Dear Mr. President,
By now I feel like the last person in the country to see the movie Inception. This is probably not the case, and I don't often feel comfortable writing to you about pop culture, but this is slightly less inane than knowing who snookie is, I think. Movies, like any art, make me feel things. Love, Actually or Pride & Prejudice still make my skeptic's heart believe in the possibility of a true and lasting love. Star Wars still inspires my childish dreams of heroics and adventure. Being moved by these experiences may be temporary or even contrived, but I still enjoy it. Which brings me to Inception, a film that asks the viewer to question the nature of reality.
When I was a little girl I often wandered into empty rooms, looking for a place to be alone. I would lie down, close my eyes, and imagine the whole massive, complex world, and then the whole span of history (which, at that age, I could barely conceive of as anything more specific than immense.) I would feel so small that I would cease to exist. An impulse at the back of my mind suggested that this meant I did not exist. How could I, a girl of exactly no consequence, be real? A girl of only a few years, with no apparent purpose or significance? It was, on the whole, a preposterous notion. I wondered how I had ever thought that it was possible to have my own place in the infinite. Once I had finally reached the point of truly doubting if I could exist at all, I'd open my eyes. I don't recall if I enjoyed more the feeling of oblivion or the reassurance of my own senses. I recall reading once that the great Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had such an extreme egocentric view of the world as a child that he insisted his classmates did not exist unless he was around. Allegedly, one day when he was home sick, the class came to visit him to prove that they still existed without him there. When I read this I wondered if my own obsession with existence and nonexistence was somehow a variation on this.
Don't worry, I'm not going to try to convince you that we're all dreaming. Actually, while watching Inception, I couldn't help but think about foreign policy and the different ways we perceive our own nation in relationship to every other nation. Are we in a constant state of war, guns drawn and fingers on the trigger, enemies pausing only because of the size or number of weapons pointed back? I think some people must see the world that way, and I don't know that I can necessarily disprove their version of reality. As for my view of the world I see the way that those in power use violence and, more often, fear of violence to keep those without power believing that the enemy speaking a foreign tongue is much more threatening than the system telling people to be afraid. I don't know that any one could prove or disprove this reality, either. I can believe, all I want, but I can't convince others to share in my reality. I wonder if this is why we tend to reject evidence or information supporting politicians or policies we ideologically oppose. If my younger self was dwarfed, not by the number of people that had ever lived, but by the number of contradicting realities that must simultaneously exist to make them all right. Does my conviction about the state of reality do more harm, than good? Should we all give up these differences in perception and agree to live in the same world? Which one? Who decides?
Ok, this is perhaps venturing too far into theory for me to be really comfortable with its relevance. I experience this sensation too rarely these days, and I don't often get to the movies, so forgive me, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts. I wonder, does being President make it hard to distinguish between the office and your self, at times? Do you find yourself perceiving or reacting to things differently, as President, than you might have as just Barack Obama? Is there a single paradigm shift that you think is in order for the American people or for the American government, by which I mean, If you could change the way this country collectively perceives something, what would it be? For me, I would change the way we perceive our own isolation. I would have us see ourselves more clearly in strangers and better understand how the harm and injustice and exploitation we perpetuate, even through apathy, comes back to directly affect our own existences. But that's enough philosophy, for now. I want to lie in bed, close my eyes, and, just for a moment, doubt that any of us exist at all.