Well the holiday season is here and the signs are all around campus. Whether it’s the occasional shrub adorned by lights or a newly decorated common room, Duke students are reminded that when the mental dust of finals has settled and end-of-course grades have been factored into our cumulative GPAs, there will be the solace of winter break. Though, in an election year where nothing went as expected and everything felt sour, it’s only reasonable to ponder whether the most wonderful time of the year—that is post-finals—will actually be so wonderful.

Late last month, a little over two weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, Apple released an ad titled “Frankie’s Holiday,” in which a festive Frankenstein tries to take part in some caroling but is only accepted by the other merrymakers after a little girl lends a helping hand. The spot closes with Apple’s standard white lettering imploring the viewer to, “open [his or her] heart to everyone.” Then, about a week later, only a few days after America awoke from a turkey-induced coma—a short film by Wes Anderson was released as part of H&M’s holiday campaign. The whimsical couple of minutes follows a group of traveling strangers forced into a guerilla-style holiday celebration when their train’s arrival time is significantly delayed. At its conclusion, H&M urges those watching to “come together.”

These ads seem aimed at consumers still flailing in the wake of a bitterly contentious round of elections and the unifying, let’s-all-be-friends, intent is clear. H&M and Apple could have just as easily landed on “stronger together” if the slogan wasn’t already taken by the Clinton campaign. Of course, there’s no better branding than the apolitical, but the extent to which the holiday season—with all its goofy acrylic sweaters and paper snowflakes—can act as the ‘invisible hand’ of cheer and unity is unclear.

And this year, as many Duke students return home for the longest stretch of time since summer vacation, it’s wise to take the picturesque ideal of smiling carolers and eggnog by the fireplace with a grain of salt. Because this holiday—as many have already discovered while chowing down on some Thanksgiving turkey—is distinguished by the dangers of divisive political conversation.

The fear is real. Last month, in preparation for the holiday season’s first round of family reunions, news outlets pumped out pieces—or survival guides—with recommendations on how to get through acrimonious Trump and Clinton-related encounters. Yahoo and The Washington Post contributed two such guides—the latter titled “Can family trump Trump? How to survive political disagreements with relatives this Thanksgiving”—while The Guardian published a series of coping strategies from readers. One Democrat from Indiana noted his plans to forgo Thanksgiving in an effort to “heal…wounds before Christmas.”

I hail from a relatively conservative suburb in Georgia, and as a Democrat, the ideological contrast between Duke and home has occasionally felt jarring. Each time a friend from high-school told me they had decided to vote for Trump, I instinctively did a double-take, waiting for the punchline. And speaking with fellow undergrads, it seems this reaction is unexceptional.

It’s like the political equivalent of the “Turkey Drop”—the phenomenon of high-school couples calling it quits upon returning for their first Thanksgiving break. The partner from home represents a sort of lifeline to social comfort, but once the process of integrating into college life is complete, the relationship loses appeal. Similarly, while one might be able to rationalize backwards politics as the product of some “aw shucks” brand of close-mindedness when raised alongside it, the opportunity to solidify personal political beliefs in an environment that’s not home results in a shift of perspective. What might have seemed politically goofy before is now simply grating and the scene is set for conflict.

And conflict isn't bad; it’s vital to compromise and progress. But a political climate that lends itself to anger and the bastardization of discourse is unquestionably dangerous. The baseless attacks leveled by members of Congress, our president-elect and, of course, the general public contribute nothing but rage to the national discussion. Clearly, that blend of hostility doesn’t make for the most enjoyable holiday celebration—so for the sake of December frivolity, probably try to avoid inviting Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann to the same party.

The point is, during this time of the year—and any other time for that matter—we ought to try avoiding ad hominem anything and focus on maintaining some level of civility in our political discussions—and if that’s not possible, we should focus the conversation on affection for family or appreciation of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The end of Wes Anderson’s H&M ad is scored by John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” The song’s lyrics include a simple reminder that “War is over, if you want it.” And maybe that’s the secret to reaching some sort of political peace: actually wanting it. Fighting it out can be fun and seemingly righteous, but it tends to preclude edification.

Now if we can just make it through finals.

Jake Parker is a Trinity sophomore. His column, "thinking too much, feeling too little," runs on alternate Wednesdays.