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The Call-In: Tension At The Holiday Dinner Table


And now a little post-Thanksgiving edition of The Call-In.


WERTHEIMER: Yes, the turkey leftovers are almost gone. The relatives are headed home. And for some, the dust has settled. We asked you last week to call in with the disagreements you expect around the holiday dinner table. For 33-year-old Nicholas Creel of San Antonio, Texas, Nicholas Creel Sr. is the culprit.

NICHOLAS CREEL JR: Anything that he knows is going to stir the pot a little bit - religion, politics - you can pretty much guarantee him bringing up.

WERTHEIMER: Does he do it all the time?

CREEL JR.: Oh, yeah.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter) So if you were to say to him, I've always liked Dodge Pickups, he would say...

CREEL JR.: Ford's the best, and Dodge are absolute garbage. Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter).

CREEL JR.: That's just his nature (laughter).

WERTHEIMER: Nicholas Jr. is no stranger to politics. He teaches political science at Texas A&M University. We grabbed him for a quick chat on Wednesday before the holiday.


CREEL JR.: I've been for the most part a Republican most of my life - self-identified Republican. But over the last, I'd say, about five or so years, I've started to kind of waver. So I've kind of found myself as a never-Trumper (ph) Republican. My father, on the other hand, has been very much an ardent Trump supporter. And so that has been a major point of contention between the two of us.

WERTHEIMER: You're obviously in the business of trying to sort of instigate arguments among your students in discussions and so on. Is that very different from politics in your family?

CREEL JR.: When I'm bringing it up in a student environment, I like to see myself as a moderator, where I'm not trying to take sides, but I'm trying to both enforce and then kind of tear down everybody's arguments equally. It's when it's with family your actual views come out and real passions tend to be inflamed.

WERTHEIMER: So now thinking ahead, what would be the best outcome? What would be the worst outcome? Let's start with best.

CREEL JR.: I'd say that the best outcome is we're so busy stuffing our faces that we only talk politics the most minimal amount possible - maybe just, you know, a good 15, 20 minutes.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter).

CREEL JR.: So we just kind of move on. But I think the most likely scenario's probably closer to one of the worst-case scenarios, where we latch onto the argument immediately, and passions enflame, and screaming ensues.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter) OK. Well, we'll check in with you after dinner.


WERTHEIMER: Nicholas celebrated the holiday with his wife, his mother and father. So did we get minimal political talk or a screaming match over the dinner table? Well, we got Nicholas back on the line after Thanksgiving and asked him how it went.

CREEL JR.: The best-case scenario seems to have actually come about.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter).

CREEL JR.: We've hardly discussed politics. The little we did, it actually seemed there was a little more common ground than I had expected.

WERTHEIMER: Well, let's get a review from the other side. We're going to bring in your father, Nicholas Creel Sr. Welcome to our program, Mr. Creel.

NICHOLAS CREEL SR: Welcome to you, too.

WERTHEIMER: So what do you think about what your son just said?

CREEL SR.: It was correct as far as on this one occasion.


CREEL SR.: When we get together, our clan is known to have some political differences. We try to not talk politics, especially with some other members of the family who are, in my opinion, more left-leaning because it can get rather acrimonious. We can view the same subject and see the same facts and come to different conclusions. It always amazes me.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter) Now, you know your son said that you liked to stir the pot.

CREEL SR.: Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: What about him? You think he's a pot stirrer, too?

CREEL SR.: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I sometimes get into - people who don't know me very well - I'll say something that I probably don't really believe just to get their reactions to something.


CREEL SR.: And, you know, it's fun to - you want to always take the other side so that you can see the weaknesses in your position.

WERTHEIMER: Now, young Nick (ph), we have some other big holidays coming up. Are you planning to have any dinners where the clan gathers?

CREEL JR.: Oh, yeah, most definitely. Christmas is always one. Now, too, we've got a niece and a nephew that are just old enough to where I think the kids' gloves will start coming off when we discuss politics with them.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter).

CREEL JR.: So if anything, I think it'll just get - it'll be the exact opposite of what we had this past Thanksgiving.

WERTHEIMER: Perhaps NPR's involvement had a role in helping to keep the peace this year. That was Nicholas Creel Jr. and Sr. And next week on The Call-In, consumer DNA testing. It's more easy than ever to trace your ancestry or your genetic risks for some diseases. Why did you get your DNA tested, and what did you find out? If you're holding off, what's making you have second thoughts? Call in at 202-216-9217 with your questions and your experiences. Be sure to include your full name, your contact information and where you're from, and we may use it on the air. That number again - 202-216-9217.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORDUROI'S "MY DEAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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