This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead

Thanksgiving is for family, food and fiery political arguments. But this year, just as your uncle who listens to too much rightwing talk radio and your ultra-“woke” cousin square off for their annual screaming match, throw a curveball at them: “Hey guys, how about UFOs?”

Yes, seriously.

If you inject UFOs into the discussion at just the right moment, this Thanksgiving promises to mark a refreshing change from the political brawls of years past.

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For one, UFOs are a fiercely bipartisan issue. They have quietly unified Republicans and Democrats of all stripes, from staunch Trump loyalists to his fiercest critics.

In other words, UFOs are a rare – and timely – opportunity for your family and friends to find common political ground over Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanks to the deep-seated stigma associated with UFOs (which is rooted in outdated Cold War-era paranoia), your Thanksgiving dinner guests are likely unaware that three extraordinary UFO-related developments occurred in the last month alone.

First, NASA chief Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThis Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Two trajectories to Mars by the 2030s Russian weapons test endangers the International Space Station MORE suggested that UFOs might have otherworldly origins. By all accounts, this is the first time that the head of America’s famed space agency has speculated openly about such an Earth-shattering possibility.

Shortly thereafter, director of national intelligence Avril HainesAvril HainesOvernight Defense & National Security — Russian military moves cause for concern New Pentagon group to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE – America’s top spy – echoed Nelson’s comments, hinting that some UFOs could have “extraterrestrial” explanations. After seven decades of government denial, obfuscation and derision, no sitting high-level national security official has publicly said anything remotely akin to “Sure, UFOs could be alien.”

And then came the whopper. Concerned about the impact of encounters on military personnel, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Lobbying world MORE (D-N.Y.) submitted legislation establishing a government office to study UFOs. But Gillibrand’s proposal is no exercise in bureaucratic paper shuffling. Far from it.

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If blessed by Congress, the aptly named Anomaly Surveillance, Tracking and Resolution Office (ASTRO) would revolutionize the study of UFOs. Perhaps most importantly, following 70 years of official deflection and ham-fisted secrecy in the face of highly credible UFO reporting, Gillibrand’s legislation demands unprecedented government transparency.

But back to Thanksgiving dinner. Now that you have your conservative uncle and liberal cousin’s attention, you can tell them that Sen. Gillibrand’s groundbreaking proposal is bipartisan, with Republican heavyweights Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall Rubio: Dropping FARC from terrorist list threatens Colombians, US security This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE (R-Fla.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead It's time for Congress to guarantee Medigap Health Insurance for vulnerable Americans with kidney disease MORE (R-Mo.) joining Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) as cosponsors.

Such robust support from conservative Republicans – normally allergic to the creation of a muscular government bureaucracy – speaks to both the unifying nature of the UFO issue as well as the seriousness with which Congress is treating it.

But just how concerning are UFOs? Consider that the previous director of national intelligence, John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeThis Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead DOJ charges two Iranians with interference in 2020 election In dramatic shift, national intelligence director does not rule out 'extraterrestrial' origins for UFOs MORE, said that some UFOs exhibit highly advanced “technologies that we don’t have and, frankly, that we are not capable of defending against.”

For the skeptics at Thanksgiving, Ratcliffe made clear that multiple sensors – such as radar, infrared, satellite and optical systems – recorded unidentified craft displaying seemingly extraordinary technology. This largely eliminates technical glitches or observer error as plausible explanations. NASA chief Bill Nelson seems to agree with Ratcliffe.

Moreover, according to Ratcliffe, U.S. intelligence analysts have “high confidence” that foreign adversaries – such as China or Russia – are not behind the objects observed by the U.S. military in recent years.

Echoing Ratcliffe’s comments, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead China draws scrutiny over case of tennis star Peng Shuai MORE (R-Utah) ruled out advanced Russian or Chinese aircraft as plausible explanations for the mysterious craft. When asked about the military’s recent UFO encounters, Romney referred to “technology which is in a whole different sphere than anything we understand.” Similarly, Sen. Heinrich, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated, “I can’t imagine that what has been described or shown in some of the videos belongs to any government that I’m aware of.”

But that’s not all. In June, former Presidents Obama and Clinton both speculated openly about the likelihood of alien life when asked about UFOs. Of note, former presidents retain access to top-level intelligence reports.

Obama went on to state that, “There’s footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are. We can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern.”

Obama was referring to UFOs which, according to the government, appear to “remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, [all] without discernible means of propulsion.”

When asked about these seemingly physics-defying movements, Obama-era CIA director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanThis Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead In dramatic shift, national intelligence director does not rule out 'extraterrestrial' origins for UFOs Durham's latest indictment: More lines drawn to Clinton's campaign MORE made an eyebrow-raising statement, suggesting that “a different form of life” might be behind the phenomena. Similarly, another former CIA director (and longtime UFO skeptic), James Woolsey, recently signaled an openness to otherworldly explanations for UFOs.

Perhaps most importantly, the naval aviators who observed unknown objects flying with apparent impunity in restricted airspace believe that the mysterious craft are “not from this world.”

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Of course, UFOs are not a new phenomenon. The similarities between recent encounters and countless, highly credible reports from the 1940s onward are striking. Moreover, eyebrow-raising government analyses from the late 1940s and early 1950s bear an uncanny resemblance to contemporary intelligence assessments, some of which reportedly consider “non-human” explanations for UFOs.

And with that, you and your Thanksgiving guests can enjoy a refreshingly tranquil meal as your ultra-conservative uncle and hyper-liberal cousin forge an unlikely bond over UFOs.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Tell him how your Thanksgiving UFO discussions go via Twitter @MvonRen.