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After Arizona shooting, how can Congress heal the division? Break bread together.

The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords (D) and bystanders in Arizona seems to be the worst symptom of the division and disdain that dominate politics. There was a time when members of Congress not only reached across the aisle, but shared meals together. They must commit to break bread together again – to heal the wounds in DC, and set an example for a grieving nation.

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This month the 112th United States Congress was born. These 535 men and women – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – who represent us are beginning to confront the many crucial issues that face our nation. They will do this in an institution where hyper-partisanship reigns and where there seems to be no limits on how members talk about one another. The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona and bystanders this weekend seems to be a horrifying example of how such an atmosphere has trickled down to the rest of us.

Commenting on how political culture has changed for the worse in Washington, outgoing Sen. Arlen Specter (D) of Pennsylvania, 80, said in his final Senate speech: “Collegiality can obviously not be maintained when negotiating with someone simultaneously out to defeat you, especially within your own party. In some quarters, ‘compromise’ has become a dirty word. Senators insist on ideological purity as a precondition. Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine had it right when she said we need to distinguish between the compromise of principle and the principle of compromise.”

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