Last night, I read A Politics of Love, which Marianne Williamson wrote before she began her 2020 campaign for president.
I was absolutely riveted.
Williamson is the type of writer I want to be: clear, poetic, and radical.
The best part: reading her words make me feel as if I’m doing a service toward my country. In her book, she urges her readers to close their eyes and visualize the 13 million American children who go to bed hungry each night. She implores us to consider the anxiety that millions of Black Americans face when they encounter the police. She exhorts us to imagine the heartrending pain of being separated from one’s children at the border.
Such acts of empathy invariably make us kinder, more compassionate, and more committed to the idea that we must end the injustices of our era. I can imagine someone reading her book and then rushing to the ballot box or volunteering at a food bank.
Williamson inspires us to be the best we can be, both in service of ourselves and in service of our country.
The central tenet of her book is that we as Americans need to act with love as our guiding first principle.
She walks the reader through the challenges Americans face on issues of education, healthcare, systemic racism, immigration, and more — and in every instance, she decries how we too often act based on our instincts of fear rather than on our instincts of love.
Love seems like a hippie-dippie wishy-washy platitude, but Williamson explains how nothing could be further from the truth.
Love is the most powerful weapon we have in the arsenal against hate, jealousy, and fear. It is a very practical — and very necessary — tool if we hope to transcend the differences that separate us and unite based on the similarities that bind us.
Collective action is the only vehicle for successful societal change, and it cannot be undertaken in the absence of camaraderie, respect, and good faith towards one another.
While anger is often harnessed in service of collective action, it is a fuel that burns hot and quick. Indignation, however righteous it may be, is never has effective in the long run as action motivated by love.
To truly come together, it is love that must be at our cores.
Another crucial point that Williamson returns to again and again in her book is a message I was surprised to find: militant anti-corporatism.
She is as socialist as they come, and almost every dimension of American politics that she discusses in her book includes a reference to how corporate interests have dominated and dissembled us over the last 40 years.
From Reagan and the era of deregulation to Citizens United, Williamson walks us through example after example of ways in which corporate greed has created a race to the bottom, often at the US taxpayer’s expense.
She writes that “Our government has become a system of legalized bribery” in reference to the lobbyists who influence our legislators. She calls the materialist commodification of our desires by large companies a manifestation of an “aristocratic archetype” that has existed since the monarchies of old, now with better branding. She insists that “Love, not money, should be our new bottom line.”
I was surprised to hear this message because the only thing I knew about Williamson before reading her book (besides her fabulous poem) was that she ran for president, and I believed Bernie and Warren were the candidates with the most outspoken anti-corporate platform. Most politicians kowtow to private industry, since that’s where many of their donors come from, and so any politician who bucks that trend is surprising in a good way. While she didn’t go far in her campaign, I hope that Williamson shifted the Overton window to the left and helped further the message that systemic inequality cannot be ignored.
What struck me most about Williamson’s book was this:
By the middle of listening to her words, I wanted to leave America for good and turn my back on all its problems.
But by the end, I couldn’t imagine ever abandoning my home, and I became even more resolved to do my part in righting my country’s course.
Yes, we face far too many problems to count as modern Americans, but every single one of them is tractable, soluble, and surmountable. We’ll have to work hard, we’ll have to work fast, and we’ll certainly have to work together, but if we do, we can build a more perfect union and create a brighter future.
It’s time to rally behind love as a real political force and advocate on behalf of one another with conviction and fortitude. We can change so much if we believe in ourselves and in our country, but we can only do so if we unite against those who seek to divide us.
In the words of the immortal Pete Seeger, whose songs are as relevant today as ever, “In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
greater than the might of armies, multiplied a thousand-fold — we can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old for the union makes us strong.”
Let us take Williamson’s message to heart and create a new politics of love.