring out the puppets than it is to even rant about how conservatives are destroying the nation. (Which they are.)

I think I understand why the uncle has become associated with the bigoted conservative who annoys everyone at family gatherings. First, the person who does this is almost always a man. Second, it probably isn’t your father or your brother. That’s not to say that they aren’t also bigoted conservatives. But you are used to them. They probably won’t say much because everyone knows what they think. Third, “uncle” has become a catchall for “that guy we don’t know very well.” So I’m not really offended.

But if you want to know how to deal with drunken uncles, my suggestion: deliver a puppet with every drink.

7 thoughts on “Why All the Uncle Bashing?

  1. Almost everyone in my extended family is radically right wing so I have all sorts of relatives who will air their antiquated and unhinged views about society and politics. Thankfully, we are pretty bourgeoisie and pale so we have a good deal of grace and civilly and sobriety (or rather skill at not showing too many outward signs of drinking a great deal) at the table so angry arguments do not really happen.

    Ironically, it one of my uncles who is proudly a man of the left and is not afraid to tell us. Again though, we just don’t argue at the table, we keep the political debates as smaller sidebars and if we do argue at the table, it will likely be over the merits and demerits of UCLA and USC Football or the validity of The Hunger Games movies.

  2. Good luck, Frank and Colin. In my family, it has got to the point that I literally cannot go at all. I’ve had it up to here with put-downs of ‘welfare people’, unions, etc., etc.

    I can’t go to my brother’s wedding. I just can’t justify the expense to listen to people I’m tired of. The upside is just so freakin’ minor.

    Yeah I know, boo-flippin’-hoo. Stay sane with your right-wing relatives – I’m not even willing to telephone anymore.

  3. In general, people know not to talk politics with me because they know that even if they agree with me, they are likely to get far too much information. But I have heard comments that indicate that people think the final word on Ferguson is Wilson’s testimony. Apparently, no one questions that and they really should know better because these people know that police lie. And of course, Wilson is clearly covering for himself. But I have avoided discussing it. The nation is doomed regardless. Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Did the 60’s happen, or was it an illusion? And what is with these people that looked like hippies in 1971 and act like Nazis now?

    Did the 60’s happen??????

    • I responded to this yesterday, but I wasn’t on my own computer and I managed to delete it. I would note a couple of things. First, the anti-war movement was a fairly selfish movement: they didn’t want to go to war. I don’t blame them at all. But that didn’t make them leftists. Second, most college students weren’t hippies. My experience is that most hippies continued to be leftists. There are some who went on to be neocons, but that is more the exception.

      • Not just the stuff about the war. Also the opposition to arbitrary authority. The revaluation of values. The rejection of social roles. The rejection of the work ethic. All of this pretty radical stuff being expressed in totally mainstream culture.

        And yet none of it took, not even a little bit! You should not have to be a leftist or libertarian to understand that implicit, unquestioning trust of the cops is stupid and irrational. Just a person with plain common sense. And yet…

        • I think you will find your answer in Thomas Frank’s The Conquest of Cool. The ability of big business to eliminate the meaning from social movements and perpetuate the style is amazing. I can’t speak so much about the hippies, but I saw it happen with punk.

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