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Michelle Obama at the Oscars: Deconstructing America

It’s tempting to consider the superficial aspects of this story: Mrs. Obama’s constant reaching for celebrity status or the irony of the Golfing Marxist’s wife legitimizing the worst conspicuous consumers in the country. But there is a much deeper phenomenon on display in this incident than the surface impropriety of her behavior -- one likely to do more damage to America’s soul. The harm was done by changing the way we think about America.

First, a quick review of two intellectual processes. The essence of human communication is the transferring of an idea from one human mind to another through words, symbols, or signs infused with meaning. This sharing of mental concepts reaches its highest quality when the thought received perfectly mirrors that in the intellect of origin. Communication is honest when it respects the recipient by sharing ideas without circumventing logic and reason.

Human beings understand the world about them by distinguishing people, events, and objects and arranging them in categories based on a process of differentiation and correlation. It is within frameworks of clearly defined essence and accident that we live in a context of reality, our native intellectual environment.

Theater is primarily communication through symbols. While it often claims to convey truth, its medium is illusion and make-believe, implanting conviction through emotion and sensation. Though it is a round-about way of sharing ideas, we’re not victims when we freely expose ourselves to what we know is a construct of imagination. We have no reasonable expectation of honest communication because we recognize that manipulation and creative license are often the heart of cinema. The American film industry also has a long history of promoting ideas and interpretations of history that are close to pure fantasy.