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After contentious election, it’s time to heal

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• The challenge facing America — for winners and losers — will be a big one. • The nation’s farmers and ranchers need a farm bill. • We need to heal.

It was a long night, a fitting conclusion, I suppose, to a long and often bitter presidential election campaign.

The result will, no doubt, cause some of us to wring our hands in anguish and wonder how the American public could be so wrong. Others of us, but likely not too many in the rural Southwest, will rejoice and wonder why the other — almost 50 percent of the country — can’t understand that the right person won.

The challenge — for winners and losers — will be a big one. Somehow, the U.S. Congress must put aside its stubbornness and intractability and find a way to work together to solve the tremendous problems facing this country. Those problems are legion, beginning with the economy, of course. Challenges also include a need to reform immigration laws, rebuild crumbling infrastructure (including damage from Hurricane Sandy) and working with the international community to find peaceful solutions to conflicts that have torn regions apart for hundreds of years.

The nation’s farmers and ranchers need a farm bill that provides a safety net to keep our food and fiber independence in place.

The economy, which has shown signs of a slow recovery, must be top of the list. And that may be the toughest nut to crack since basically the same players on the field last summer remain in place as we contemplate a lame duck session and a new Congress in January. Early responses from congressional leaders appear to be mixed concerning a willingness to sit down and talk and consider the options. Success will require a bit of give-and-take from both sides. It’s time that happened.

I can’t remember an election — and I’ve been voting since 1972 and following campaigns since the early 1960s — that didn’t leave scars. Sometimes wounds are deep, hard to heal, harder to forget. I think both Gov. Romney, in his gracious concession speech, and President Obama, in his victory address, offered balms to help soothe some of those sores. It’s up to Congress, and an almost evenly divided electorate, to follow suit. It’s imperative that neither side continues to pick at the scabs left from campaign battles.

We don’t need self-styled arbiters of social justice calling for revolution and marches on Washington. We don’t need calls for states to secede. We don’t need the triumphant using the election to rub their opponents’ noses in the detritus of defeat.

The term “loyal opposition” should be retired if it serves only to excuse inflexibility. The idea of winners “spending political capital” should also be shelved if it serves only to intimidate.

We need to heal. We need to remember that this country has weathered storms that make Sandy seem like an irritating gust of wind. We’ve lived through wars, a depression, social change and unimaginable national tragedy. We endured. We will continue to do so.

Today, with evidence of our diversity as clear as the narrow margin separating two presidential candidates, we have to recognize that it is our differences, not our similarities, that make us strong. We must embrace and celebrate those differences. And we must sometimes set them aside to do what’s best for our country. We must listen. We must respect opinions that differ from our own. And we must work together — We the people.

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