CLAREMONT — It’s not an accident that if you’ve heard of presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, you’re probably familiar with a quote of something she’s said or written. The author of “A Return to Love” and other books of spiritual guidance has a gift for pithy renderings of complex thoughts. However, her website (MarianneWilliamson2020) contains a detailed and thought-out platform for everything from climate change to criminal justice reform, health care and foreign policy.
Eagle Times: “Your critics call you naïve and otherworldly – can you address that?”
Marianne Williamson: “Those who say that say it intentionally as an effort to marginalize and mock my campaign, to place within people’s minds enough suspicion that they won’t vote for me. This is nothing new in politics, this is called a hit. I think that the things I have said, that I believe love for each other, love for our planet and love for democracy, love for our great grandchildren who are not yet born – those that say that we are naïve that we could order human civilization around such principles, I think they’re naïve to think that we’re going to live on this planet for another hundred years if we don’t at least try.”
For Williamson, the lack of spiritual conviction in politics has become a problem. While she considers the separation of church and state “one of the most important parts of our Constitution,” she maintains that the Founders used it not just to protect government from interference by an established church, but “to protect the religious conversation.”
MW: “I think many Americans may not appreciate what it means that you can go to any kind of church, synagogue, mosque, AA meeting, yoga class, atheist meeting here in this country and no policeman’s going to come in and say, ‘Break it up.’ That’s not true everywhere. So, by doing that our Founders were not just trying to limit the religious conversation, they were trying to protect the religious conversation. Whether it was the early evangelicals, who were Quakers, right here in New Hampshire by the way, the abolitionist movement or Dr. King in the civil rights movement, some of the greatest voices in social justice movements throughout our history have emerged from religious and spiritual communities. So the fact that someone has religious conviction in no way should limit their voice.”
She points to government policies, especially the support of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign against Yemen. “What has happened in the last several decades, in a very disturbing way, is that our government has become heartless. So many millions of Americans who, I do believe, ask the serious questions of heart and goodness, what is right and what is wrong, in our personal lives, had disengaged it from politics so that it is limited to the personal sphere. So I might ask, did I do the right thing? But the real spiritual question is, did the United States do the right thing? To give aerial support to the Saudi Arabians waging a genocidal war against the Yemenis in which tens of thousands of Yemenis were starved? Many of them were children and we did that for the sake of $360 billion? For the genuine spiritual seeker to be vigilant about our collective behavior and questions of conscience is no different from being vigilant about individual behavior and questions of conscience.”
ET: “You would establish a Department of Peace if you became president. Can you talk about that?”
MW: “My father fought in WWII; I have a lot of respect for the military. I look at the military like you would look at a surgeon. Does the United States need a surgeon on hand? Yes, we do. Should we have the best surgeon? Yes. But the sane person tries to avoid surgery if at all possible. You can’t just take medicine, you have to cultivate health; even Donald Rumsfeld said, ‘We have to wage peace.’
“Even General Mattis said, ‘If you do not fully fund the State Department, I’m going to have to buy more ammunition.’ Our national security operation right now is endless preparation for war. Like what, we’re just going to back up into peace somehow? We have to wage peace, we have to declare peace. We should have a peace building academy, just like we have a war academy. Because peace building agencies and peace building efforts express very serious, very sophisticated expertise, no less so than military expertise.
“And in some of the places in the world where it is carried out, no less courage.”
Such a peace department, and a fully funded State Department she believes would go a long way toward solving the refugee crisis at the southern border. “They’re desperate people, and large groups of desperate groups of desperate people are a security risk and are also vulnerable to capture by dangerous ideological forces. So, to me, all public policy, and foreign policy, should be built around the core principle of that which helps people thrive.”
ET: “The difference between a revolutionary and a progressive is their timeline; how fast they want things to change. If you were to become president and had this radical agenda to implement, how would you accomplish it, how would you implement these radical changes in a way that brings everybody along?”
MW: “What you are pointing to is extremely important. I want to be an agent of change, but I don’t want to be an agent of chaos. We need to interrupt the current patterns (of government) but that’s because they are disruptive of people’s lives. I don’t want to come in and, as you said, cause revolutionary changes that create more chaos. That’s one of the reasons I’m qualified for this job, because what I’ve done for the last 35 years is help people and systems navigate change. You have to do so tenderly, and you have to do so carefully.
“I do believe we have 12 years to make some dramatic changes in terms of climate and a just transition, at a level nothing short of World War II level mass mobilization.
“In order for that to happen, however, some of the people and entities and institutions that have caused industrial scale harm must be enrolled in that effort. We have to acknowledge there was a time when fossil fuel usage was appropriate; we wouldn’t have won WWII without it. We all have to stand back and respect each other here, and understand that when people are attacked they stand back and do this (crossing her arms). Everybody’s pointing the finger too much at everybody else and it’s just as bad on the left as on the right... My problem is not with a high-minded Conservatism, my problem is with the corporatist agenda, which is neither liberal nor conservative.
“When hatred and complete lack of empathy and conscience are speaking with loud megaphones you better believe love better do more than just whisper.”