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Quit Your Whining

Marianne Williamson wants the peace movement to get over itself and get back to work

By Sarah Phelan

Marianne Williamson has got some tough love for progressives who feel like it's time to withdraw, retreat or shut down in the face of the current political environment in America.

"Only a generation of spoiled brats would look at a problem that's lasted for three months, not get what it wants and say, 'Oh my gosh, we've failed, it's time to give in.' Look at the generations in the past who achieved great change. They knew their efforts would have to last longer than 30 minutes, a year, a decade, sometimes. The abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, the civil rights movement--none of those happened immediately. Our generation needs to recognize that deep change comes with great and sustained effort. It's not work that can be done when it's simply easy and convenient."

Williamson feels Americans need to take responsibility for the fact that things would never have gotten so far to the right, had so many not bailed from politics in the past several decades.

"But this is not a time to whine, be cynical or filled with despair," she says. "At worst, these are mere delay tactics; at best, emotions that are valid, but best be processed quickly. Political, social and spiritual maturity demands that we simply do what needs to be done."

But what, exactly, is that?

"A pro-democratic movement which reclaims the tools of democracy is the only way to save democracy," she says. "No generation has ever found that easy, but at the same time this is a task worthy of a generation that's brilliant, talented, and has a deeper yearning. And this is the time to do it."

Williamson sees the "Imagine America" event she'll be a part of as a small contribution--along with millions of other talks, projects and ideas--toward creating a social, political and spiritual force that will turn things around.

At a nationwide level, Williamson sees the proposed creation of a U.S. Department of Peace as a worthy effort for the kind of movement she's talking about. "It's a great calling for our generation. It can define the political yearning of this generation in the way that abolition, women's suffrage and the civil rights movement defined theirs. No matter what other efforts we are involved in, the Department of Peace is an idea that harnesses our common desire to see love and peace prevail within our political system," she says. "If we sink our teeth into this, we can make it happen, but all this whining--about what's possible and what's not--has got to stop."

Williamson isn't whining about a recent speaking engagement that was canceled because of her views on the war. "The situation was reconciled," she says. "People can shut you down. It's up to you whether you allow yourself to be shut down. My analysis of American culture hasn't so much changed as been simply fleshed out. I was writing in the late '90s that either a renaissance or a catastrophe was bound to occur, given the imbalance at the center of things. What's changed is that at least one catastrophe has occurred, and with it has come the emergence of a movement that is much more visible and awake."

It's all heady stuff, of course, but Williamson seems to find a way to stay grounded. When asked for the toughest question she's facing these days, she pauses a moment to think, and then says, "Should I let my daughter go out with boys?"

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From the May 21-28, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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