Things I Know

Sleeping BeautyI know we have an infinite well of compassion, empathy and love at our disposal. We are bottomless, we are never tapped out. Not ever in our lifetimes do we run out of ‘good’.

We might retreat.

We might close the spigot.

The truth is though, we remain full up no matter how much we give. Truth be told, I suspect the more we give the more we have within us to give.

I know we learn throughout our lives. We learn every single day and through every relationship. Sometimes we learn how to become better people, other times we learn to love in better ways. Sometimes we learn our capacity for love, other times we learn our capacity for pain.

With experience we change, our world view changes. Who we are changes as our understanding of self and our place within the world grows. As we learn we find our footing, we determine where we are comfortable, what makes us tick, what makes us sing, what makes us dance. We emerge as our true selves, like butterflies from our chrysalises.

I know we all have the innate ability to forgive, ourselves and others. Not the forgiveness many of us are taught in our churches, but something much deeper and more intimate. As children we are quick to let go of hurt, fast to return to those we love. It is only as adults we hang on to our anger, plot revenge or simply wrap ourselves in painful reminders building shields to protect ourselves in the future.

We forget, anger and hate are active emotions requiring our participation. Forgiveness does not mean you give someone, not even yourself, a free pass. It does not mean you have said to anyone they are free to do harm again. Forgiveness doesn’t come easily to most of us, it is a hard fought battle of letting go. Sometimes, even as we forgive we also must say ‘no more’. There are times when we must see our only choice is letting go, lovingly and with great compassion, simply letting go.

I know each of us is unique and wonderfully made. We are, each of us, flawed and perfect at once. We are forged within the furnace of our family and later by the fires of society; whether tragic or magnificent, usually both, we are formed. As we walk through our lives both alone and with others we are formed into something distinctive and entirely individual.

So many of us these days try to fit in, try to hide our light in anonymity primarily because there is a certain safety in numbers and shades of beige and gray. We fall into the common thought that ‘fitting in’ will gain us acceptance, get us further in life or even provide us a more comfortable living. Maybe this is all true, perhaps if we work hard to strip ourselves of what makes us distinctively us we will have an easier time in the world, but then we will also have to wake every single day and force our spirit into boxes of conformity that may not fit as well as we like, that may squeeze every bit of life from us and leave us gasping for breath.

I know we are meant to dance in the rain with abandon and joy.

I know we are designed for pleasure and it is not a thing to be ashamed of or to shame others out of.

I know we are infused with the spirit compassion and forgiveness.

I know we are intended to give and receive love without stinting or judgement.

I know the world has corrupted our vision of ourselves as human and humane, who we are and what we should be. We have too often substituted joy for shame, compassion for weakness and love for sex in our pursuit of anything to fill a hole in our spirit and our heart. Far too many of us look toward others to define a reality that isn’t our own and then we judge ourselves as failures for not living up to impossible standards.

All of these things I know in my heart. As I continue to work through what I need, how to free myself and where to go from here, all these things I know.

14-April-2016

14-April-2016

Ravening Wolves

Gray-Wolf.-Courtesy-U.S.-Fish-Wildlife-Service27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain.28 Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.

Ezekiel 22-27:29 


There is nothing to say about passion that hasn’t been said before, except this, it festers under the skin, like a wound that never quite heals. We search for that salve we can rub across the wound and for a brief moment, it works, then we realize the salve was full of grit and all we have done is taken the top layer off and opened it up to the air.

Damn that hurt, again.

I have become cynical. I weep at the history, I weep in pain some days as well. But I have become cynical. As I look down the barrel of another surgical intervention, I have become furious at the lack of compassion and empathy this nation has for the weak, the aged, the young, the disenfranchised, those different from ourselves. We celebrate the ignorant among us, whether this celebration is through their election to high office or their constant media attention, it is nonetheless a celebration. Meanwhile, we ignore sometimes even vilify those who do good works, those who deserve our attention through their contributions to society, our communities and our lives.

I weep when I consider the consequences of our apathy. I am appalled when I realized we are more concerned with the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass than we are with just how diminished the office of the President is by the disrespect shown to kim-kardashian-ass-memes-funny-6this President by every member of the GOP in elected office today. Really people, is this what we have become? I am disgusted that every single Sunday I hear the same tired conspiracy nut jobs (IRS, Benghazi, Sharia Law and Muslims, Guns Guns and More Guns, oh and let’s not forget there is no Global Warming and Make War not Peace).

I shudder when I listen to the first off the Clown Bus to enter the fray officially tell me to ‘Imagine’ a world he envisions,  one based on Christians values and morals. I cannot begin to imagine a world where all bets are off and corporations and people in his tax bracket will have all the rights and breaks while the rest of us suffer the consequences of his worldview. This though is the world of no empathy and no compassion Mr. Cruz wants us to imagine.

Of course, Phil Robertson falls right in line with Ted and his ideas. At a prayer meeting yesterday this is what Phil, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family had to say about those who didn’t profess a Christian view. This is what we would have to look forward to if Ted became president of the United States of America.

The worst part is, some of this is already happening across this land. Laws to strip those who are not Christian, White, Heterosexual are already being passed. Laws to enable businesses to discriminate against others based on their ‘Christian’ beliefs are passing state legislatures across the land. These new discrimination laws are enabled by people like Ted Cruz and encouraged by the fact that Phil Robertson and his network still exist on without any of us saying no, you are not allowed to say these things and stand on the First Amendment as your protection. You are not allowed to pretend it is just a joke ‘fantasy’ to threaten rape of young girls, decapitation of women, neutering of men simply because they are not of the same faith as you. What the hell is wrong with people they think this is ‘okay’.

Which leads me to the next problem, as a victim of violence I look at this nation and think to myself always when will it end? When is enough ever going to be enough, when will we say as a nation, not another child, another man, another woman will lie in our streets. When will we say not another parent will bury their child, not another child will pick up a gun in play and end up killing their sibling. When will we say enough? When will we say the police are not sanctioned to murder our citizens? When will we say enough? Surely, there comes a point in time when the lives of our citizens are of greater value than the profits of the corporations manufacturing the guns that are killing us. Certainly, at some point enough of us will stop and think, the laws in place today are not protecting anyone but those who are profiting most by our deaths, by the deaths of our children.

Then I saw this and I was brought to my knees. I realized it was us, Elyse over at Fifty Four and a Half simply put it out there and I found it stunningly simple and in your face.

Which leads me here to this, another great example the debate, of what is wrong with us as a nation and a people,. Is this ‘Free Speech’, the First Amendment at its finest? Or is it something worse, something so deeply disturbed I cannot even find the words. You tell me, with no lead in other than to say I had to watch it twice before finally realizing it is parody but also defines the the terrible ease with which anyone could do exactly what this video lays out, step by step.

Well that is my rant for the day my friends. Passion, if we don’t get it and soon we lose everything we stand for as a people, everything we once stood for as a nation. We have been slowly eroded; we have stripped down bare and shown the very worst of ourselves for the past six years. We have shown our dark and ugly side and those of us who should have stood up and spoken up, we did little and said little. We should be ashamed for allowing it to go so far. For those of us with the means to do something, we should be ashamed for not doing enough, for staying home when we should have been in the streets even where we might not have been fully embraced. It is time, it is past time that we push the boundaries and demand the change we need to make this a nation worth living in and fighting for, not just for some people but all people. We cannot afford to do otherwise.

Want to tell A & E what you think about Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty: aefeedback@aenetworks.com

Sadistic Nation Revealed

OpEdEmpathy, a wonderful leveling of the field when we actually feel the pain of another being and thus act with some care or compassion towards them, setting aside our personal interest in favor of helping another person. Yes, in their best interest, or at least with kindness and care towards them. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, doesn’t have to take you out of your head, your comfort zone; just has to be something small, something simple, a touch or a cup of coffee on a cold morning. How many of us think we can make a difference in the life of another? How many of us try?

I am more than certain there are those of us, that is members of humanity, who are not completely selfish and self-serving. The problem is, for the life of me I can’t find them in great abundance. My breath is knocked out of me right now, on every single level of my being, I look around and I think this nation has sunk to a new level of assholery and we are without a single overarching redeeming quality. Our failures, as a nation and a people pile higher than Mt. Everest, our disregard for our impact on the world a phenomenon I continue to be stunned to my soul by.

With each revelation of just how badly entire bodies of government are behaving, Ferguson or the 47, I am moved further toward a belief we are a nation in its final death throes. We are choking on our hate, on our fear and on the absolute ugliness brought out of the closet by the election of Barack Obama. Let’s not pretend otherwise, let’s not insult each other’s intelligence. The election of10801513_10153167396029255_486623207564289575_n this president, not once but twice threw a wrench in everything, brought all the animus boiling up to the surface and caused usually reasonable people to show their true colors; they couldn’t help themselves. Compassion and empathy flew out the window in favor of hate and destruction at any cost.

Since 1976 one side of the house has had it in its mind they would control the economy and thus the nation at all costs, they have run a game on us all. The very wealthy have controlled the direction of our nation through control of one party with little concern for a vast majority of its citizens. With the dogma of smaller government translated into cuts to services and paid for by constant cuts in taxes for those at the top of the earnings bracket our nation has become cruel, sadistic even. Until recently, until the election of this president these changes were small, incremental and went nearly unnoticed. Now though, now they are out there for all to see, no longer incremental but instead entire programs focused on those who can least afford to lose even ten dollars a month, let alone a hundred or more. Worse still, that same party has become adverse to science, adverse to facts and given to fear mongering, leading us into wars throughout the world.

Empathy and compassion cannot even be found from the pulpits of our churches, today. Instead, many of those who lay claim to the mantle of Christianity, instead preach against those in the most need, preach against compassion, preach against this president, preach against all that Jesus stood for. Many in the government who run on a platform of Christian morals, family values they also fail to evaluate what this means, fail at compassion, fail at empathy and of course fail at the greatest lesson of all, this is a nation of diverse people, diverse beliefs and a Constitution that guarantees us the right to live our lives without interference of Church in our homes, bedrooms or state run institutions.

We are destroying our greatest asset, our people; by making education out of reach for all but the wealthiest, we are undermining our future. By cutting funding to public education at every level, we are destroying our future for generations. By shipping our manufacturing off-shore and bringing in from elsewhere those who have the education to fill our white collar jobs, whether it is high-tech, science or medicine we have cut huge swaths across the American opportunity prospective, now and in the future. Soon we will not have a problem with immigration from Mexico or elsewhere to fill the jobs ‘no one else wants’, these will be the only jobs Americans are qualified for. Soon, we will be a nation of serfs in our own country; unqualified for anything but picking fruit and vegetables, cleaning toilets and begging for scrapes.

As a nation, we are without mercy, without compassion for our own. We have no sense of justice, no sense of right and wrong. It fascinates me, always; how we can point to Iran, call them a terrible Theocracy, or ISIS, and call them Terrorists when we have no space in either our distant or current history from which to hide. We who marched into sovereign nations and murdered, tortured with complete disregard for their right to self-governance. We who within our own borders have entirely ignored the rule of law, treating our own citizens to injustice, torture and even murder to enrich a criminal justice for profit system that has broken families and communities. No, we have no right to cry foul at injustice abroad when we only gloss over the offenses in our own backyard.

One where the police are free to murder twelve-year-olds in parks and blame them for their deaths, is this the nation we want? One where schools are crumbling and children cannot learn and the likelihood is if you are poor you will not graduate from high school, is this the nation we want? One where if you are a Black Man you have a one in three chance and a Latino Man a one in six chance of being imprisoned during your lifetime, compared to a White Man who has only a one in 17 chance; this says nothing about the crimes committed only how sentencing is handed down, how justice is served. Is this the nation we want?

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We as a nation are in descent. Falling rapidly into a fiery pit from which there is no way out unless someone steps in, someone with enough will to offend and enough backbone to stand up to all the old white men and women who have stayed on their happy asses in Washington and elsewhere in seats of power for far too long. Someone needs to start calling this out; someone needs to start saying no more, enough is enough. All of us need to start asking ourselves, is this truly the nation we want to pass on to our children?

I can honestly say it is not the nation I want, this nation disturbs me frightens me even.

You Lived

OpEdWhat do we gain if we hang on to anger? That is a question I am asked frequently when I speak in Victim Impact and other venues. Why do I withhold ‘forgiveness’ rather than offer it freely, without limitations or a requirement for acts / signs of true remorse. Why do I believe forgiveness is a gift to the repentant, rather than a gift to ourselves. These are questions I have been pondering lately with a different frame of mind than in the past.

Last year was a year of turmoil and upheaval, not just for me personally but for the nation. Oddly, though what happened in the nation is very different from my own experiences, I can’t help but draw parallels and then my heart cracks. Even while I feel paralyzed and unqualified to speak, I am and have been drawn, sometimes simply as a witness to the terrible and other times to lend my voice, to demand change and justice. Even when my voice is unwelcome in the cacophony that has greater right, greater knowledge, greater principle still I felt the need to try to make sense and add my voice.

No, it isn’t about me or about me being heard, it is simply to raise a voice to demand change in what is so horribly wrong, what is intolerably unjust. It is a voice raised not because it has weight, but instead because silence is no longer an option. What does any one of us bring as our voices are raised, our pens put to paper, our feet to concrete but the entirety of our life experiences, no it isn’t about me. It is simply one more voice demanding change.

My worldview is based solely upon my personal experiences, what has formed me as a human being and a woman, this is all I have, it is all any of us have from which we can view the world around us and form opinions. Our experiences, they are what each of us carry into the world to form judgment, to balance compassion, to create empathy, to allow love to flow freely or to dam it behind walls of fear and mistrust. What we learn at the knee of our parents, in our homes, our schools and sometimes more importantly through our adult experience; this is all we have to form us as complete adults. My life experience is the only thing I have from which I am able to measure ‘right vs. wrong’ and ‘good vs. evil’, my perspective may be from a different place but it is all I have, the only prism I can see through.

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It is impossible for any one of us to compare our individual experiences to another person and say with certainly, ‘I understand, I know how you feel’. We don’t, we never will. We might have compassion for what they are feeling, empathy for what they are experiencing; we do not know what or how they are feeling. We cannot know, we are not them and thus it is impossible for us to know. When you layer on all the differences including personal experiences, culture, education, generation and yes, even religion and race it becomes nearly impossible for us to put ourselves in the place of another. At best we can be compassionate in the face of terrible loss and to show solidarity in the face of gross injustice.

Why is it so important, that any of us speak out, that we evaluate our premise and speak from our hearts whether we have the ability to walk in the shoes of those wronged, we nonetheless must have empathy and compassion, if we don’t have these, we are not fully human. What has brought me to this brooding walk through a philosophical position on forgiveness (I will get back there), compassion and empathy? December was a month of heated discussions, unfocused wretchedness and soul searching.

Demonstrator, Boston Commons Reuters/Brian Snyder

Demonstrator, Boston Commons
Reuters/Brian Snyder

“Not about you”, “You lived”, and “You are still White” were all said, they are also all true.

Just prior to the discussion that generated those statements I received a letter from the State of Texas Board of Parole, one of the three men who shot me, leaving me for dead because they, ‘Wanted to kill White People’, is again up for parole. He has been back in prison for just over two years having been paroled once before. That letter is sitting on my dining room table; it stares up at me every morning with my first cup of coffee, sometimes I run my fingers over the words. On 7-Feb -2015 it will be twenty-three (23) years since that near fatal night. The night three young men changed my life and their own forever, simply because they hated the color of my skin. They didn’t hate me, they didn’t know me; they simply hated what I stood for, what I represented.

For twenty-three years, I have lived with the consequences of their actions, so have they. Last month my seizures started escalating again; my epilepsy is one of the gifts that keep giving from the shooting, one of the consequences. Now that I live alone my seizures scare the hell out of me. Yet I stare at that letter and I wonder, do I really need to respond, do I truly need to demand my pound of flesh in the remorse that will never be forthcoming from someone who had all the reasons in the world to ‘hate white people’.

FCI Fort Worth, Enterance

FCI Fort Worth, Enterance

I got the first letter eighteen years ago, I responded with a demand they hold him to serve a greater part of his thirty-year sentence. I questioned how they could consider parole where there was not a shred of remorse for his actions against any of his victims. Then, I cried for days. For the next eighteen years, every single time I received one of these letters I responded the same way and I cried for days after, like clockwork every two years. I didn’t cry when he was paroled, I cried though when he was returned to prison.

I do not forgive him or his partners, I think I might have too many reminders. I watch the grace of those who have lost their loved ones to violence, I wonder is it that I do not have grace or that I am simply vindictive and mean spirited. I do not know the answer, I know I am not angry at them but I am angry at the system, the society that created them. I am angry at all of us, who let them fall through the cracks, who didn’t save them and all the other young men just like them who lost hope before they had a chance to live.

So yes, I lived and no it isn’t about me; I hope though I can find a way to lift my voice, put pen to paper and make it matter, make it count. I hope I have enough compassion to fill in the cracks, that I live long enough to see a change and that in some small way I can be part of that change.

Generations Lost

Children Lost

Another generation, not ours, not even our children’s but a next generation of children. Children lost to poverty, poor health, illiteracy, ignorance, hate and yes, even hopelessness and violence. You might be shaking your head as you read these words, saying not in my backyard, not my grandchild or not any child I know. I can only ask you to think, to consider are your assumptions really true? If this is you, wake up! You are either living in a very rarified position, away from the rest of us, or you are blind too what is truly happening in what was once possibly the greatest country in the World.

1 in 45 children are homeless today, living either on the street or in homeless shelters.

1 in 5 children will go to bed hungry tonight, during the summer months this is even more devastating as there will be no school lunch program so they may remain hungry through the day. Of course, many states have already cut the school lunch program from their budget so they will already be use to the daily hunger especially at this time of the month when food stamps have stretched as far as they will go. We can dress this up all we like (Food Insecure = HUNGRY) but the simple fact is, they are without food.

50,000 children sleep on the street in this country at any given time. These are the runaways, the at risk children.

250,000 families with children are in shelters at any time. This number doesn’t account for families living on the street or in their cars, families squatting in empty buildings or on park benches.

National Alliance to End Homelessness

To make it more real, perhaps easier to see the numbers:

National Alliance to End Homelessness

Youth violence, a nice way to say our young are killing each other without remorse; their weapons include their fists, guns and even words. Bullying is on the rise along with suicide. Our Juvenile Justice system overflows with the spillover to the adult prisons; the coffers of the for profit prison system in nearly every state of the union overflowing. Youthful offenders, boys and girls as young as twelve remanded as adults for crimes even a decade ago they couldn’t have imagined and now they commit without understanding the consequence, they will have a lifetime to consider though as they sit in cells and on yards never intended for them. Wasted lives, wasted futures, wasted potential and all our futures are at risk, as an entire generation turned more antisocial, even sociopathic.

What were we thinking in our Greed and Self-Absorption, what did we think when we failed so miserably to provide communities and schools for all the children of this nation and not just our own. Did we really believe we could draw invisible lines, build invisible walls high enough and escape with our ‘White Flight’ and the wretchedness and purity of our selfishness wouldn’t follow us, is that what we believed? Those birds have come home to roost, each generation becoming more entitled than the last; each generation in this millennium more inclined to demand their place at the table while contributing nothing. It is our fault for training them and providing nothing but our own sense of entitlement, our own self-absorption and lack of compassion, along the way. What will we do now?

Generations Lost used the following sources and my own broken heart:

http://www.familyhomelessness.org/LookingIntoLight/

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2011/HUDNo.11-121

http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/state-of-americas-children-2011/intro.html

http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/us_hunger_facts.htm

http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/4361

Walking Dead

Dead this week, the headlines have been filled with tragedy.

Andrew Breitbart, the infamous conservative loudmouth who had been embroiled in more than one scandal in his pursuit to bring down those on the other side of the aisle.

Davy Jones, the front man for The Monkees a TV Pop band of the mid-sixties, many referred to this band as Beatles-lite. Davy Jones never did anything spectacular, never did anything mean spirited either. He was simply a part of many of our lives when we were young.

Two unnamed US Soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan; this brings the total to six since the burning of the Qur’an in the trash pits. Despite our Presidents apology for this unintentional act of blasphemy we have once again created put our soldiers at even greater risk.

Courtesy of Washingtonpost.com

Daniel Parmetor, 17 : Russell King Jr., 17 : Demetrius Hewlin, 17; three teenagers dead at the hand of their classmate for no reason other than they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Their deaths damned near ignored by all but their families, their friends and those whose lives they touched during the short time they had on this earth.

Why do I bring up these deaths? Because of the seven, the most reported in mainstream and social media was Andrew Breitbart, the mean spirited, loudmouthed, bombastic and all too frequent liar. Suddenly, in his death he reached sainthood; even his antagonists are mourning his demise. Perhaps it is that he will no longer be a foil for them, or that they will no longer have a ready target; nonetheless while his death at the age of 43 is certainly sad for his family and friends it should not, in my opinion overshadow others of far more social significance, should it?

Poor Davy Jones, his death became the focus of my ire early in the week when the number of Facebook posts of his passing at 66, far exceeded the number of posts about the five teenagers who were gunned down in Ohio at random, there had been hardly a bleep on the radar of mainstream or social media about that story. This is not to say I was angry at his death, certainly I was not, like many people my age I fondly remember the ridiculousness of The Monkees, their silly and sweet music and Davy Jones himself. My indignation was instead focused on how shallow we seem to be as humans that this death was more important; the death of a long out of the spotlight celebrity was more vital to our national conversation than the death of three teenagers or the soldiers being randomly targeted in Afghanistan.

Courtesy of TheCount.com

Worse still than the what seemed to be the complete disregard of the tragedy in Ohio, was the importance of other stories in the spotlight of mainstream and social media; what story took even more space, more breathless awe from those who would turn our heads and values? Are you afraid to ask? I will tell you because it made me want to run screaming from the room and turn off my connections to the world forever, Angelina Jolie and her new leg pose was far more important than the School Shooting in Chardon, Ohio on Monday 27-Feb-2012, just one day prior.

My problem of course had been building for days, I had been watching for anyone to start discussing the issue of children with guns, school shootings and escalating violence in our schools. Nothing! Nothing at all throughout the day or across the various social media sites I haunt. I was disheartened, to say the very least.

I had to ask the question – “What is wrong with this world, with this nation? Not a word anywhere when 5 children are shot, one already dead.”

These are the answers to my simple question:

Sadly Val, I think it’s because the story just wasn’t shocking/exciting enough. Only 1 dead ? with one handgun ?….Some people want to see multiple bloodied bodies taken on shaky camera-phones. They want to hear phrases like ‘semi-automatic’ and ‘uzi’ and if possible have their TVs vomit the stench of cordite…Sad but true.I don’t know, unless they are afraid that this type of story tends to get sensationalized and may actually serve to promote more of this kind of tragedy by providing attention to it

This actually was covered on ABC World News yesterday but It does seem that celeb silliness is more newsworthy than significant and meaningful news impacting whole communities. It’s an absolute travesty that our news outlets so often reduce themselves to the lowest common denominator.

Lack of God. The more people take God and Jesus out of everything in order that they may do as they please.. the worse our world gets. Simple.

Just as a update: 3 children are now dead… 2nd victim is brain dead, 3rd passed away about 3 hours ago.

I think the answers are both terrible and terrifying. They speak to what is in part wrong with us as a people that we have allowed our attention to be diverted by what is trivial rather than focus on what is most important, most vital to our continuation as a society. The observations by two of the commenters are very specific in they identify the social and media misdirection.

My third commenter provided an observation that is personal and pointed, an opinion as to why this is happening today, it led to a longer discussion that I intend to convert into another post shortly.

At the end of the day though, my problem is this; I have over 4,000 contacts on Facebook. Of those, four of commented on this story and during this week of tragedy I can count on one hand how many of them commented elsewhere. I would however require my calculator to track the number of posts about the deaths of Andrew Breitbart, Davy Jones or God Help Me how Angelina Jolie exposed her leg at the Oscars.

What is wrong with this world?

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