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12 Days of NewsHour: Download the 2014 Shields and Brooks Guide to Holiday Civility

12DaysBanner_FinalPerhaps your Thanksgiving gathering was a little more pleasant last year as a result of Mark Shields and David Brooks’ Guide to Holiday Civility. Not only was the guide a useful road map for individuals navigating the inevitable political debates that arise when distant relatives come together – it doubled as a festive placemat. Recognizing that Thanksgiving has passed, and that many of the social and political issues facing the nation have changed, Mark and David are offering this updated guide for the 2014 holiday season.

Mark and David’s advice for keeping the family peace:

David Brooks: I either do no drinking or a lot of drinking, but I don’t do middle course. My second bit of advice is that politics is not that important, and family is more important. So, it’s never worth losing a friendship, let alone a family relationship, over political differences.

Mark Shields: While, to the world, we may be sophisticated grownups who know what wine to order with swordfish, our families (especially brothers and sisters and parents and cousins) remember us today as yesterday—when we were scared of the dark, before we could ride a bike let alone drive a car. Our family knows us today as we were then. They know our setbacks, our victories, our secrets, our first broken hearts. So abandon any lingering self-importance you have, and enjoy the moment.

How do you deal with relatives who won’t stop griping or gloating about the midterms?

David Brooks: I think you can change the subject to topics that interest them even more. I would ask them about their own health problems. And if it’s a man, his favorite piece of technology, which he will talk about at great length.

Mark Shields: If you get in trouble with relatives who can’t get over the results of the midterms, or something else, or if you’re dealing with someone spoiling for an argument, there is one all-purpose answer: Turner Broadcasting allows us to watch, around the clock, Jean Shepherd’s classic, “A Christmas Story,” about little Ralphie and the Red Ryder BB gun he wants so desperately. This movie is so funny, so appealing, and so touching, that even Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung-un would not be able to stop giggling while watching it.

Should you avoid talking about the weather with a relative who doesn’t believe in climate change?

David Brooks: I find talking about the weather boring in all circumstances, so I would avoid it. Because the joke is everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. So, to someone who I fundamentally disagree with, I would try to bring up ancient childhood grievances and talk away with them for hours upon hours. This is a way to make sure that politics will not ruin your Christmas. The holiday will be ruined in many other ways.

Mark Shields: See answer above about Jean Shepherd’s classic, “A Christmas Story.”

How do you settle an argument about congressional gridlock?

David Brooks: I think the closest way to bring people together is to find a common enemy. And a bipartisan hatred of Congress seems to be one of the good things that’s come out of political life in the last 10 years. So this is an experience we can all share. Unless, of course you’re married to a member of Congress.

Mark Shields: Stick with my “A Christmas Story” strategy; you can’t go wrong.

Despite job growth, your unemployed uncle’s outlook remains gloomy. What do you say when he brings up the economy?

David Brooks: I think there is ancient religious literature on the virtue of poverty. Saint Francis gave up all his money and was very happy. Of course he did not have auto insurance to pay.

Mark Shields: To avoid tension within the family, do not comment to anyone, “You really gained weight since the last time I saw you.” Do not insist on giving children the brutal “truth” about Santa Claus. Never ask whether a gift you just opened is returnable. And never, under any circumstances, give anyone a fruitcake.


Today is the second to last day in our 12 Days of NewsHour. Have you had a chance to take advantage of all the previous days’ gifts? On Day 1 we presented you with the first longplay 4K video of a crackling fireplace on Youtube. We followed up with a PBS NewsHour logo cross stitch pattern, then Judy Woodruff shared her favorite biscuit recipe. On Day 4 Judy and Gwen presented you with this voicemail greeting, and on Day 5 the NewsHour staff shared the recipes for their favorite sweet treats. Over the weekend, we provided a NewsHour logo stencil and a Sunday crossword puzzle to keep you busy. Monday we unveiled a NewsHour theme ringtone, followed by a NewsHour word jumble on Tuesday. Yesterday’s gift was a five card bingo game that you can play each time you tune into our nightly broadcast. Let us know what you think of these gifts on social media using #12DaysofNewsHour.

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