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Archive for the ‘Diversity’ Category

In putting together my post for MLK Day 2012, I have spent the week pondering the oft-ignored import of it as a national holiday. It is more than an excuse for stores to have more post-Christmas sales or a reason for kids and teachers to enjoy a day off. It is not just a token federal holiday intended to appease the minority voters. In 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed the national holiday into law, he was acknowledging the important work that Dr. King did in bringing equality to all citizens, a fundamental belief on which this country was built.

Back in January 2009, the day before the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first American president of ‘color’ (or however the heck you state that in a politically correct manner), Mr. Rick Warren, popular minister of the 22,000-member Saddleback Church, gave the keynote address at the annual birthday service for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta.

The whole thought of Rick Warren speaking on Dr. King’s day made me absolutely sick. I support Mr. Warren’s intent to bring God into the national conversation, to make religion a part of everyday lives. I admire his chutzpah in forcing political leaders and celebrities to discuss and confront issues of faith. And I admire a religious leader who calls for Christians worldwide to confront the global problems of AIDS, extreme poverty, climate change and disease in third world countries.

But I do not and cannot support his call for the social, political, and religious exclusion of those he (as a flawed human being, just like the rest of us) deems unworthy. In my own personal formulation of Christian behavior, I cannot condone the messages of intolerance and judgement that seem to be very much a part of his very fundamental Christian beliefs. For all of you fundamentalists out there, put away the poison pens – I just don’t happen to have the same world view as many of those churches. My own personal framework of beliefs is much more liberal, that is all. I would like to think that I will be judged by my Father, not by a human being who runs a superchurch and holds sway with newscasters.

I have written before about my mixed-race marriage, on my stance on gay marriage and about the importance of diversity in our world. Dr. King’s work alone has inspired 3 of my posts, all hoping for a more equal, just world. Obviously, I am very much a student of the lessons that Dr. King taught about equality, justice, and freedom. I have also been struggling with a major crisis of faith since the collapse of my marriage – yes, I am divorced and therefore subject to Rev. Warren’s derision – and have been doing a lot of soul-searching about the meaning of God’s forgiveness and what it means to be a Christian in the modern world.

Jesus himself healed blind men and lepers, kept company with prostitutes, beggars, and thieves. If our Lord was able to treat those people as equals, with the right to be treated respectfully, why can’t we do that? What makes any one human being feel that he is better than anyone else, good enough to judge others?

Would our Lord truly think it appropriate that any church (purportedly operating in His name) run websites, online chat rooms, television interviews and major media campaigns to ostracize these people? This church’s scope of national publicity is astounding – and very upsetting to those of us who happen to believe that God loves all.  Reverend Warren, and many others like him, teach lessons that include the exclusion and vilification of  homosexuality, divorce, abortion, sex outside of marriage, and a variety of other behaviors. I am not arguing that those behaviors are or aren’t morally, Biblically, or ethically wrong – I am arguing that we as human beings and children of God have the right to NOT be publicly ostracized for our actions. As my friend Pastor Drew has told me a number of times, Jesus went to the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, big and small.

In reading back on MLK Day 2009, it turns out that I was not the only one opposed to Revered Warren’s participation in the King’s Center’s events – that day, about 100 protesters with signs reading “No bigotry in MLK’s church” and “We still have a dream” gathered outside of Dr. King’s former pulpit. I think there were much more appropriate selections that could have been made for the keynote address – perhaps one of the thousands of civil rights protesters that had marched in Selma or took their turns as Freedom Riders; perhaps one of the millions of black Americans that have lived in a world much different than their ancestors because of Dr. King’s work; perhaps one of the many celebrities that actually knew Dr. King personally. So many other, better, less offensive choices!  I was so disenchanted with The King’s Center’s choice in speakers in 2009 that I actually put pen to paper and wrote a personal letter to Mr. Dexter Scott King. In thinking about my article on Dr. King for MLK Day this year, I got to thinking about that letter. I want to share it with you now because I still (after 3 years) feel so strongly on the topic – Mr. Dexter Scott King may not have been affected by my words but maybe someone out there in the great internet cosmos might be:

19 January 2009

Dexter Scott King, Chairman

The King Center

449 Auburn Avenue NE

Atlanta, GA 30312

To the honorable Mr. King and the board of directors for the King Center;

I am writing to you today to express my incredible disappointment with the King Center’s choice for Rev. Rick Warren as the keynote speaker for their annual celebration of Dr. King’s birthday in 2009. How unfortunate that a man who actively campaigns against gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose was chosen to commemorate a man who gave his life to protect our rights.

Although I personally do not condone abortion, I firmly believe that all humans have the right to choose what is medically best for their body. And while I cannot say that I have done scholarly research on Dr. King’s spiritual and political beliefs on matrimony, I would like to believe that he would have supported any human’s civil right to enjoy the equal opportunity to be legally married. Fifty years ago, I myself would have been in a marriage that was considered socially and legally inappropriate – I am a white woman married to a black man. I owe Dr. King a personal debt of gratitude for the efforts that allowed me to publicly declare my love for whomever I choose. How then, in Dr. King’s  honor, can the King Center overlook one man’s actions to block the civil rights of any human being and select him as their keynote speaker?

Does Mr. Warren not realize the incredible hypocrisy it took to stand on the pulpit of Dr. King’s church and speak about Dr. King’s struggle for equality – and then return to his activities to prevent equalities for entire populations of American citizens?

I am disappointed in the King Center for having made this choice. With so many notable and active people in America struggling for racial, social, ethnic, educational, and economic equality, I believe there were many others who would have and could have made a more effective and less divisive impact. I suggest you take the time to listen to Colin Powell’s speech that he gave in Minnesota yesterday – what a truly remarkable tribute that was!

On this most auspicious occasion, as we stand on the eve of inaugurating our first United States President of color, what a true shame that the keynote speaker for the King Center was one who regularly preaches exclusion and intolerance under the cloak of fundamentalist morality!

I have a very deep and very sincere respect for Dr. and Mrs. King and the legacies that they have left behind. I can only hope that their hard work will continue through the efforts of the King Center. Thank you for what you do to keep the King memory alive.

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As I have grown older and witnessed the vast inequities in our world, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has become a hero of mine, the voice in my subconscious always urging love, tolerance, peace, nonviolence, and diversity. I have written before on the inspiration that Dr. King has given me in my personal life but today I write about the inspiration that I pray every day he will give to all corners of our society.

On the great day in which he delivered the famous “I Have A Dream” speech, he was speaking specifically on the topic of the racial crisis facing this country. But when Dr. King speaks of rights, promisory notes, and dreams of equality, he was not only talking about equality for black and white but also men and women, gay and straight, rich and poor, young and old, Christian and Muslim. His words painted a canvas of freedom and justice – and almost 50 years later, while we have made amazing progress, that painting is still unfinished.

I am always amazed when I hear Dr. King speak of his hope for a world where blacks and whites can eat together at the same table. Considering that I was married to a black man (and I’m so white, I’m neon), the world has come a long way! In Dr. King’s time, in some areas of the country, I would have been arrested (or worse!) for being with a black man – nowadays it’s not so uncommon and certainly not prosecutable. So many of my friends are of different colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds that it makes the violent and disciminatory realities of Dr. King’s world seem unbelievable. Our world is so much more diverse and tolerant than I’m sure anyone of that era could have ever imagined. And yet, even the most idealistic and naive amongst us can see that there is still progress to be made. There are still inequalities in this world to be solved, injustices to be made right, and discrimination to be overcome.

I, too, have a dream that someday this world will be full of people who treat each other with love, kindness, and fairness. I have a dream that someday physical attributes will not be the ruler by which people are measured – that someday, we will consider ‘pretty’ to be in someone’s soul. I have a dream that skin color, economic status, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation will not be factors in how we judge people – that we will love them regardless of these factors and be influenced only by ‘the contents of their characters’. Dr. King has taught me a lot about the kind of person I want to be and I am sure that I will continue to learn from his words and his actions.

So, I invite you all, on today of all days, to take some time out of your life to view the video of this great orator from August 28, 1963 – and maybe say a prayer for peace and equality and love in the world.

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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Thanksgiving is one of those great holidays in the American calendar – all you can eat, togetherness with family and friends, the Macy’s parade, and an excuse to eat a bazillion starch-filled calories. Anyone who knows me knows that the holidays are my absolute favorite time of year! And, this year, I wanted to take a moment to overlook some of the less-appealing aspects of the last few years and remind myself of ALL of the wonderful things that the Lord has given to me and to share that gratitude and thanksgiving with my friends.

So, here are 20 things I am thankful for this year:

1) my parents and brother, who support me, love me, and protect me – they are the 3 people that I admire most in this world and without them I wouldn’t be who I am today

2) four wonderful “babies” who keep me company, snuggle with me, and make me laugh – God doesn’t care that my children are four-legged and furry, right?

2) amazing “sisters”  and friends who are behind me and support me and listen to me whenever I need them, who make me laugh and cry with me, who adopt me into their families, who accept my quirky ways, and without whom I couldn’t survive

3) my guy friends who teach me new things and remind me not to take myself (or life) too seriously

4) a backbone (recently refound after a long absence) that has given me the strength to survive and hold my head up

5) new friends and new hobbies that provide a sense of adventure, a spirit of renewal and rebuilding, and the thrill of life going on

6) my health – it’s been an interesting last 2 months but I am healed, strong, and hopefully on the road to a whole new healthy me

7) a wonderful nirvana called Sprucelands, that saved my life, taught me about the person I wanted to be, and gave me some wonderful lifelong memories and friends – you know it’s a truly special place when, even after almost 20 years, I still include it on my list of God-given gifts!

8 ) a job that I truly love with people that are not only co-workers but good friends – every day is a new adventure in which I am surrounded by caring professionals and fantastic patients and clients
9) a love of travelling that has taken me all over the world and taught me to be accepting and tolerant of a variety of different cultures, ethnicities, and ideologies

10) self-respect  – underappreciated though it may be, I am FINALLY proud to be a good, decent person who has resisted the easy temptations of petty revenge, angry bitterness, and hateful attitudes

11) an open mind, eager to learn and experience new things

12) a sense of unique individuality – when you’re a teenager and a young adult, you don’t appreciate how valuable it is to be your own person but now I realize the gift I’ve been given in being my own special person

13) the beauty of nature around me – green grass, sunny days, snowstorms, sunsets, thunder, hurricane rains, and the bloonms on shrubs, trees, and flowers – we are truly blessed by the world around us

14) the faith to know that God and his army of angels (including some very special grandparents, a wonderful lady named Liz, and the dearly-missed “Curly”) are watching over me and my loved ones

15) a brain in my head – I look around and see so many women who think that their only value and worth is being pretty and dumb – and I am SO glad that I can be an intelligent, strong, independently-minded female in a world that still tries to teach us to be silent and subservient!

16) that I have been brave enough get out of bed every morning and face some tough times and some hard decisions

17) food on my table – there are so many people in the world who can’t have 3 regular meals a day, so I am thankful for easy, affordable, available food supplies (what can I say, fat girl likes to eat!)

18) the brotherhood of the fire department – although they make me want to drink heavily sometimes, I know those guys would be there in a heartbeat to help me if I called

19) a heart full of love – no matter what has happened to me in the past and may happen to me in the future, I have a lot of love to share

20) laughter and tears – two of the most important things a human needs to survive this crazy journey called life

So now that I’ve shared mine, what are the things that YOU are thankful for this Thanksgiving?

My dear friends and faithful readers, I say a prayer of Thanksgiving for all of you on this most important day. Without all of you, the world would be a grayer place. Thank you for the sunshine you bring!

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My friend Sienna is one of the greatest women I know – because she is a totally free spirit. I have never met anyone who is more open-minded, laid-back, and willing to learn. Sienna will sample any cuisine, give any activity a chance, listem to any music, date any type of guy, and journey to new places – just so she doesn’t miss a single moment of the world around her!

I met Sienna through my friend Stacy, who is one of the other greatest women I know – and almost the exact opposite of Sienna. While Stacy is often reluctant to try some of the more adventurous cuisine that Sienna and I pick out, she CAN be depended on to try almost any activity that might be suggested. She is the ultimately mature, responsible adult – but not afraid to laugh, giggle, cut up and drink massive amounts of wine.

Sometimes I wonder how they first became friends – the two of them are, in so many ways, very different from one another. Stacy has a secure marriage, 2 natural kids and 1 stepdaughter, a house in the suburbs, a sensible vehicle, and a schedule jam-packed with kids’ sports, work, and other parental responsibilities. Sienna, on the other hand, lives in an urban neighborhood, drives a hot rod streetcar, no kids, 2 loser ex-husbands (that she kindly gave numerous chances to become decent human beings), and a schedule full of nights out with friends, exotic restaurants, and studying for her degree. The only thing these women seem to have in common is a love of animals – Stacy has 2 dogs (her good old 14-year old faithful and a young yappy beagle with ADD) and Sienna has 2 shelter kitties and a 3-legged dog.

And yet, while they seem so very different, I have realized that they both have many wonderful qualities that must have drawn them to one another – and me to both of them! I admire so much of both of them – I can only hope that when I grow up I’m just like them!  Loyal, giving, caring friends with nurturing hearts, razor-sharp minds, and spines of steel. They are kind and stable women who do not appreciate the drama that can be created by the troublesome and mean-spirited people in the world. They have very low bullshit tolerances and can be depended on to ‘have your back’ when someone is putting you down. They are wonderfully strong people who have survived disastrous marriages and divorces to come out the other side stronger and better. They are an inspiration to me that better times are coming and are my support network when the tears fall.

So, on this spectrum in which Sienna is The Free Spirit and Stacy is the Sensible One, I think I fall somewhere in between the two of them. I am so glad to have them in my life because they supply the balance I need to stay strong and stable myself. What I would do without Stacy to check in on me when I’ve withdrawn into my sad place or Sienna to suggest I watch a mystery show about two lesbians who kill a midget, without Stacy to include me in her family holidays or Sienna to commiserate with about the truly frightening single men out there.

So, I raise a glass to you, ladies, and send my thanks for the inspiration, the caring, and the laughs!

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On August 28th, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what would become one of America’s most iconic oratories. His “I Have A Dream” speech has been recited in schools and studied by scholars for the last 58 years. I have to wonder, if Dr. King were alive today, if he would truly believe the amazing progress we have made in the last 50 years!

I mean, just think about it – 90 years ago, women couldn’t vote! 60 years ago blacks and other minorities could not openly vote without fear of violent retaliation!  40 years ago, blacks and whites could not safely sit together in a restaurant, park, or other public place! My life alone is a testament to the progress we have made as a nation and as a human race. I am an independent woman who does not consider herself chattel. I vote in every election and have 2 college degrees. I was married to a black man and most definitely went out in public with him. My beloved godson is a mixed-race child and the light of my life. I have friends and neighbors of all races, creeds, ethnicities, genders, and sexual preferences. I am truly awed by the amazing work that the prior generations have done to give me the freedoms I enjoy today!

Dr. King, in his “I Have a Dream” speech (by far the most famous speech he ever gave), said this:

” l have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

I think that we, as Americans and citizens of the human race, should be very proud that portion of Dr. King’s dream has come true. The brave men and women of all colors and regions who stood up during the Civil Rights era and demanded equal treatment for all deserve much of the credit! Without those individuals and organizations that carried the banner, we might still be buried under the oppressive weight of prejudice, intolerance, and hatred.

Now, all of that being said, I do NOT believe that we live in an equal society yet. There is still a long road ahead of us before all groups, races, genders, and ethnicities have equal rights, equal protection, and equal treatment. But I have every faith that there are enough caring, idealistic, and fair-minded people in this world to continue the fight.

I want to leave you with two statements from that same speech from Dr. King, two sentiments that will hopefully spur you to think of the dreams yet to be realized:

‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

“Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics —will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”

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One of my friends on Facebook recently posted one of those statuses that get passed around regularly and we all just kind of ignore. But, from my perspective, this one has some merit to it:

So let me get this straight … Larry King is getting his 8th divorce; Elizabeth Taylor is possibly getting married for a 9th time; Britney Spears had a 55-hour marriage; Jesse James and Tiger Woods, while married, were having sex with EVERYONE. Yet, the idea of same-sex marriage is going to destroy the institution of marriage??

I think this is a tremendously intelligent and important question to ask in our society at this point in time (those of you who live in Maryland know that our state legislature is about to vote on this issue). I have to admit that I do not understand what the big hoopla is about same-sex marriage. If you can find true love in this world, I don’t care if it’s male, female, straight, gay, Christian, Muslim, yellow, green or purple. If you find someone who loves you for who you are and wants to share a life with you, you absolutely should have the right and the legal option available to do it!

I also firmly believe that gays should be allowed to be just as miserable as any married couple. Hey, if they want to deal with cranky spouses, married tax filing, and all of the insurance benefiary info, go right ahead. If they want to take the plunge, who are we to object? What does it hurt me, as a straight person, for a gay couple to be married?? Why should I object to the way someone else lives their life if it does not harm me in any way? I think people should worry about their OWN relationships before they start mandating or legislating others’.

On a deeper note, I think this issue goes straight to the heart of the American ideal of “equality for all.”  Why does it seem like every generation has a group of disenfranchised citizens that are being prevented from living happy, full lives? In our grandparents’ time it was women who couldn’t vote, couldn’t own property, couldn’t work outside the homes. In our parents’ generations, it was blacks who had to wage serious battles to be able to vote, to eliminate violent racist acts, to be able to walk down a street safely. And in our generation, it will be the LGBT community that will have to fight for their rights, including the right to legally marry.  

Additionally, coming myself from a broken marriage, I can tell you that the biggest threat to the sanctity of marriage has NOTHING to do with the sexual orientation of the parties involved. Adultery and dishonesty, broken vows and disloyalty, easy divorce and ready temptation – those are the problems that we should be addressing as threats to happy marriage. I was a heterosexual female married to a heterosexual male in a traditional church-sanctioned marriage – and now I am divorcing, a sad tale of cheating spouses, failed relationships, and short marriages.

If we’re so worried about protecting the institution of marriage and making it a stronger, more lasting commitment, we as a society need to focus on our values and the morals that we teach our children instead of putting the misguided blame on innocent people. We need to teach our children about love, respect, commitment, honesty, loyalty and tolerance if we want to protect “marriage” for future generations. Let’s stop fighting battles to put people down and instead work together to make our kids WANT to stay married and faithful.

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Ok, admit it. You have songs on your iPod (or mix CD’s or computer or whatever) that you should be embarassed that you have. Those songs that you rock out to in the shower and bellow out in the car; the tunes that you just SHOULDN’T love but you simply can’t help it. Sometimes they’re cheesy, sometimes they’re just plain bad – but you love them anyway. The songs that are like that one boyfriend or girlfriend you had – you look back and think “what was I thinking?”

So, should I die and someone find these secret gems on my iPod, I am going to save them from having to publicly humiliate me. I am going to admit, here and now, some of the embarassing songs I own:

  • Mmmmbop by Hanson – it’s just damn catchy
  • Wannabe by The Spice Girls – ok, who wants some girl power?
  • I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (the Coca-Cola jingle) – ahhh, the childhood memories
  • Bust a Move by Young MC and Wild Thing by Tone Loc – yikes, were these really the songs of our teenage years?
  • Hold On by Wilson Phillips and After the Rain by Nelson – oh, the teen angst that these songs recall
  • various camp songs like The Princess Pat, Kookabura, Barges, 500 Miles, and The Cannibal King – thank you Sprucelands campers
  • Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars – what can I say, it has sentimental value and I will always love the person who gave this song to me
  • the entire soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show – the cult classic is a Halloween tradition for me
  • my favorites from the Statler Brothers, John Denver, and Conway Twitty – my mom and dad used to listen to these
  • bagpipe music – yes, I *know* it sounds like cats being murdered but I like it
  • gospel hymns like Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Amazing Grace, I’ll Fly Away, The Rugged Cross – they make me think of some very special people in my life
  • Lift Every Voice – ok, I admit it, I was trying to learn the words to “the black national anthem” to impress my mother-in-law
  • the greatest hits of Peter, Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger, and the Kingston Trio – give me a guitar and I’m ready to folk
  • the cast albums for about 900 Broadway shows (including Ragtime, Rent, South Pacific, Oklahoma, Sweet Charity, Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, Godspell, Oliver!, Carousel, Tommy, Titanic, Side Show, and more)

My brother once told me that I am “musically schizophrenic” and after looking over my iPod list, I guess I have to agree. Who else has a playlist that runs from Glenn Miller to Lady Gaga, from Pitbull to Patsy Cline, from Blondie to the Boston Pops? But surely I can’t be the only one that has eclectic music tastes. So go ahead, share with me, you’ll feel better….

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