You probably don’t know who Marianne Williamson is–she recently declared herself to be a contender for the US Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. She won’t win. In 2016 she ran as an independent for a seat in the House of Representatives and came in fourth of four in her California riding. Well, maybe you do know something of her reputation as Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual adviser whose discussion of A Course in Miracles on Oprah’s TV show catapulted the book sales to millions overnight.
BUT, you may reasonably ask, what does any of this have to do with a political activist column in a community news and views website in the Comox Valley? Good Question! You might even more reasonably ask, how would being a spiritual adviser to Oprah or even the author of a long list of books qualify one to run for office as the Commander in Chief of the most powerful nation on Earth?
Indeed Williamson is quite upfront about her lack of a traditional background for a presidential candidate. She openly points out she has never held political office, served in the military nor been the head of a giant corporation. So why, then, is she running for such high political office? Well, her website hits that one out of the park: “Seasoned politicians took us into the Vietnam War and Iraq and the greatest income inequality since 1929.” She is running not because she is qualified to do the same things a little better, but because the current “spiritual and moral rot” in Washington is so blatantly/dangerously not what we need to be doing now.
Williamson shares many of the policy goals—like a Green New Deal and Medicare for all– being promoted by other progressive candidates though no other candidate is calling for the $100 billion in reparations for slavery that she is advocating. The thing that makes Williamson stand out in my view (the reason I chose to write about her) is not a more attractive policy platform. What stands out about Williamson is her ability to go below the policy specifics and bring out—state clearly—the values that underlie those policies.
To me that is what is missing in our political dialogue: we can talk of little improvements here, a little “better” legislation there, a little more money for some social/environmental good, but the reason our political/social/spiritual/environmental world is falling apart is because none of our political leaders has been able to connect us to the vision/values that once inspired our hope/dream of what a government of/by /for the people could actually mean.
No other candidate is saying anything like Williamson’s “Our national security policies should be based more on efforts to wage peace than on efforts to prepare for war. Peace is not the absence of war; war is the absence of peace.”
No other candidate, no matter how progressive, is saying anything like “America should embark on a 10- to 20-year plan for turning a wartime economy into a peace-time economy, repurposing the tremendous talents and infrastructure of our military-industrial complex in such a way as to leave us strong enough to deal with America’s legitimate needs for military preparedness, yet moving on to the urgent task of building a sustaining society and sustainable world.”
What impresses me most is Williamson’s ability to go beyond the facts and policies to address the underlying perceptions/values. Underlying all she says is her perceived need for “a moral and spiritual awakening in this country.” She thinks the current political conversation “is inadequate to the task of navigating the times that we’re in” because it only addresses the symptoms and not the underlying issues–the “authoritarian corporatism by which the major resources of this country have been systematically placed in the hands of a few people.” For Williamson, the American economy has become “a tyrannous economic order” in which “market forces have become a false God replacing love with greed as the central organizing principle of society. It is hard to even imagine a US politician mentioning love as an organizing principle and primary goal rather than the current corporate profits/ever increasing GDP as the primary goal we seek.
“Love.” Williamson asserts boldly, “should be our bottom line. We shouldn’t run this country like a business, we should run this country like a family.”
For Williamson, the idea of a “revolving door” where corporate leaders are regularly brought into government to regulate the industries that they have managed is a recipe for the devastating conflicts of interest which are gutting government of the ability to act as a restraint on corporate greed. Citizens United has simply given away the farm with the hen house by replacing the democratic principle of one person one vote with the upside down notion of one dollar, one vote.
To Williamson, a moral deficit is a more serious failing than a financial one. She considers the profit taking from incarcerating 2.3 million people in for profit prisons whose corporate owners lobby for even more severe tough on crime laws simply to enlarge their profits to be a “screaming moral emergency”—a moral emergency made even more hideous by the fact people of color are unfairly targeted by the police and end up facing harsher prison sentences than their white counterparts. Williamson notes with anguish that” America is now incarcerating a higher proportion of African Americans than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.”
On Trump’s efforts to paint immigrants as enemies, Williamson notes that “Dehumanizing others has always been the required first step leading toward history’s collective atrocities. This is not the first time dehumanization has reared its head in our nation, and we must stand up against it now as other generations stood up against it in their time.”
She isn’t going to get elected. She doesn’t believe that the nation’s security is “in direct proportion to the amount of money we spend on the military.” My gosh, what heresy! Then she takes it even further, “America should embark on a 10- to 20-year plan for turning a wartime economy into a peace-time economy… (turning) to the urgent task of building a sustainable society and sustainable world. It is time, she asserts unabashedly, for” promoting life rather than death.”
All these issues set Williamson apart from the other candidates in the depth of change she is talking about, but now I want to share a few quotes that set her aside from the other candidates by addressing directly the values that support these policies and actions. Values that go deeper than issues are the only way to understand what once inspired the very idea of democracy as something greater than even the much quoted/often abused government of/by/for the people.
“American politics today is disconnected from the heart. Our economic system is disconnected from the heart. Our criminal justice system is disconnected from the heart. Our educational system is disconnected from the heart. Our national security agenda is disconnected from the heart. And where there is no heart, there is no wisdom…what is disconnected from the heart leads to suffering and conflict.”
“Our society has stage 4 cancer and all politicians are offering is a topical ointment.”
“Our national security policies should be based more on efforts to wage peace than on efforts to prepare for war. ”
“Politics should not be a pursuit disconnected from the deeper meaning of life; it should be, as everything should be, an expression of our higher selves.”
The thing that moves me most is Williamson’s emphasis on perception and values rather than specific policy as the heart and soul of her campaign. Specific policies address the symptoms not the underlying authoritarian corporatism that now permeates most of the world governments and concentrates resources and decision-making in the hands of a few who no longer see democracy as anything other than a sham to keep the masses quiet.
I never thought I’d hear a politician says this, but Marianne Williamson says it boldly, “ Love, not corporate profit should be the measure and meaning of all we do…Love should be our bottom line. “
She won’t get elected. We would live in a very different/much better world if she did.
What do you think of this radical idea about politicians putting their values up front so we can look at what motivates the policies? Do you think the word “love” has anyplace in discussing politics?