Marianne Williamson: America's Karma | Opinion

I've spent most of my professional life counseling people in despair. Due to the work I do, people don't usually come to me because things are going well.

Because of these experiences—and having lived my own life, of course—I know the emotional terrain of desperation fairly well. Such ground is no longer shocking to me. It has a strange familiarity.

Since groups of people are simply a collection of individuals, the same psychological principles apply to a collective as to one person. The desperate group in question now is the people of the United States.

To put it simply, America is having a nervous breakdown. A spiritual crisis. A complete disassembling of the personality after which a more authentic self might emerge.

Yet for that transformation to occur, as a nation, we're going to have to do the work any individual must do to turn such a crisis into an opportunity. It won't be easy, and there will be truths we'll try our best to avoid. We're going to rail against our misfortune and blame other people for our suffering. But ultimately, if we're to emerge intact, we're going to have to do what anyone must do at such a time as this.

We're going to have to look in the mirror.

We're going to have to take full responsibility for the thoughts and actions that led us here. Then, and only then, will we be on the path to recovery.

We pay a very high price for refusing to take full responsibility for our experience in life. The price is that then we won't be able to change it. Only when we look at ourselves with brutal honesty do we begin to approach the level of self-awareness without which there is no escaping the consequences of our mistakes.

America has been blessed with the most extraordinary resources, talent, prosperity and power. Yet over the past 40 years, as a nation, we stopped even trying to be good, to be just, to be ethical, to be merciful. Such concepts went from the elements of a moral spine to the quaint platitudes of a discarded righteousness. Who can name one domestic or international policy—backed, as policies are, by the tremendous force of American wealth and power—where the dominant political conversation had anything to do with words such as those? Our collective behavior toward children, the poor, the planet, one another and other people around the world has been and remains so devoid of any sense of moral responsibility that we have landed on a trajectory of chaos that could hardly have led us anywhere other than where we are now.

We were unprepared for this moment because we did nothing to avoid it. We have been so drunk on the pleasures of the material world, so sold on an amoral view of economics and social policy, and so worshipful of the false god of short-term profit. Our entire economic system has been based not on loving one another but on exploiting one another, and not on stewarding the Earth but on raping it, all for the most rapacious goal of extracting whatever money we could. And there, in our collective iniquity, lies the root of our problems, as well as the beginning of their solution, should we have the courage to face it.

As a nation, we have slithered like snakes across the floor to whatever hole where money lay, sacrificing the depths of our own humanity as we did so. And we are surprised now at the various crises among us? What should surprise us is that this didn't happen sooner. Just as the face of a fascistic president could have belonged to anyone, so the consequences of our spiritual malfeasance could have come in any form.

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he tours an area affected by civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 1. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Am I saying that America is reaping its karma? You bet I am, but that is never the end of the story. For just as the law of cause-and-effect is inviolable, so is God's mercy.

When we come clean with the God of our own understanding—atoning, owning, admitting, all those words that ultimately mean the same thing—the darkest storm clouds are dissolved by light. But not immediately, and not until then.

America is down on its knees this time. But that's not the bad news; it's the good news. That's ultimately not where things end, but where things begin again. It's where we can find grace and humility and forgiveness and love. Until then, we will continue to suffer, just like, as a nation, we have allowed so much suffering to go unnoticed among us and around us. The pain at this moment is the pain of a nation that is laboring toward its own rebirth. We are a good and decent people, but we have failed to take responsibility for some things that have consistently been done in our name. In horror, we must come to realize this, and in contrition, we will be released.

Marianne Williamson is a Newsweek columnist, best-selling author, political activist and spiritual thought leader. She is founder of Project Angel Food and co-founder of the Peace Alliance, and was the first candidate in the 2020 presidential primary to make reparations a pillar of her campaign. She is the author of 13 books, among them Healing the Soul of America and A Politics of Love.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.