- Evan Sult
- Jagged little pill: Dismissed as a kooky New Age sideshow, Marianne Williamson has emerged as one of the sharpest critics of both the Republican and Democratic parties.
When former Vice President Joe Biden went head-to-head with President Donald Trump in Ohio during the first of three scheduled presidential debates last month, there were a lot of things notably absent that evening.
The debate, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic took the lives of more than 200,000 Americans, featured a sparse, silent, and mostly unmasked audience, an absolute lack of control from moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, who allowed Trump to openly avoid denouncing white supremacy, and an otherwise glaringly loveless void.
The cacophony of cross-talk, insults, falsehoods, and disruptive distraction tactics adopted by an unruly Trump (so much so that the hashtag #inTRUMPtion quickly began trending on Twitter) was called a "shitshow" and "an assault to our senses" by pundits. CNN correspondent Jake Tapper summed up the 90-minute circus as "a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck." (Biden, in a rare moment of fed-up-ness, called Trump a "clown.")
Following the spectacle, social media was ablaze with commentary, memes, and merchandise. Unsurprisingly, supporters of some of 2020's 27 previous Democratic presidential hopefuls re-emerged to wax nostalgic and envision what it would've been like to see their favorite discarded candidate take on Trump.
Bernie Sanders' supporters took to Twitter to mourn the blackout of the persistent and progressive candidate and to express disapproval of the former vice president after Biden attempted to distance himself from Sanders during the debate. Elizabeth Warren backers showed up, too, some of whom wished she would have "burst through the back wall like the Kool-Aid man." Hell, people even came out of the woodwork to say that former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak, who averaged 0% in the polls and did not participate in any of the primary debates, could have, and should have, won the nomination.
But it was a prominent gaggle of sage-wielding stans for another candidate — one who warned of the "dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred" of Trump's America when she commanded the stage during her limited talking time at last year's debates — that cropped up to flash their collective side eye and to wag their coffin-shaped acrylic fingernails.
"Marianne Williamson could've hexed Trump on live television but everyone just wanted to make fun of her instead," one post-debate tweet read.
One Twitter user begged Williamson to do a tarot pull for the country, while others longed for her "voodoo" and "crystals."
"The way Marianne Williamson woulda mopped the floor with them...go harness the love, girl."
Others declared her the spiritual winner of the September face-off between Trump and Biden, despite her no longer being in the running. A viral mash-up video of Williamson during the 2019 debate paired with music from Twin Peaks resurfaced, too, and some admitted to having skipped watching the debate altogether in favor of following along on Williamson's Twitter feed, claiming it was a more valuable use of their time and a more direct source of information.
"Marianne Williamson was right," one user wrote. "She always was."
Though the 68-year-old Houston-born and formerly metro-Detroit-based spiritual adviser, activist, best-selling author, and self-proclaimed "bitch for god" (a title she now regrets giving herself) did not come close to the presidency, she's not going anywhere, girlfriend.
Williamson, who suspended her campaign in January so as to not "get in the way" of progressive candidates — namely Sanders, who she later endorsed — had polled at less than 1% and qualified for just two of the 11 debates before being nudged off the crowded stage due to lack of funding, and, according to Williamson and her loyal followers, a strategic smear campaign orchestrated by the media and the DNC.
"After the second debate, when I was the most Googled person in 49 states, I was really starting to get my sea legs up there," Williamson tells Metro Times from her home in Washington D.C. "Someone in power definitely said, 'Get that woman off the stage.' And the smear began. It was obviously well-strategized because the talking points were always the same. She's dangerous. She's a grifter. She's crazy. She's anti-vax. She's a crystal lady. She's a wacko. It was the politics of personal destruction as delivered by the campaign-media-industrial complex. So much fairy dust was thrown in people's eyes that many people, who I believe if they had actually come to hear me, would've seen me as a natural political ally."
Yet her momentum persists, thanks to her active Twitter presence, a regular column in Newsweek, and an incredibly loyal handful of America's most vulnerable, hopeful, and hopeless, who remain under her spell — which, for the better part of her 37-year-long career as a thought leader, has promised the possibility of miracles and that love, once invited in, will not only open doors, but will bust them the fuck down.
Williamson says misogyny, too, from both men and women, played a role in her inability to crack the primaries. She says she was cast aside for being a businesswoman with no political experience and was frequently mischaracterized as a kooky New Age sideshow, with some outlets describing her flowery speech as sounding like "a California yoga instructor on mushrooms" best suited for a Goop wellness summit and not the highest office in the country.
Critics of her love-led policies have called her "the leftwing version of Trump," suggesting she and Trump have more in common than not. Both preach their own brand of "pseudo-theology" based on self-taught "self-actualization," both leveraged their celebrity status to thrust themselves into the political spotlight. (Williamson is often touted as Oprah's spiritual adviser, though a 2019 press release from her campaign playfully made the effort to disassociate the candidate from the "BFF to Oprah" label.) And both have consistently blamed the media and the left for their perceived misrepresentation.
"I know this sounds naïve," she told The New Yorker in 2019, [but] "I didn't think the left was so mean. I didn't think the left lied like this."
Sure, it's easy to criticize Williamson. She's been called a threat to feminism and "hideously dangerous" for her scientifically dubious stance on antidepressants (they're overprescribed), clinical depression (it's a scam, for which she later apologized for having said but the damage had been done), mandated vaccines (they're Orwellian), AIDS and cancer ("sickness is an illusion" and diseases are "psychic screams"), as well as her theories on weight loss (hot-fudge sundaes are equivalent to crystal meth, body fat is a manifestation of negative thinking, and the body's natural state is "fat-free"). Williamson also believes director James Cameron deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his 2009 film Avatar.
"All the films were good," she tweeted during the 2010 Academy Awards, "but Avatar changed the world."
However, not everyone was quick to snicker at Williamson's woo-woo political aspirations or bold policy ideas, like creating America's first-ever Department of Peace, dedicating a government department to the betterment of children and youth, distributing $500 billion in reparations to all African Americans, and pushing back when capitalism overreaches. She frequently talks shit about Big Pharma, advocates for taking money out of politics, and has proposed a six-pillar system to aid in the country's moral, emotional, and psychological repair. She believes our top collective priority should be "getting the fascist out of the White House."
"I think people are kidding themselves if they underestimate the extent to which Trump in a second term would seek to limit our capacity for effective activism," she says.
From the rubble of the 2020 campaign, Williamson has emerged as one of the sharpest critics of both the Republican and Democratic parties. But the details of her platform, which, for the most part, were aligned most closely progressive Democrats (the exception being her opposition to Medicare for All, which she has only most recently adopted due to COVID-19 and her own experience within what she calls the "sickness care system" following her rotator cuff surgery), were overshadowed the minute she walked across the debate stage, blowing a fucking kiss to the audience.
She bewitched a confused country overwhelmed by Democratic options with her enviable cheekbones, wide-eyed aversions to plans, and a curious trans-Atlantic warble that comes off as both meditative ASMR and old-timey cartoon villain (Saturday Night Live's Chloe Fineman nailed it when she performed as Williamson via astral projection, threatening to capture the president's soul in a crystal Yoni egg).
But in her closing statements on the debate stage in Miami, Williamson delivered a message that was hard to ignore. "So, Mr. President, if you're listening, I want you to hear me, please. You have harnessed fear for political purposes, and only love can cast that out," Williamson said into the camera. "So I, sir, I have a feeling you know what you're doing. I'm going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field, and sir, love will win."
Her seemingly self-aware campaign team, which, on more than one occasion, cleverly leaned into the immediate viral meme-ification of Williamson, released a healthy alternative to debate drinking games after so many outlets had published their own rules, some of which included taking a shot of hard liquor every time Williamson referred to herself as an "outsider" or to Trump as an "existential threat."
"Instead of downing a shot, do a downward dog," the press release read, adding that viewers should meditate when candidates address Medicare for All, do a plank when issues relating to infrastructure come up, and breathe deeply into conversations surrounding the Green New Deal.
An editorial published in Harper's Bazaar made the case for Williamson as the anti-Trump: "You don't have to vote for Marianne Williamson," the headline read, "just don't call her crazy." A writer for Slate declared 2019 "the summer of Marianne" following her debate performance. In August, when Biden finally accepted the Democratic nomination, he delivered a speech that could have been written by Williamson herself. ("For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark.") Slate once again praised her, implying that it was Williamson's gone but not forgotten "message" that mainstream Democrats had blatantly commandeered in hopes that it might carry them through to the election. The fact was not lost on Williamson. "Your campaign is everything people said that I was but I actually wasn't: platitudes but no substance and no policy," she tweeted at Biden. "Enough with talk about hope and love: show us the policies that provide it!" (Williamson has since endorsed Biden, and on Sunday posted a video saying she voted for him. "I think this is arguably one of the most — possibly the most — important election in American history," she said.)
"The projection onto me that I wasn't having a serious political conversation was simply inaccurate," Williamson tells Metro Times. "We were so led to believe that there was nothing they could hear from me that they would be interested in as to have a very damaging effect on my ability to stay in the race. Although I wish I had stayed [in] to New Hampshire, I could've made it through New Hampshire. And I think that would've been a very good thing."
Williamson's livelihood is built on one's ability to manifest good things or, at the very least, the belief that one can manifest good things as long as they are able to recognize that fear is an illusion and that love is real, eternal, and in all things.
"Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven, and the Masaratti [sic] will get here when it's supposed to," Williamson wrote in 1992.
The youngest of three, Williamson was born in Houston to a well-traveled, upper-middle-class Jewish family. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father an eccentric immigration lawyer, who, when Marianne was just 13, took the family to visit Ho Chi Minh City in South Vietnam to demonstrate to his children the harsh realities of "the military-industrial complex."
She admits to having believed she had a purpose from an early age but not really understanding the what or why of it all, and convinced herself that "God was a crutch" she did not need. The burden of not knowing fueled years of insecurity, neurosis, and what she has described as feeling like a "huge rock of self-loathing" planted deep in her gut.
"By my mid-twenties, I was a total mess," she wrote in A Return to Love, adding, "I was always trying to make something happen in my life, but nothing much happened except all the drama I created around things not happening."
Williamson attended Pomona College in California, where she studied drama, roomed with Lynda Obst, and became entranced by the feminist revolution and antiwar activism. She dropped out her junior year to grow vegetables but cannot recall having actually grown any. Thus began a period of time that is mostly a blur for Williamson, one she has publically attributed to "bad boys and good dope" as she floated between relationships, cities, and a colorful collection of gigs, including cocktail waitress, office temp, cabaret singer, and assistant to celebrity biographer Albert Goldman.
"She was very, very profoundly confused," Goldman told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. "She was a woman of emotion, like an actress in an Italian movie."
Williamson landed in New York City in 1973 and two years later, while at a party, she found herself peeling open the cover of a massive 1,200-page book with gold lettering. The book was A Course in Miracles, a grab bag of mystical scripture using Christian-leaning language with Western psychology and ancient philosophy written by Columbia University psychologist Helen Schucman, who claims that a voice that may or may not have been that of Jesus Christ spoke to her between 1965 and 1972. Williamson wouldn't get her hands on her own copy of the three-volume self-study until a few years later when a boyfriend gifted her one.
Lesson one in The Course reads: "Nothing I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] means anything." Yet, for Williamson, discovering The Course was her direct line to meaning. In 1983 Williamson and her religious texts packed up shop and headed west to Los Angeles, where she began lecturing about The Course out of a bookstore at the Philosophical Research Society and quickly became known as the "young woman talking about God who loves you no matter what," Williamson told Los Angeles Magazine.
Her status as L.A.'s latest elite New Age healer led Williamson to form Project Angel Food in 1989, an organization that operated under the Los Angeles Center for Living that provided meals to housebound AIDS patients in Los Angeles and, later, offered services in New York City. The organization, which Williamson said "grew" from her lectures, arrived at a crucial time during the AIDS epidemic and has continued to serve meals to terminally ill people — 11 million meals served and counting. By 1992, Williamson had reportedly stepped down from her position on the board of Project Angel Food. Those closely involved with the organization alleged power struggles between Williamson, the board, and staff as her reason for handing over a $50,000 check and walking away. Williamson had been described by disgruntled insiders as having a "despotic, tyrannical streak" and leveled allegations of mistreatment of volunteers, going so far as to suggest that Williamson used Project Angel Food as a way to sell books. (Williamson has since mended her relationship with the organization and remains active as its founder.)
Williamson, a single mother, cited other reasons for making the split. She had a baby and a best-selling book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. The first of her 13 self-help books (later titles would include Tears to Triumph, The Law of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money, and Miracles, Healing the Soul of America, and A Course in Weight Loss), A Return to Love takes the core principles of The Course, and — through Williamson's conversational warmth, easy-to-swallow platitudes, and scattered glimpses into her own struggles with therapy, despair, and spiritual restlessness — provokes a love so strong that even the Devil would falter after having read it, though only momentarily.
Oprah, who bought a thousand copies after experiencing "157 miracles" as a result of having read it (a miracle, for the record, is described as being "a shift in perception from fear to love"), urged her 14 million viewers to purchase the book. The media mogul's endorsement resulted in the book's first printing — a whopping 70,000 copies — to sell out that day and landed it at No. 1 on The New York Times' self-help best-seller list. The quick rise elevated both the message and the messenger to super soul star status, and paved the way for Williamson to become the reigning Godmother of Big Wellness. She credits most of her early success to simply being in the right place at the right time.
"Oprah had me on — very generously — and said it was the best book she'd ever read, gave away a thousand copies, and that gave me national and even international exposure in terms of Hollywood celebrities," Williamson says."I lived most of those years in Los Angeles, and if you live in Los Angeles, you meet people in the entertainment industry no different than if you live in Detroit, you'd meet people in the automobile industry. And if you're living in Houston, you meet people in the oil business.
"So, it's just where I happened to be and what I happened to be doing," she says. "Back in the days when my book came out in 1992, at that time, there were only a few of us. It was me, it was Deepak Chopra. There was Jean Houston and James Redfield, just a handful of us articulating these things. Now there's a priestess on every corner, you know, it's kind of a thing to be and do."
- Courtesy photo
- Williamson made a name for herself as a self-help guru, including a stint leading Warren’s Church of Today.
When Williamson arrived in Detroit for the Democratic debate in 2019, it was a warm return home for the spiritual leader.
Williamson supporter Katlyn Erdman of Ferndale told Metro Times during a debate watch party at the State Bar and Grill that Williamson was their pick because "she is us and she is everyone." To commemorate the event, Erdman also made a custom campaign shirt for her 2-year-old son Elvis on the morning of the July 30 debate.
"We support a conscious love infatuated political conversation," the shirt read.
Dozens of purple- and pink-wearing supporters gathered in a designated Marianne-zone across from the Fox Theatre, where their candidate for TV healer-in-chief would soon deliver her heavily Googled "Love Is a Battlefield"-sounding pitch for president, and where she earned some major local applause when she did some "radical truth-telling" with regard to the Flint water crisis.
"Flint is the tip of the iceberg," Williamson said during the debate. "I was in Denmark, South Carolina, where there is a lot of talk about it being the next Flint. We have an administration that has gutted the Clean Water Act. We have communities, particularly communities of color and disadvantaged communities all over this country, who are suffering from environmental injustice."
"I assure you, I lived in Grosse Pointe," she added. "What happened in Flint would not have happened in Grosse Pointe."
Following the release of her fourth book — Healing the Soul of America, which aimed to demonstrate the power of turning "spiritual conviction into a political force" — in 1997, Williamson had grown tired of the "manicured lawns" of L.A. and longed to get some "dirt under her fingernails" again. When offered an invitation to serve as an interim minister at a New Thought megachurch in Warren, where she would lead a congregation of 2,500, Williamson accepted, and she and her daughter India moved to Birmingham and, later, Grosse Pointe.
"I went there for a year and stayed for eight years," Williamson says. "But when I first went there, it was to be the interim minister at a place called The Church of Today. And that was a very important part of my life because I met many, many people who were doing everything right, working very hard, playing by the rules and were having too hard a time. And that's what I saw start to happen in this country about 20-25 years ago."
Almost immediately into what would become a controversial guest role at the Church of Today, Williamson began merging her worlds: unapologetic spiritual leader from Hollywood and best-selling author and bitchy boss businesswoman with big ideas as to how to suck the infection from America's wound. This included incorporating her social-justice principles from Healing the Soul of America into her new ministry practice. She doubled down on her belief that we were well overdue for "mass collective forgiveness of what went before" and that in order to move forward we must take "moral inventory."
"Wouldn't it be wonderful, Abraham Lincoln paved the way, if we could just make one, huge, simple apology to all Black Americans?" she wrote in A Return to Love. "On behalf of our ancestors, we apologize for bringing you as slaves from your native home. We recognize this terrible pain this has caused generations of good people. Please forgive us."
In addition to some flashy shake-ups within the church, like booking surprise musical guests (most notably Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, who delivered a very Tyler-esque rendition of "Amazing Grace") and hiring an in-house Black gospel-style choir (a decision she said was perceived as being too "radical" of an idea and likened its reception to her initiating a World War), it was Williamson's "racial healing circles" that stirred up the most dust among longtime members.
"I think the average American is woefully undereducated about the history of race in the United States," Williamson says. "We had a lot of racial healing circles when I was at the Church of Today. That was a large part of my ministry because, you know, when you start talking about political issues, which I have always done, even within my role as a spiritual speaker, you don't have to inform Black people as to what's going down in America. Black people know what's going down in America, " she says with a noticeable soulful affectation. "When I was at the church, it became pretty quickly multicultural, ethnic, multiracial, which was what made it a very powerful place to be on Sunday mornings."
A healing circle looked something like this: After delivering a thumbnail sketch of America's history of race, Williamson would first invite Black church-goers to stand if they wished to participate, then the non-Black members would rise to face their Black neighbors, some placing hands on shoulders and smalls of backs as Williamson led an apology on behalf of the country for the atrocities of slavery and the oppression, humiliation, and injustice that followed and continues to persist.
"I think it makes white people feel better," Sheila Wright, a Black Church of Today member told Metro Times in a 2001 cover story. "I believe in forgiveness, and I think some things are symbolic. But it is one thing to apologize and another to process that and move forward from that. I think that if people had come knowing that that was going to occur ... it might have had a more dynamic effect."
But that wasn't the only pushback Williamson received from disillusioned church members and leaders. She changed the church's name to Renaissance Unity Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship and, later, attempted to dissolve its affiliation with parent organization, the Association of Unity Churches. Lawsuits were threatened.
"I looked forward to hearing her ideas every week, but she was like an egomaniac control freak," David Wenger told Los Angeles Magazine in 2014. Wenger, a church member and one of the attorneys behind the group lawsuit, was among those who suspected Williamson had her sights on creating a massive spiritual compound to better her business as a lecturer and author, though Williamson has said she never went to Warren to "build an empire." For her, it was about the people.
"I touched a nerve that I didn't know was there," Williamson said in a statement that followed her announcement that she would be stepping down from the church. "And I regret that so much energy went into what should not have been considered such a big issue. If I had known the nerve was there, I would not have touched it."
Williamson officially ended her tenure in 2002, but she and her daughter stuck around until 2008. Then, her mother, who remained in Houston, fell ill and was dying. Around the same time, the housing crisis struck, and Williamson reportedly lost $2.7 million worth of Grosse Pointe property. Nevertheless, according to Williamson, her time in metro Detroit remains close to her heart. Within the last few years, her daughter told her that she had a happy childhood in Detroit.
"I will always, in addition to having met wonderful people there who I will never forget — some of whom are lifelong friends — the fact that my daughter had a happy childhood in that place makes me forever grateful," she says.
It's also where her socio-spiritual teachings were actualized as she bore witness to what she describes as the "chronic economic tension and anxiety" working-class Detroiters experienced, many of whom had "done everything they were supposed to do," yet remained with few options.
"If a woman comes into therapy or to spiritual counseling, and she's very oppressed over the fact that she had to go to work after the birth of her child when she knew it was too soon, when every cell of her being knew 'it's too soon for me, it's too soon for the baby,' she might think that this is just about her. It's not just about her," Williamson says. "It's about the fact that we don't have paid maternity leave and that is played over and over and over again, and issue after issue after issue. And Detroit is a place where I learned about that very deeply. I began to realize how often this was simply the result, not of their poor choices, but [of] bad public policy.
"I wasn't thinking at that time about ever running for office. I certainly was involved in issues when I was there, such as poverty issues, things that were political issues, but I didn't see myself as a political figure," she says, adding she supported Governor Jennifer Granholm during her campaigns. "The idea of running for office didn't strike me as my dharma in any way until a few years later."
- Courtesy photo
- Marianne Williamson’s political aspirations got a boost from celebrity endorsements.
It was 2014 when Williamson was declared "the Kardashian Kandidate."
"I went to hear @mariannewilliamson speak the other night w/ @kourtneykardash & @rachel_roy," Kim Kardashian posted on Instagram. "Very inspiring!"
Having finally decided to scratch her political itch, Williamson launched her first long-shot (and unsurprisingly star-studded) campaign to unseat longtime Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California's very wealthy — and very white — 33rd congressional district. She ran as an independent, despite having previously described herself as a "lifelong Democrat," and railed against the immorality of drone strikes, called to limit powers of pesticide makers, and expressed concern over the Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan.
"Should we or should we not agree with the U.S. government that none of that radioactive energy is making its way here?" she said in 2014. "Hello!"
The Kardashians weren't the only celebrities feeling Williamson's message. Katy Perry, Nicole Richie, Eva Longoria, and Marcia Cross attended fundraisers, Orange Is the New Black's Taylor Schilling shared her endorsement on social media, as did Glee star Jane Lynch, who allegedly helped collect donations. Singer Alanis Morissette took her support a step further and penned "Today," a song that in any other context could seem like a parody, but is in fact 100% sincerely inspired by Williamson's brand of social and emotional activism.
"We're going down, down, down," Morissette sings. "We're going down unless we move to new ground, unless we start a revolution, awaken from this frozen, start the mending of our union today."
Morissette tunes and star-powered fundraising events weren't enough, however, as Williamson earned just 13% of the vote and landed in fourth place (of 18) in the primaries. She was also out $2 million.
When Williamson announced her presidential campaign in January 2019, she was wearing an all-black ensemble fit for a funeral and/or a coven. The witch was back. She delivered a shaky 45-minute speech to an enthusiastic audience in Los Angeles while standing against an American flag so big, Williamson looked like a flea. In that instant, the spotlight had grown 10 times the size it was when she was running for the 33rd District and, as is the case with anyone running for the highest office in the land, followed by an unearthing of an entire career's worth of problematic sentiments. For Williamson, this included dangerous and unfounded anti-science statements, the belief that, through the power of prayer and positive thinking one can do everything from redirect hurricanes and burn body fat, and claims that there is "an art to navigating depression," as she said during a 2018 appearance on Russell Brand's podcast.
"I've lived through periods of time [that] by any means today would be called 'clinical depression,'" she told Brand, "but even that's such a scam because all that means someone in a clinic said it."
Williamson has also, via Twitter, blamed the suicides of designer Kate Spade and Robin Williams on Big Pharma's over-prescription of antidepressants, suggesting that medication serves as a numbing agent, or a mask, and is not intended to treat everything along the "human spectrum of despair." She received additional backlash for having shared a link from a Scientology website to support her point.
"There is value sometimes in feeling the sadness, feeling that dark night of the soul," Williamson explained to CNN's Anderson Cooper when pressed on her mental health beliefs.
Following the heated interview, she later defended herself on social media: "So let's state it again. I'm pro medicine. I'm pro-science. I've never told anyone not to take medicine. I've never fat-shamed anyone. And today there's a new one: no I don't support Scientology. The machinery of mischaracterization is in high gear now. Gee, did I upset someone?"
But, perhaps the tweet of Williamson's that has aged the worst: her take on God and the swine flu.
"God is BIG, swine flu SMALL," Williamson tweeted in 2009. "See every cell of your body filled with divine light. Pour God's love on our immune systems. Truth protects."
When asked about these sentiments, Williamson says she was misunderstood.
"I didn't call vaccines draconian or Orwellian. I called mandatory vaccines [draconian or Orwellian]. Remember, the federal government doesn't set mandatories for that reason. It's left to the states. So where I feel it was sloppy to call mandatories Orwellian or Draconian, I never made an anti-vax statement," she says. "Now ... everybody's talking about a COVID vaccine, but notice, included in the conversation is that it not be rushed so it will be safe. The entire conversation going on about a COVID vaccine includes the issue of the safety of the vaccine.
"Now we are living at a time when attorney generals all over this country have been indicting predatory pharmaceutical executives for their known role in the opioid crisis [for] over-marketing pills on the basis that they're not ... addictive when they absolutely knew that they were. So my point was, why should we just automatically assume that in every other area that the pharmaceutical companies are pure as the driven snow?" she says. "People say it's anti-scientific. What could be more scientific than to say there should be more independent scientific research?"
She again apologizes for calling clinical depression a scam, adding it was "sloppy and wrong" of her to say, but doubles down on her attack on Big Pharma creating markets that may or may not "be aligned with the legitimate needs of people, but rather more aligned with their profit-making capacity."
"That healthy skepticism is legitimate," she says. "And for me, I would want a president or any political leader to have that healthy skepticism."
Many, especially those in medical fields, strongly disagree and believe Williamson's statements could prevent people from seeking the treatment they need.
"Discouraging parents from putting their children on medications that they may need for mental illness, for example, could keep kids from treatments that could truly help them, and it's grossly irresponsible to say some of the things that are still easy to find in her Twitter history," said pediatrician and Slate columnist Dr. Daniel Summers following Williamson's viral debate performance. "Nobody should be supporting her as a candidate because it's bad enough having one anti-science blowhard currently occupying the Oval Office."
To be clear, Williamson has never owned a crystal.
"I've never had a crystal, I've never written about crystals. I've never talked about crystals. I've never had a crystal onstage with me," she said in 2019.
It would be easy to assume that a woman who preaches forgiveness, love, and light, and, whose most famous quote (which just so happens to be frequently misattributed to Nelson Mandela) states the belief that "our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure" would be more of a crunchy, granola earth mother. The opposite could not be more true. Williamson wants us to toughen up, ditch #selfcare, rewrite our trauma, and urges the Democratic party to do some serious soul searching.
"We are collectively traumatized," she says. "But we also need to toughen up. You think that the people who walked across the bridge at Selma were not traumatized? They didn't know if the police were going to send the dogs, send the hoses, or even start shooting. Do you think the women's suffragettes who marched for the right for women to vote, who were thrown into prison where the conditions were so horrible that they went on hunger strike — and then the response to the prison officials was to send men into their cells who put metal contraptions around their necks in order to force-feed them. You think they weren't anxious? You think they weren't traumatized?"
She continues, "What separates us from other generations is that we are too willing to use that as an excuse to stop trying. We are all wounded, but you don't have to act from the wound. We're all traumatized — or at least a lot of us are, but that's not a reason to give up."
As for self-care? An industry commercialized by women like Goop's Gwyneth Paltrow who have propped up Williamson as a "spiritual legend" to whom Williamson is considered the "Godmother" of?
"Self-care is a legitimate concept," she says. "On the other hand, it's misused many times today as a cover for old-fashioned selfishness. The trauma of the times in which we're living is an assault on the nervous system. And interestingly enough, COVID aids the process of self-care. Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher, said that every problem in the world can be traced to man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone. We're a whole culture that, even before COVID, was spinning out."
She adds that true self-care — like reflection, yoga, inspirational reading, meditation, and connecting with loved ones over Zoom — is vital to the act of "reweaving the fabric of our society," which starts with "reweaving the fabric of our own selfhood."
"You know there's a saying that every problem comes bearing its own solution," she says. "It's very interesting. I mean, some of the changes that are being forced upon us are changes that we needed."
For some, despite her controversial statements, her two failed political runs, and her love of Avatar, Williamson remains the change some people wish to see in the world.
Christian Perry and Eric Tsuchiyama of New York operate two independent social-media accounts in support of Williamson for president.
A collection of memes, interview clips, debate highlights, quotes, and clever use of GIFs, the accounts, @marianne4prez on Twitter and Instagram, were created out of awareness and are, to this day, maintained, well after Williamson ended her bid, as a message of hope.
Perry, 30, an artist who was "fully prepared" to support Bernie Sanders for president, noticed Williamson's name on a long list of candidates while watching the morning news in February of 2019. "I knew and loved her from Oprah, and I immediately searched for her platform," Perry says via email. "When I discovered that she out-left-ed Bernie on policy, I was thrilled because I knew that Marianne could do what I thought Bernie couldn't: effectively pitch a progressive agenda through a moral and spiritual framework. I was immediately fully on board."
For Tsuchiyama, a 32-year-old graphic designer, his return to Williamson was A Return to Love coupled with feeling let down by the Democratic Party.
"When Christian mentioned seeing Marianne's name listed among the candidates, I jumped onto her campaign website and read every policy," he says. "I was excited to see that her policies strongly aligned with my views."
By April, Perry and Tsuchiyama had noticed that Williamson was not being mentioned enough among their peers or by the media. Thus @marianne4prez was born. The goal? Generate excitement and support leading up to debate season. At first, they kept it limited to Instagram, mostly because the account had a sense of humor and they felt that "no one has a sense of humor on Twitter," save for Williamson's "iconic clapbacks." A Twitter account, however, was created and is a source of Williamson retweets.
The two have remained active supporters, praising Williamson's "unmatched" oratory skills and the fact that she, unlike most contemporary politicians, doesn't offer "superficial, feel-good fixes." But it was Williamson's desire to get corporate money out of politics, her proposal for a Department of Peace, and her reparations plan that resonated most with the @Marianne4prez creators.
"She barely talked about Trump during the primaries, and that, too, was a breath of fresh air," the two said in a joint response. "She didn't demonize others, and we really liked that. While we adore Marianne and could literally recite her stump speech, on a fundamental level, it's less about her and more about her vision for the world."
As for what held her back?
They believe it came down to money, misogyny, and misunderstanding.
"She, like Bernie, also represented a threat to the status quo, which brought about endless political and personal smears that she couldn't fight," Perry says. "Bernie had decades of political notoriety to handle those challenges. Plus, he's a man. Misogyny played a role."
Perry adds, "Marianne isn't anti-vax or anti-science. But apparently, the people who believed that about her are anti-context."
As of now, the Instagram and Twitter accounts have fewer than 2,000 combined followers, including Williamson, who follows along on Twitter. On Instagram, the account is followed by several Williamson-support accounts, including @mariannes_dank_memes, many of which have not been updated since January, when Williamson pulled out of the race.
Perry and Tsuchiyama, however, have no plans to abandon their accounts and remain hopeful that they could come in handy in the future, perhaps in 2024.
"While the account has lost hundreds of followers since she ended the campaign, we decided to keep it active because her ideas still need to be shared," they say. "We hope she runs again. It will be ready to go."
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