Marianne Williamson | Campaigning for the soul of America
Marianne Williamson is an internationally acclaimed spiritual author and lecturer. Six of her ten books have been New York Times bestsellers, and four have topped the list. In 1997, she published Healing the Soul of America, a book offering an insightful examination of our history and politics, with personal and political solutions for the renewal of our democracy.
Marianne’s other books include The Age of Miracles, Everyday Grace, A Woman’s Worth, Illuminata, A Return to Love, A Course in Weight Loss, The Gift of Change and The Law of Divine Compensation.
Marianne has been a popular guest on television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, Good Morning America and Charlie Rose. She has also been a committed activist. In 1989, she founded Project Angel Food, a meals-on-wheels program that today serves over one thousand homebound people with AIDS in the Los Angeles area daily. She also co-founded The Peace Alliance, promoting legislation to establish a United States Department of Peace. And she serves on the Board of Directors of the RESULTS organization, working to end the worst ravages of hunger and poverty throughout the world.
In November 2012, Marianne produced a conference in Los Angeles called SISTER GIANT: Women, Non-Violence and Birthing a New American Politics, attended by almost 2,000 women representing all fifty states. At the conference, she urged women to consider running for office using the principles of non-violence to birth a new American politics. She says she then spent long months pondering how to best further such a movement. “The response that feels most real and true to me is to run for office myself,” she says. She is now a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from California’s 33rd District. Her candidacy has so far been endorsed by Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith, leader of the Agape Spiritual Center; journalist Thom Hartmann; and author and self-help guru Dr. Wayne Dyer. For more information on her candidacy, please visit www.marianneforcongress.com.
The MOON: You’re known as a spiritual teacher and author. Why are you running for office?
Williamson: As President Eisenhower said, “Politics should be the part-time profession of every American.” Any citizen should feel that running for office is something to consider, yet we’ve developed in this country the myth of a political class. We treat politics as a spectator sport, and the average citizen is just watching the game played by others. That’s the problem right there. The House of Representatives was intended to be “the House of What’s Happening Now.” The farmer would leave his farm and become a member of the House for a while. A shopkeeper would come and be a member of the House for a while. A candle maker would come and be a member of the House for a while. And it shouldn’t be any different today.
People often create artificial distinctions between things that aren’t really distinct. There’s no place where spirituality stops and anything else in life begins, because spirituality is simply the journey of the heart—the journey from fear to love, from limitation to limitlessness, from living in the past to living in the present. So why wouldn’t someone with a prime focus on spirituality, with a skill set having to do with developing more loving and compassionate viewpoints and behavioral patterns, go into politics? Can you think of a place where such things are needed more?
The MOON: Actually, no. [Laughter] I learn from your press secretary that you write your own speeches—or rather, that you don’t need to write speeches because you speak from your heart, which is to say, authentically, in the moment. That in itself is a break from the conventional campaign model, in which speeches are crafted after focus groups determine what voters want to hear, and are further vetted so as not to alienate potential campaign contributors. Can you speak to that?
Williamson: I’ve written ten books, so when you’ve spent months of your life working on material it becomes part of your internal dialogue. Talking about a topic isn’t difficult if you’ve been reading or writing about it all day. When I speak politically, it’s not as if something just pops into my head. It’s a product of a conversation I’ve been having for quite a while. I’m not new to politics. I published a book called Healing the Soul of America in 1997. I founded the Department of Peace campaign. So it’s not like I’ve been doing one thing with my life and then woke up one day and decided to do something else. Quite the opposite; I see this move as an extension of what I’ve been doing for thirty years.
The MOON: But it does seem as if your approach creates the possibility of actual leadership, because you’re not just reflecting back something you’ve been told the voters want to hear.
Williamson: Well that’s true. I’m not basing my views on what I think people want to hear; I’m basing them on what I feel moved to say. I realized that the political status quo isn’t going to transform itself; if we want a new conversation, then we ourselves are going to have to start it.
MOON: What is the vision that you are inspired by for our country?
Williamson: The vision of democracy itself. I feel we are on a trajectory of de-democratization. In 1776 Americans repudiated an aristocratic system, and I think it’s time to do it again. This time not with a revolution obviously, but with an evolutionary movement that has real political heft.
The founding of American democracy was the rejection of an “ancient regime” that granted power to a king or queen and their aristocratic cronies, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. This was a new paradigm, a new vision, that instead gave power to the people themselves. It wasn’t just an historic move politically; it was an historic move philosophically. In this country, it wasn’t supposed to matter who someone was, who their parents were, how much money they had, what class they belonged to; any ordinary citizen—having been given a public education to hone their critical thought processes, and a free press so they had access to information—could be entrusted, when voting from their conscience, with the governance of a great nation. That was a radical concept then and it’s radical now. Obviously, the Founders who could conceive of the “God created all men are equal” concept and encode it into our founding documents, in many cases couldn’t rise above their own historical prejudices to apply those rights to anyone but white males. (We shouldn’t be too smug about that, by the way; we have some prejudices of our own.) Our entire historical narrative has been a contest, generation after generation, between those who wanted America to further embody and manifest our democratic principles, and those who wanted the country to withdraw its resources from that effort.
When Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address, he meant it. He said that thousands of men had died on that battlefield so that a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people would not perish from the Earth.” Yet isn’t that exactly what’s happening? If we take a brutally honest look at this, have we not now a government “of a few of the people, by a few of the people, and for a few of the people?” It’s like we’re making a mockery of the Gettysburg Address and pretending not to notice.
Since 1980, and through all the years since, we have been systematically dismantling the underpinnings of a democratic society. Through a chronic pattern of unjust banking, tax and trade policies, we have extracted huge amounts of the public purse and syphoned them into the hands of a very people in our society—to a point where one percent of Americans control thirty-eight percent of our wealth. In the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
Moneyed forces are able to wield influence on our government so disproportionate to the influence wielded by ordinary citizens that what we have now is a crisis of democracy. I’m running for office because I’m pretty clear that the candidates in the race so far will not be mentioning this. And wherever there’s a lack of economic justice, a lack of social justice follows. Whether it’s NSA spying, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Patriot Act, the Trans-Pacific Partnership or any number of ways in which oil companies, chemical companies, big agricultural companies, defense contractors and so forth are able to dominate our decision-making processes, I think America needs a pro-democracy movement. And if we’re going to have one, it’s going to come from the people ourselves. Looking to the two major political parties to fundamentally transform the system is unreasonable given that they themselves are so locked into it. They’re both so invested in things as they are – so in need of all that money in order to get elected and stay elected—that if the pattern is going to be disrupted in a fundamental way, it will have to be by us. If we’re going to have an American Spring, it will have to be because we the people make it happen.
The MOON: You’re running as an independent. The conventional wisdom is that third-party candidates are spoilers. How do you respond?