Let me tell you about the most fun, most existentially nihilistic game I’ve ever played. And we started 2020 with it.
New Year’s Eve. After the countdown. A wood cabin with no internet, located in the remote woods of California. The only heat came from a wood-burning stove. My 13-year-old son found the dusty relic at the bottom of a closet: a home version of Family Feud with a grinning Steve Harvey on the cover. Little did we know we would face our own mortality when we agreed to give it a try.
The basic game is: the producers of the famed game show surveyed 100 people with a question and you have to give an answer that is listed as one of the top ten answers from that survey.
We quickly discovered that because of our mixed foreign education (I went to an English high school in Italy, my Canadian-born wife was raised without television), we are, shall we say, “culturally divergent.”
So, for example, when Steven Harvey asked us to “name a famous David,” my wife shouted “Michelangelo’s David!” …It was not on the list.
I barely cut it with David and Goliath (a good biblical reference). Most Americans were thinking more along the lines of David Letterman, David Copperfield, etc.
“Remember, think like an American!” Our son laughed at us. Eventually, this became the chant whenever anyone got the question wrong. “Americans!”
Which led to the fateful moment when this question came up: “What is the most common question people ask their dogs?”
My 7-year-old daughter: “Who’s a good boy?”
My son checks the answers… it’s not on there! Among the right answers is, “How are you?”
“How ARE YOU?!” To a DOG?!
We all say in unison “AMERICANS!!!!!!!” and laugh.
But with a gulp of sorrow, my daughter exclaimed: “But… I AM an American!”
Suddenly, we stopped and all looked at each other. The question hung in the air. The question that will define this election year AND the next decade… Who IS an American? What IS America? (with apologies to all the other countries that share our continent).
Here was this game that asked you to fit in with all your fellow Americans. To come up with the same answer. The game does not acknowledge an objective truth. Just whatever most Americans agree is reality. The game may as well be called “The Conformist.”
So we sat there, staring at each other in silence. On the precipice of 2020. Looking into the void. And we did what any good American would have done…
We burst into laughter. We laughed and laughed and pretended it was all going to be alright.