Many of my fellow conservatives are no doubt writing off author Marianne Williamson as a kook today for her “dark psychic force” comment in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate. A fringe candidate with even fringier thinking, yes?
Yet, Google searches and support for her erupted overnight like the nova she became.
That’s because, in ways she may not have even intended, she’s onto something altogether profound and arguably at the center of what most ails America.
Williamson might have been thinking of cosmic forces — in the way major religions speak of evil spirits. But whether you believe in such things or not, it remains that there can be a dark psychic force within each of us.
In its most malign form, it can be hatred, racism, sexism, religious enmity, blind and even fatal rage. In its most benign form, it’s simply negativity, which is the gateway drug to incivility — which, in turn, can be a portal to all of the above toxins.
In short, it’d be a cosmic mistake to write off her sentiment.
“To most of us elitists,” former Republican speechwriter John Podhoretz writes of Williamson’s remarks in the New York Post, “this either sounds wacko on its own terms or is dismissible as a semi-pagan illiterate translation of classic Christian thinking about the devil’s role in ordinary life. But we dismiss the power of this approach at our peril.”
Williamson’s error, in my view, is citing President Donald Trump as the sole medium of the dark psychic force when, in fact, there is abundant culpability to go around. While the president has certainly stirred the cauldron of antagonism, so have his adversaries, who have, in many people’s views, hopelessly exaggerated the man’s genuine sins and shortcomings.
Blaming someone else is also a convenient, comforting, get-out-of-responsibility-free card.
Today’s rampant negativity is a health hazard and a contagion for all. Medical research has linked extended anger to elevated stress, anxiety, blood pressure and even heart attacks and strokes.
Effects on the body politic are no less dramatic. The chronic combat our politics have dissolved into is corroding our national esteem and eroding our national cohesiveness. We’ve got serious issues to resolve together, and it’s urgent we do so. But it’s hard to join hands after beating each other to a bloody heap.
It was suggested on a Kansas City radio show this week that we’re planting the seeds of another Civil War. The host dismissed the notion, noting how pleasant most Kansas Citians’ day-to-day lives are. True enough — and I happen to think the Midwestern psyche generally, and Kansas City’s specifically, is steeped in kindness.
But we have a private life and a public life. As a nation, our public life is self-immolating. Many Americans, myself included, are sick and tired of the unrelenting drumbeat of how uncaring, mean, racist and unlivable America is, even as hordes of huddled masses jump fences and walk broken glass to get to this supposedly awful place.
How can we bring out the best in ourselves and our country when we’re so quick to believe the worst in others?
Assigning blame isn’t the way out of this downward spiral, either. If the pointing of fingers could point the way to peace and prosperity, the Middle East would be an oasis of it. Although Williamson’s sentiment is worthy, her approach, at least as expressed in the confines of an admittedly partisan debate, is counterproductive. When she makes the president the focus of evil, she only promotes the very dark psychic force she intends to vanquish, and alienates people on the right who have been the target of contempt themselves.
If Williamson truly wants to conquer hatred with love, she needs to make certain she’s not adding to the negativity.
Moreover, she and her listeners would benefit greatly if she spoke to every individual’s power and responsibility to reject the endemic, poisonous negativity that not only is given voice by today’s universally available communications, but also is magnified by them.
We all have a choice.