Comment Opinion & Features

My metaphysical friend is running for president

Marianne Williamson knows that America has a spiritual problem (Getty)

Yet more Americans have been killed in mass shootings: 22 in El Paso, Texas, and 10 in Dayton, Ohio. It’s senseless. I love America but this is a part of its culture I’ll never comprehend. I understand that the second amendment grants the right to bear arms; I know that Americans pride themselves for their self-reliance and sportsmanship. But no one needs to own a gun that can fire hundreds of rounds per minute. No moose is that hard to hit.

If I could ban most guns I would. But rural America doesn’t want to and, thanks to the constitution, the gun lobby and the Republican Party, Congress can’t anyway – so when Democrats say that Donald Trump must do something, he must think that they’re demanding a futile gesture. Plus the President is sort of right when he says guns aren’t the only issue. Mental health services are terrible in the US. The country has a problem with violence more generally. And, as Mr Trump says, America has to answer “hate” with “love”.

There’s really only one other presidential candidate who talks like that: Democrat Marianne Williamson. She’s a spiritual author, mentor to Oprah Winfrey, an officiant at one of Liz Taylor’s numerous weddings and – it truly is a small world – a friend of mine when I lived in Los Angeles. I think she’s super. She’s far to the Left of me but you’ve got to admire the metaphysical qualities of her campaign. She talks about love, light, spirit and things that usually make Democrats turn to dust even though these words were once part of the liberal lexicon. When the comedian Trevor Noah asked her why she bangs on about religion, she pointed out that Lincoln and Robert Kennedy did it quite a bit too.

Where Marianne and Mr Trump agree is that America has a spiritual problem. Their disagreement is that Marianne thinks Mr Trump is part of it. In a stirring debate moment, she told viewers that the President had “reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes… So I am going to harness love for political purposes.” And that, folks, is exactly what Lincoln or Kennedy would have said.

The press corps laughed and that tells us something sad. We claim to be a kinder, softer society in 2019 but actually the word “love” still drops like a bomb in conversation. It inspires laughter or concern for the speaker’s sanity, and it’s often liberals (who are supposed to be the loveliest people of all) who find it hardest to hear. Mr Trump, on the other hand, uses “love” quite a lot. The occasional similarity in tone between himself and Oprah’s spiritual consultant reminds us that for all their differences they are both the product of a once deeply religious culture, a culture in which it was assumed that America was a moral test, an experiment in building a city on a hill. Guns are in America’s DNA, but so is love.

Ultimately, the President’s definition of love is flawed because it’s without self-sacrifice. The President could take an enormous gamble and tell his base that they need to give up some of their guns. Not all of them: just the ones that allow you to shoot dozens of people in a matter of minutes.


The race will probably come down to Donald Trump v Joe Biden, although, at 76, some people say Joe is too old. Rubbish. So, he mixed up the location of the shootings. Give him a break. As a man approaching old age myself, I take forgetfulness lightly and aspersions against the elderly very seriously.

I find myself resenting the young more and more, especially the way they mumble on TV. And how did everything get so darn expensive? As I was eating my fish and chips on Friday afternoon, it occurred to me that were I elected prime minister, I would make it the centrepiece of my economic programme to turn prices back to what they were when I was a boy. A cup of tea should be 20p, no more. Fish and chips £4. A pint of beer £1.20. I don’t know how one goes about implementing such a policy but I am willing to put troops on the streets to achieve it.

If I could find the energy to run for office, that is. The best thing about having a 76-year-old in the White House isn’t what he would do but what he wouldn’t do – as most afternoons he’d be fast asleep in front of The Price is Right. Good for him. I’d prefer a president who slept on the job to one who was energetically bad at it.

Tim Stanley is a journalist, historian and Catholic Herald contributing editor