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Healing Our Country’s Divide Will Require Each of Us To Confront Deep Truths

Walking onto the debate stage this past Tuesday night was both exciting and nerve-wracking. America’s presidential election is a powerful ritual of democracy, and I feel honored to be part of it.

I tried my best to represent not only my own views, but also the views of those whose support had put me there. We’re living in very serious times and we need to be very serious thinkers. I know I’m one of the millions of Americans who feel our politics should be a conduit for the deepest, not the shallowest conversations. But something about our current politics is almost a distraction from the most important issues.

As someone who has worked deeply with people for many years, I’ve witnessed up close the journey of personal transformation from crisis to opportunity. The same psychological, emotional, and spiritual principles that define an individual’s journey prevail as well within the life of a nation.

What transforms a life? From witnessing others, and from living my own life, I think I have a clue. It takes a willingness to feel the pain of what has gone wrong in our lives. It takes brutal honesty with ourselves about our own transgressions. It takes forgiveness of ourselves and others. It takes the willingness to atone for our mistakes, to admit where we’ve been wrong, and to commit to change where we need to change in order to be the people we know in our hearts we should be.

And that’s exactly what America needs to do now.

The most patriotic thing we can do is to take a very good look into our nation’s soul. Are we a country truly committed now to equality for all? Are we serious, in our generation, about God-given inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Are those principles inscribed on our hearts, or only on marble walls or on parchment behind glass? Have we not lost our emotional and psychological connection to the principles upon which our country was founded, and which alone guarantee our freedom?

Unless every generation makes its own connection with the pillars of democracy, understanding in our own time why freedom matters not only to us but to all the world, dedicating ourselves in our own time to its expansion and its furtherance, then freedom loses its moral force. Unless it is alive in us, it isn’t alive at all.

It takes digging into our own souls, if we’re to heal America’s soul. It takes looking honestly at what has happened in America over the last few decades, as we’ve slid from democracy to corporatocracy. From a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to a country whose public policy is more often of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. It takes admitting the darker underbelly of our national life, from racism to bigotry to lack of criminal justice to unfair economic policies – not because we don’t love our country, but because we do.

And that is where politics must go now, if it’s to be a healing agent at this critical time. A president for the 21st Century should not be stuck in 20th Century thinking, where only externalized remedies are prescribed for what are often forms of internal malaise. In the era now upon us, a far more whole-person, holistic and integrative approach to life is mainstream.

It’s not that policy doesn’t matter. Of course, it does! But first we must reclaim our principles, or better policies will just be temporary fixes. Just as medicine matters, so does the cultivation of health. And only watering the leaves of our democracy will not be enough to stave off dark times ahead; we must be willing to water the roots of our democracy. And those are inside us.

Would that be a new politics? Yes. But only a new politics will give rise to a renewed America.

Marianne Williamson is a 2020 democratic presidential candidate. She is also an internationally acclaimed lecturer, activist and author of four #1 New York times bestselling books. She has been one of America’s most well known public voices for more than three decades. Seven of her twelve published books have been New York Times best sellers

This essay was featured in the Aug. 4th edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.