At an academic mixer, a consultant from Brussels asked everyone to draw the shape of their lives on a Post-It note. I made a scribble and people approached me as if I’d scrawled a cry for help.

“But is the Bible considered fiction or non-fiction?” a woman asked nobody in particular on the Q train. Cut to a hospital waiting room where an infomercial babbled to a row of empty chairs: “This rare melon defies the aging process, allowing you to stay fresher and firmer.” Later that night, a stern middle-aged man would turn to the camera and say, “My mattress topper performs as promised.” In the meantime, a headline scrolled across the screen: The Food and Drug Administration Warns Against Buying Young People’s Blood to Prevent Aging.

A voice in the hallway said, “We’re all survivors here.” He’s right. We’re still here, doing our best to survive these days of propaganda, financial anxiety, and new viruses. Struggling to remain sane in a society that would rather tear itself to pieces than give up its myths and try something new. Anger or compassion? The answer must be compassion because it’s so much harder. Or maybe it’s time to end the American experiment. Break it into city-states and clear the stage for a better show.