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Wilmes — Politicians could take a lesson from Rachel

The people who are honest enough to criticize make for wonderful companions — provided that you are strong enough to withstand such unvarnished truth.

That’s one of the things I’ll miss about middle daughter Rachel now that she is graduating from high school. She’s had some hurdles to overcome, including being diagnosed with aspergers, a condition somewhat similar to autism. We were fortunate enough to be part of her world for 18 years. Together, the family learned and came to appreciate Rachel’s quirks.

It hasn’t always been easy and it certainly has never been dull. Rachel speaks truth as she knows it. Often times, that truth was directed at me.

"Dad,’’ she has said on more than one occasion, "You’re fat.’’

"That’s true,’’ I’d reply.

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"You’re bald and look like a toad,’’ equally true, with some exaggeration with regards to the amphibian-like appearance.

"You know,’’ I often replied, "People could take what you say the wrong way.’’

We talked about being nice and saying good things about others. It is a hard lesson for Rachel to learn. She’s getting better at that, although the other day she called me a "big jerk’’ when I said something she didn’t particularly like.

I pointed out that while I can sometimes be as big a jerk as anyone, there are certain things a daughter shouldn’t say to her father. Name-calling just causes an escalation and additional confrontation. Rachel, like many others, struggles to make that connection.

That’s certainly true with politicians, regardless of affiliation, who put their party’s interest above everything else. Republican and Democratic officials agree that the rancor has never been worse in Washington, D.C., as name-calling and gamesmanship has trumped compromise and common good.

Politics as a blood sport is a disaster for democracy.

It’s also seen on the state level. Because Gov. Tim Pawlenty didn’t like an inflation-indexing provision that was included in the tax bill, he vetoed the entire package. He had warned the Legislature that he would do so, but still it would have been better if the governor had set aside his bruised ego and signed the legislation.

The legislation included important things for Minnesota’s farmers. However, tax incentives for farmers to expand their operations, farm equipment sales tax exemptions, property tax relief for agricultural homesteads and expansion of the Green Acres Program fell victim to Pawlenty’s ego.

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Fire-ravaged Cook County will also suffer from the veto.

A bruised ego is never fatal. Someone who has the honesty to criticize is a wonderful friend — as long as any criticism is taken with a grain of salt.

Rachel helped keep me in check. I appreciate that, although I have never been compared to a toad before.

Mychal Wilmes is Managing Editor of Agri News.

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