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Karen Kisslinger Headshot

Teflon Gets Toxic When It Heats Up

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Everybody says the election campaign is heating up. In America that has come to mean that the Republicans will start even more spinning and lying and fear mongering and dividing and pandering to everyone's basest fears and insecurities for political gain. We've been living with that for eight years and two questionably won presidential campaigns and now we're at it again. We see, for instance, Obama being criticized for being TOO popular overseas. Are we addicted to being hated because we're addicted to being feared? Only people who make a secret religion of militarism would assume that serving honorably in the military and suffering in prison qualifies someone to run a government. Are we addicted to not seeming too smart...or in fact not BEING too smart...as in not knowing that Iraq and Pakistan don't have a common border, or numerous other incorrect statements that McCain has made in recent days and months? Is it elitism to try to get your facts straight, or eating healthy food for that matter, and be open to considering and reconsidering your position through open communication?

The term Teflon John has been used to refer to the guy who just seems to float on down the campaign river after making mistakes that might topple, upset or even sink any other ship. I, as many do, sit in disbelief at the many gaffes, mistakes and questionable statements (did he really say "Pittsburgh Stealers" by accident??) which McCain makes almost daily while his supporters just beam and love his solid traditional-ness. Here's the problem. When Teflon gets really hot it gets toxic. The exact science of this is still disputed....but people who own parrots and some other birds aren't allowed to cook with Teflon because when heated it releases toxic stuff. As the presidential campaign heats up, I'm afraid that McCain's Teflon candidacy will become more and more toxic. It's not just the nastiness and the spinning and the distortions that are toxic, and the Democrats will do their share of spinning. What's toxic is asking people to nod their heads and say yes to those things for political gain. It's asking people to numb-out to lies. It's asking people to pretend that it's OK to be holding our future hostage to unbelievably enormous war debts while we don't currently have any money around to take care of basic human needs. It's toxic for people to be able to smile and say that that is sound government or "straight talk", because somewhere inside them they have to know (I have to believe this) that that is not true. It's toxic to be asked to betray and destroy one's own integrity for political or economic reasons.

John McCain himself was a victim of spear and smear tactics the likes of which he now seems only too ready to use against his opponents. I've always wondered how victims can go on to victimize, but we all know that they do unless there is come conscious and sometimes difficult healing. This "sometimes difficult" is, I believe, what the Obama candidacy, at its best, can be about. Could America be part of a global human team instead of a bully on the prowl? Could the American habit of hegemony surrender to a new habit of enhanced diplomacy, cooperation, economic fairness and mutual respect which all other nations and most people want? Certainly there are those who won't sit at the table and negotiate. The Taliban is also a bully, and I am not so naïve as to suggest that all world problems can be quickly solved through better communication, but as a beginning and a general mode of action, it is the only non toxic alternative to greater and greater violence.

I just got back from Cape Cod where I saw a superb production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest".

In this version, the director chose to ascribe to Prospero many powerful healing and peace making qualities. In a play which could have ended in hate, revenge, anger and many lost eyes for eyes and teeth for teeth, this play ended with forgiveness, love, reconciliation and merriment. For this to happen the person creating the reality...in this case Shakespeare creating Prospero.... had to DECIDE to forgo vengeful reactions and angry recriminations....the least common denominator reactions throughout human history. As I sat there watching, Prospero defined reality in new terms, terms that allowed healing, and peace and even some happiness. At the same time he necessarily gave up much of his own power to define and create reality. This was Shakespeare's last complete play. He finished his solo play-making giving over his own power to write reality and offering us all the positive option for creating a more forgiving and beneficent future. I couldn't help think that this production was timed to encourage all of us to accept a leader and a leadership style, which really might start to change something basic in the way we operate, react and take on the world.

No one person or leader is going to make all the changes. This is what Obama has said from the beginning...that we can make change together, all of us. I don't think corporations are going to do this, certainly not to the extent of giving up power for fairness and social justice. People, however, could do this in new ways. We could talk the peace talk, and the communication and cooperation talk. Taking hope from Shakespeare's characters' name, I can only suggest that this might help us all Prosper.....Oh! What a good and hopeful possibility!

I spend my life doing healing work with groups and individuals. I know that change is possible, and that it is often scary. Right now, not changing would be more scary. As the campaign heats up let's chuck the Teflon, boil away our fears, and grill our candidates carefully in the hopes of finding well done...or medium rare .... choice bits of tender improvement.