This past weekend, Kylie spent the night with one of her friends so I had a guy’s night with Gabe. He’s thirteen, so any direct questions you ask him will get one-word responses. So I let him start the conversation and steer it wherever he wants, and I go with the flow and try to make points along the way. On our way to dine on some chicken, he mentioned his character on World of Warcraft. I asked him what professions his character did, but he hadn’t chosen any. This opened up the opportunity to talk about the game’s economy of gathering, production, and selling things in the auction house. I segued into real-world business concepts such as supply and demand and basic money-making. He was into that because he’s at a point where he’s seeing things he wants to buy: clothes, shoes, electronics, etc. Of course he’d rather spend my money than his own to get them. So I used the WoW game economy to emphasize the point that nothing is free. The auction house really is a good illustration of real-world basics, the major exception being that the only place you’ll see people on top of mailboxes while dancing in their underwear is in game. That’s a good thing.
After a little while, the conversation turned to American society and Gabe brought up a couple of things which frustrate him about it. I’d like to tell you how we got there from our previous topic, but I have no idea. Conversations with teenagers are about as predictable as lightning strikes and should be navigated in a similar fashion: run in a zigzag pattern and don’t carry anything metal. Gabe impressed me because he didn’t rehash political talking points or media-spun rhetoric. The things that frustrate him about American society is that everyone is trying to shout down everyone else and nobody is listening. We talked about how obnoxious Americans can come across to people in other countries, about how evidence doesn’t support the insistence of some groups that America is a Christian nation or that it’s the absolute number one country in the world, and about how so many Americans will look down on those who don’t worship the military with a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other. Most of all, we talked about how American ingenuity and our willingness to work with others made us great and how they need to be rediscovered. I told him, sincerely, that I don’t care what the person standing next to me believes about religion or the afterlife. What matters to me is that we can find common ground and work together toward building a future in which everyone will benefit and that we can both leave this world a better place than it was when we got here.
Gabe’s response was priceless. He smiled, patted me on the shoulder, and said, “And that’s why you should run for president.” Look for me on the debate stage in 2020.