When I Die?

death-and-dying-grim-reaper-large

“Every now and then I think about my own death.”  Martin Luther King was only thirty-nine years old when he said these words and shared his thoughts about what he wanted his life to stand for.  I think about these words a great deal these days but more in connection with my own life.  The thought that someone only 39 years old had to contemplate the ramifications and implications of death is alarming.  No one should have such worries until old age.

“It is necessary to meditate early, and often, on the art of dying to succeed later in doing it properly just once.”
― Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before

I don’t know when I started to think about dying but at age seventy-two, I suppose it is worth reflecting on.  Wasn’t it Socrates who said that the “Unexamined life is not worth living?”  Death is one part of life that many of us may put off thinking about until perhaps it is too late.  I have had ample evidence that death is inevitable.

My grandfather died at the age of fifty-six when I was only eight years old in 1954.  My father died in 1985 when he was 60 years old and I was not yet forty.  My mother died in 1994 when she was 68 and my oldest sister died in 2002 when she was fifty-five years old.  I have had many other relatives and friends who have already departed this world at an earlier than expected age.  I seldom am surprised anymore by anyone else’s death.

Every now and then I think about dying and how I will succumb to Charon.  Will I go willingly? Will I go honorably?  Will my life have meant something?  Will I have made a difference in the world?  The how, when and where of death holds fascinating opportunities for reflection.

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
― Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Occasionally, I think about going out of this world, fast.  I had a Yamaha FZ1 up to 160 mph on the I35 going to Duluth one morning.  A crash at that speed might not have been going out in a blaze of glory, but it would have been quick.  I wonder if it would have been painless?  That would be a plus.

Sometimes I think about going out heroically.  I dive into some icy river or rush into a burning house to save some poor soul.  I don’t make it.  Will the world remember me as a hero or some idiot with heroic aspirations who failed at his hero task?

Part of me would like to die in bed.  I think of the remark that Clive Cussler made that the best way to go is in bed with your accountant telling you that you are ten dollars overdrawn in your account.  I would die peacefully with my beloved Karen and sister Jeanine at my side.  I would use my last breath to tell them how much I love them.  No pain but no heroic antics either.  Sort of a blah death in a way but it does have an appeal.

I was doing a morning run this week when the thought of dying kept intruding into my run.  I sometimes think about how long it would take a bullet to hit me when I run in the mountains and desert.  There are always some folks who seem to prefer shooting near the park rather than in the approved shooting ranges on the other side of the Casa Grande Mountains.  I can hear the boom of their shots echoing across the desert valley.  I wonder precisely how long it would take a stray bullet to strike me?  A friend of mine said much less than one second.  I count the seconds anyway after I hear a boom and wonder what my last thoughts will be.

Regrets-of-the-Dying-2-938x489

Death accidently shot while running in the mountains would no doubt be a fast but ignominious way of dying.  I am opting for something a little more glamourous.  I think about the headline in the Casa Grande Dispatch the next day.  “Man accidently shot while running trails in the mountains by MORON exercising his Second Amendment rights.”  Man and MORON would be linked for all eternity.  How will anyone weave this into my eulogy?

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”
― Banksy

Some of you reading this might be thinking “This guy is really morose, maybe even suicidal.”  The experts say that reflecting on death too much might not be healthy and might be evidence of suicidal tendencies.  However, (as you might expect) other experts say that reflecting on death is a normal and even important aspect of aging that may help prepare us for the coming trials of old age.  A quote I rather like goes like this “Old age is not for the faint of heart.”

My sister (who seems to know everyone in the State of Rhode Island) is five years younger than I am and manages to go to at least one or two funerals a month.  I avoid funerals, but I prefer them to weddings.  While funerals may be no more honest than weddings when it comes to the things people will say about the departed, at least funerals preclude any errant delusions of grandeur (For example, living happily ever after).  How many newlyweds will manage to live happily ever after?

I have always said (half-jokingly) that I want to go first.  I want Karen to live on long after I pass away and have a good life.  Many of the things I do today are in a sense to help prepare for that eventuality.  I had expected that Karen would no doubt survive me as women generally live longer than men.  Besides, my life has been lived much faster than Karen’s and thus I have used up more of my “thread of life.”  However, with old age I have had second thoughts on this expectation.

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
― Shannon Alder

A few weeks ago, I was sharing a bottle of Brandy and some cigars with two friends, when I said that I hoped that I would go first as I could not think of being alone in this life without Karen.  One of the other men astonished me when he said, “I want my wife to go first.”  I immediately assumed that he was being selfish but being curious I asked him why?  He explained very sincerely that his wife had been quite sick and that he had no one else to take care of her.  He did not want to leave her alone without his help.  I was moved by his charity and unselfishness which suddenly made my position seem quite the opposite.  Selfish!  Selfish!  Selfish!

Another joke I have often made was that I married a nurse so that she could take care of me when I was old and feeble.  I always thought this was funny.  In the last few years, I have had a different perspective.  My spouse (who really is a nurse) is getting older and frailer.  The wear and tear of aging is very visible in new creases, new lines, slower movements and lower energy levels.  The realization hit me like the proverbial brick a few years ago that I might be taking care of her rather than the other way around.

a course in dying without bird

I doubt that anyone who knows me would ever think of me as a “caregiver.”  But I have always been a pragmatist and so I have started taking some caregiver classes and classes on aging.   I have also taken one on the various aspects of Dementia and Alzheimers.  I will grow old along with my spouse and do what I can to take care of both of us.  I may not always believe that the “best is yet to be” but I will do my best to help make this possibility a reality.

assisted-dying

“To fear death, gentlemen, is no other than to think oneself wise when one is not, to think one knows what one does not know. No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils.”
― Socrates

I don’t want to glamorize getting old but neither do I want to disparage the possibilities that old age has for many of us.  I will never know the how, when or where of my dying, but I can live my life the best I can and each day try to be the best person, husband, friend, father and neighbor that I can be.  Each day life offers me more choices to grow old with dignity.  To face the difficulties of aging more boldly and maybe even heroically.  To paraphrase Martin Luther King, when I die:

  • Don’t tell them about my titles
  • Don’t tell them about my degrees
  • Don’t tell them about my jobs
  • Don’t tell them about the books I wrote or the places I have been
  • Tell them I wanted to be a good person and was honest enough to know that I usually fell short.

Time for Questions:

Do your ever think about dying?  What do you want to be remembered for? How would you like to die?  Do you think you will go fast or slow?

Life is just beginning.

“In the end, I won’t say that I have ‘NO REGRETS’ because that would be bullshit.  I have more regrets than I can count.” —  J. Persico

 

 

Sex, Saints and Sinners

AdamandEve1Six thousand years ago, a prudish God threw Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Evil for fornicating.  He foolishly put a nude man and a nude woman together with a few apple trees and told them that they could do anything but fuck each other.  Naturally, given human nature and the DNA that God so wantonly created, Adam and Eve got bored with paradise and a bit of horny in the bargain.  It did not help that Eve looked pretty hot with no clothes on and that Adam was very well endowed.

They ate from the “Tree of Knowledge” and not the “Tree of Life” which is kind of funny, since one would think they would need to have some skills in copulating and procreating and the “Tree of Life” would provide these abilities .  Nevertheless, the apple from the “Tree of Knowledge” seemed to have all the information required and before long Eve was pregnant and both Adam and Eve were escorted out of the Garden of Evil.  It is ironic that the fault was blamed on Eve for initiating things and ever since then men have been expected to take the lead in sex.  Nevertheless, it is still typical for men to blame women for all the problems in the world.  Remember the story of Pandora’s box?

free the nipplesSix thousand years later and God is still a prude.  You still can’t walk down the street nude.  Women can’t show their breasts in public and men cannot show their pubic areas.  You certainly can’t have sex in public.  Natural human activities include eating, sleeping, working and sex.  However sex is not really included when we talk about public or “au natural” activities.  You can spread a blanket out in any park and have a picnic. Try spreading a blanket out in a park and start fornicating and see how long it takes before you are arrested.  Cops still patrol “lonely hearts areas” looking to bust people doing “it” in the back seat of their car.

free loveFor six thousand years, people, governments and society had been hung up and intolerant towards sex.  It would be foolish to say that we have remained in the Dark Ages, Victorian Ages or Middle Ages in our attitudes towards sex.  We have simply remained with the attitudes that we got from God in the Garden of Evil way long before these time periods.  Then came the sixties and the “Free Love Movement!”  The “Free Love Movement was an effort to create a more open and tolerant attitude towards sex.  The result was labeled as promiscuity.  (Promiscuity means that you are having sex with someone but I am not.)  People picked up books on sex that were written by Wilhelm Reich, who became known as the prophet of Free Love.

“In his 1927 study The Function of the Orgasm, Reich concluded that “there is only one thing wrong with neurotic patients: the lack of full and repeated sexual satisfaction” (the italics are his).  Seeking to reconcile psychoanalysis and Marxism, he argued that repression – which Freud came to believe was an inherent part of the human condition – could be shed, leading to what his critics dismissed as a ‘genital utopia’” — “Wilhelm Reich: the Man who Invented Free Love” by Christopher Turner

womens liberationThe Sexual Revolution of the sixties as well as the Women’s Liberation Movement (perhaps its third reincarnation) led to some major changes in the way sexuality is now played out in society.  Women started wearing sexier clothes and the clothes have continued on a sexier and sexier spiral ever since.  While women are still fighting for the right to expose their breasts in public, sex out of wedlock has become common.  There is no longer any expectation that sex partners will be married or that sex will even lead to marriage.  Condoms are as ubiquitous as lollipops and are now distributed in schools.

friends with benefitsIn our 21st century hook-up culture, friends with “benefits” have become the norm.  Television, movies and commercials all portray scenes of sex that censors would have cut to pieces even twenty years ago.  The dividing line between pornography, erotica and sexy has become ever more blurry if it even exists at all.  We have not quite come to commercials showing two people openly having sex, but it certainly would not be a shock or surprise to anyone today.  Books and literature describe sex acts from sodomy to bondage that are simply taken for granted or read on the sly.  The censorship that accompanied “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” is a thing of ancient history.

“In 1930, Senator Bronson Cutting proposed an amendment to the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act, which was then being debated, ending the practice of having United States Customs censor allegedly obscene imported books.  Senator Reed Smoot vigorously opposed such an amendment, threatening to publicly read indecent passages of imported books in front of the Senate.  Although he never followed through, he included Lady Chatterley’s Lover as an example of an obscene book that must not reach domestic audiences, declaring “I’ve not taken ten minutes on Lady Chatterley’s Lover, outside of looking at its opening pages. It is most damnable! It is written by a man with a diseased mind and a soul so black that he would obscure even the darkness of hell!”   — Wikipedia

So sex crazed people are no longer sinners but they are still not saints.  Sex is still something that is hidden away and referred to by euphemisms.  “Friends with Benefits” mean that I am fucking my “friend”.  “Special friend” means we go to bed regularly and copulate.  “Significant Other” means that we are living together and screwing without being married.  The promise and allure of sex is used to sell everything under the sun from cars to perfume to camp stoves.

hooking upSex may be more open but it is still not considered as natural a function as sleeping or eating.  We still have parents who have a difficult time discussing sex with their children.  This is true even when their children are now adults.  We still use euphemisms like “doing the dirty” or “doing the nasty” to refer to an act of passion and sometimes even love.  We walk on tiptoes around young children as though they don’t watch TV or go to the movies.  When I was a young child, I was taught in school that masturbating would either make my cock fall off or grow hair on it.  Both seemed like undesirable outcomes when I was eight years old.

Priests, monks and prophets still believe that celibacy confers some type of special honor in heaven.  Even non-celibate pastors and ministers hardly ever bring up talks about sex in their weekly homilies.  Sex is something we still do not discuss in public.  It is reserved for back rooms and brothels, unless you are in Las Vegas where street vendors routinely pass out pictures of available women for a price:  “Real college students!”  “Actual pictures of the women you will get if you call this number!”  Elsewhere in the United States hooking up vegas girlswith a prostitute, street walker, call girl or “escort” may get you a jail sentence.  The female side of the equation is usually locked up until a fine is paid.  Many zealous police departments throughout the US occasionally decide that they can better stamp out sex by jailing the John and not the “sex worker.”  A former CEO of my spouse was arrested several years ago in such a sting when he decided to take a mid-morning break from his job with an “escort” he met on Craig’s list.  Both the police department and his company frowned on this.  He was arrested, released later in the day and fired from his million dollar a year CEO job before the sun set that evening.  The moral here is that you don’t do sex on the job or at least you don’t get caught.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a talk show and the interviewee was a journalist (Nancy Jo Sales) who had recently published a book titled:  “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers.”

“In her new book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, readers are afforded the opportunity to understand what is really going on in the lives of teenagers, especially our girls. ..This book stands apart from other books targeted at understanding the concerns and current plight of teenage girls… A must read for all parents.”Examiner

The dialogue was very interesting between the talk show host and Nancy.  Then, Nancy was asked if her 13 year old daughter had read the book and what she might have thought about it.  Nancy seemed shocked by the question and I was shocked by her reply.  It was something to the effect that her daughter was still too young to read the book.  I could not believe that this woman who was ostensibly studying the sex lives of teenagers could say such a thing.  Was she unfamiliar with the following statistics?

Among U.S. high school students surveyed in 2013

  • 47% had ever had sexual intercourse.
  • 34% had had sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months, and, of these
    • 41% did not use a condom the last time they had sex.
  • 15% had had sex with four or more people during their life.
  • Only 22% of sexually experienced students have ever been tested for HIV.*
  • Nearly 10,000 young people (aged 13-24) were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States in 2013.
  • Young gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) accounted for an estimated 19% (8,800) of all new HIV infections in the United States, and 72% of new HIV infections among youth in 2010.
  • Nearly half of the 20 million new STDs each year were among young people, between the ages of 15 to 24.
  • Approximately 273,000 babies were born to teen girls aged 15–19 years in 2013

These statistics are taken from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

We still have too many sinners out there and not enough saints.  We have created a culture where people spend a good portion of their lives surfing the Internet for sex, porn, hookups and other forms of what are called illicit sex.  The amount of money spent on Internet pornography is said to exceed all other forms of Internet revenue.  We label this the dark side of the web.  Anyone trolling for sex is considered a pervert.  (The real perverts are those that prey on little children and are truly sick individuals).   However, for many normal people seeking a sex life that is consensual with other adults of their ilk, we have created a culture where sex is in a Freudian sense sublimated.  Sex is considered anything but a natural activity.

Two shows that I like on Netflix are “Murder in Paradise” and “Numb3rs.”  In both shows, the heroes are on love with women they work with.  The shows constantly tease us with the potential relationship between the two erstwhile lovers.  However, nothing is consummated in episode after episode.   It can be argued that this is to keep us tuned in each week but the net effect is to portray people who do not seem to know how to establish a loving relationship with each other.  My wife watches Bones where this same scenario between the FBI agent and the Forensic Anthropologist went on for many years.

leo on loveNow love and sex are certainly not the same thing.  Sex is much easier to define, unless you are into politics in which case “sex” often becomes a very ambiguous affair.  For most of us though, it is rather clear when and if we have had sex.  Sex is a physical affair.  Love on the other hand is an emotional affair.  Philosophers, poets, prophets and authors throughout history have tried to define love and yet we still do not really know what it is.  We use the term in very strange ways.  “I love you” we say to friends, relatives, spouses and even strangers.  I love my cat.  I love my house.  I love my new steak knife set.  Father Stochel at the Demontreville Retreat Center used to make fun of a class taught by Professor Leo Buscaglia with the words “luv, luv, luv, everywhere you look everyone is in luv.”  Buscaglia created a popular course at the University of Southern California during the eighties and became known as “Dr. Love.”

love_versus_lustThe question that haunts many of us is where does sex leave off and love begin or sometimes vice versa?  Where does love leave off and sex begin?  I have little doubt that if “love makes the world go round and money greases the wheel” it will be many decades and generations before love really becomes free.  It is just too valuable an enterprise to allow it to become as common as picnics in the park.  Sexy people will continue to be thought of as sinners and virgins will continue to be our erstwhile saints.  Men and women will both continue to be torn between the saint and the sinner.  Women will continue their love affairs with the “bad” guys and men will continue their love affairs with the “evil” women.  Society will continue its schizophrenic relationship with sex where on the one hand we all want as much of it as we can get and on the other hand, we don’t want to be labeled as sinners.  There are few saints associated with an excess of sexual activity either in God’s Garden of Evil or the 21st Century.

PS: 

There are some readers who might wonder or even think that I made a typographical error in my naming of the Garden of Evil.  However, it is a little known fact that up until the Council of Vogogna in 634 AD, what is commonly referred to now as the Garden of Eden was first called the Garden of Evil.  This was the first name for the garden because this is where the “evil” deed of copulation was done by the first man and woman in the world to break God’s law regarding fornication.  The Catholic Church despite wanting to stamp out the growing tide of wanton sex that had taken place ever since Adam and Eve did it, also wanted to soften its stance a bit regarding the name of the earliest habitat of humanity.  Thus, at the Council of Vogogna, 200 or so Cardinals headed by Pope Honorius I decided on a name change.  The Garden of Evil would now be called the Garden of Eden and all records of the former name were to be expunged from Bibles and holy books.  Of course, prohibitions against fornicating would continue on as before.  Priests were always encouraged to remain celibate although this injunction did not apply to Bishops, Cardinals or Popes.  (See the following for a list of sexually active Popes.)  The list is even longer if you look at those who were sexually active as priests before they became Popes.

Sexually Active Popes:

Pope Sergius III (904–911) was supposedly the father of Pope John XI by Marozia (Source: Liber Pontificalis, Liutprand of Cremona).

Pope John XII (955–963) (deposed by Conclave) was said to have turned the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano into a brothel and was accused of adultery, fornication, and incest (Source: Patrologia Latina).

Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, again in 1045 and finally 1047–1048) was said to have conducted very dissolute life during his papacy.

Pope Clement VI (1342–1352) according to contemporary writer Petrarch held dissolute life both before and after his election to the papacy. Countness of Turenne was ostensibly his main mistress.

Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503) had a notably long affair with Vannozza dei Cattanei before his papacy, by whom he had his famous illegitimate children Cesare and Lucrezia. A later mistress, Giulia Farnese, was the sister of Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III. For rumors of Alexander’s sexual activity see Banquet of Chestnuts. He fathered a total of seven children.

Pope Julius III (1550–1555) was accused of having homosexual relations with his adoptive nephew Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte whom he made a cardinal shortly after his election to the papacy. Some others claimed also that he was his father. None of this allegations, however, have been confirmed with certainity.

Source(s):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sex…

Time for Questions:

What role does sex play in your life?  Are you a sexy person?  Have you taught your children about the role that sex plays in a person’s life?  Is sex a good part of your life?  Why or why not?  What do you think we need to do to create a healthier attitude towards sex in life?

Life is just beginning.

“Sex and beauty are inseparable, like life and consciousness. And the intelligence which goes with sex and beauty, and arises out of sex and beauty, is intuition.”  — D. H. Lawrence

 

 

Thinking about Immigration – Part 1: We Need a Fair Immigration Policy – Not an Anti-Immigration Policy!

Immigration-logoThe topic of immigration today is one of the most important subjects for all Americans.  Studies in productivity show that increases in productivity are due to two major factors:  Education and Immigration.  Once upon a time we had a system for both of these objectives which helped make our country great.  Today, both of these systems are broke and need reform.  If we are to compete in a global economy, we must have a 21st Century immigration policy that meets the needs of employers and those immigrants that want to or need to come to the USA.  I had already decided to write about this subject when I found myself between the proverbial rock and a hard place.   Immigration has become a key weapon in the mouths of people like Trump and many other politicians.  A climate of fear which has pervaded this country since 911 has been spread to link the problems of terrorism with the problems of immigration. The Anti-Immigration people want you to think that immigration and terrorism are synonymous.  They want you to believe that only by keeping all immigrants out of the USA can we keep our country safe.  The key question I want to answer in my three part blog is as follows:  Do too many immigrants erode our standard of living and contribute to rising crime and increased taxes or do too few immigrants create a lack of needed employees for new jobs and a a lack of vitality for the economy?  

immigrants taking the pledgeI have heard so many arguments one way or the other about the subject that I decided to educate myself about the issues and try to find some “truth” for myself.  My self-education began with a trip to the library where I requested about a dozen books on immigration.  They all came in from different libraries about a week later.  I had finished about nine of them when the urge to summarize my ideas and weigh in with my opinions just gripped me.  This subject is fairly complex as it must cover social, political, economic and legal issues.  I would like to do some justice to the subject, so my blog on this issue soon became three blogs.  Too much for one too read in one setting so I will publish this in 3 Parts.  Please feel free to weigh in on the comments section with your opinions, thoughts and feelings. 

Many people have said that this issue should be decided on the basis of facts and not prejudices and antipathies however that would be like asking for the snow to fall when it was warm outside or for hell to be a nice place to visit.  It is not going to happen.  So realistically, I would like to look at this issue from both a logical factual perspective and also from an illogical or emotional perspective.  Often our gut feelings may be trying to tell us some important truths.  It does not hurt to listen to our feelings as long as we moderate our feelings with our brains.  

Immigration-reform-rally-APMost of the books I selected looked at immigration from a wide range of perspectives.  There were pros and cons of immigration policy, some that were totally against immigration and others that were for a liberal immigration policy.  Several books dealt with the history of US immigration and others dealt with more of the legislative issues around immigration.  Books such as: Immigration Policy: Point/Counterpoint by Allport and Ferguson, Illegal Immigration by Miller, Mexican Immigration by Stuart Anderson and Immigration: Opposing Viewpoints, edited by Leone were among a few of the titles I selected to provide me with a wide range of viewpoints.  I started out with the intention to reject any bias I had one way or the other on the issue.  One of my caveats though was to try to separate fact from emotion.   I think perhaps one danger to seeing any “truths” is when facts try to hide as emotions or emotions try to hide as facts.  Much so called data that I read would not stand up to any statistical validity in terms of evidence or proof.  Much of the emotions out there also try to hide behind facts and present themselves as logical arguments when they are based on bias and prejudice.  My object in my reading and research was to sort through the rhetoric, and vitriol to see what we as American citizens really need to do about immigration.  What is in our best interests both short-term and long-term?  What obligations (if any) do we owe to other peoples of the world?  Do we need to worry about the quote inside the Statue of Liberty?

The New Collossus:  

stature of libertyNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 —Emma Lazarus, 1883

 Perhaps we need to erase this quote inside the statue and substitute it with the following:

 The Scum of the Earth:

Stay home; you wretched curs,

We are sick and tired of being the dumping grounds for the world.

We have enough poor and tired masses.

We have enough yearning to be rich and well off.

old picture of immigrationStay home; we have enough problems of our own,

We already have too many here who can’t speak English.

Even many Americans can’t speak good English.

Where will we find enough ESL teachers?

Stay home; find work or jobs in your own land,

Give us a break, taxes are high enough here already.

We have our own culture, you would not fit in.

We don’t need more criminals and illiterates.

 Stay home; don’t come unless you are needed,

We will post for those aliens that fit our job requirements.

We only want those who are educated and creative.

The rest of you need not apply. 

Stay home!

The two sides as represented in both poems would seem to be galaxies apart.  Is there really any middle ground?  Are there any solutions to the issue of immigration?  Some of the key questions which I have found and which need to be answered are:

 ·        Do we already have too many immigrants here?

·         What do we do about illegal immigrants?  How do we keep them out?

·         How many immigrants should we allow in?

·         Who should we allow in?

·         What do we do with the ones (both legal and illegal) already here?

·         Will too much immigration ruin our culture and values?

·         Will the wrong type of immigrants be bad for our country?

·         How long will it take for them to be assimilated?

·         How much immigration can our education institutions handle?

·         How can we afford health care and social services for those in need?

·         How do we keep out criminals and terrorists while letting respectable immigrants in?

·         Should we give amnesty to those already here?

·         What are the best ways to control our borders?

·         What is a fair immigration policy?

·         What role do drugs have in encouraging illegal immigration?

Are there solutions to these questions?  On the positive side, I believe that there are.  I believe history can show us a path through the web of confusion that seems to surround these questions.  The great philosopher Santayana noted:  “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”  The past has many lessons on the issue of immigration that we need to pay attention to.  On the negative side, we will not be able to solve these questions as long as we are basing our decisions on emotions masquerading as facts.  We need to sort out prejudice, discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia from the questions and decisions surrounding the issue of immigration.

immigration-reformOver the next three blogs, I would like to share with you some of the answers I have found to the above questions.  However, do not rely on my perspective alone.  Do not trust the Buddha on the road.  Go to your local library and find some of the same books I have found.  Read the opinions and viewpoints for and against immigration.  Democracy only works with an informed citizenry. As long as only our politicians have the “facts”,  the rest of us will remain gullible and stupid on this issue. As such, we have no way to guard the guardians.  We all must be vigilant when it comes to decisions affecting our lives and the very foundation of our nation.  None of us would be here if it were not for immigration.  I presume this even applies to Native Americans to some degree.

Let’s all take our responsibility to keep this nation strong and democratic. Take some time today to inform yourself about some of the issues I noted above.  Go online and read some of the history or policies of immigration in this country in the past.

Time for Questions:

How much do you care about this issue?  Do you care enough to spend perhaps an hour each week for the next four weeks becoming more informed about this issue?  If not, are you willing to trust your political representative to make the decision for you?  Are you willing to let these questions be decided by others?  Are you an immigrant?  How did your family or ancestors get to this country?

Life is just beginning. 

First Past Presidents Forum: Part 2

Welcome back to the First Past Presidents Forum on the State American Politics. 

Since the panelists have already been introduced, we will get right into the questions.

It you missed the opening session, I think you would be well advised to review the discussion at:  http://www.timeparables.blogspot.com/2012/05/first-past-presidents-forum-on-american.html

 John P.“Good Morning, President Washington, President Lincoln, President Jefferson and President Adams.  I hope you are all well rested after your (longer than planned) break.  I understand you used the weekend to visit some of your old stomping grounds and to take a look at some of the developments that have occurred in this country since you last trod its earth”

John P.“I would like to start the first question off with President Washington.  My first question seems particularly apropos since you turned down the chance to be President for life and even a third term. What is your opinion of “term limits” and what would you suggest we do today in respect to such an idea?”

President Washington:  “I think elections have become an absurdity in your country today. It is more about being reelected than doing the right thing. Your politicians have made a career out of being re-elected and you have created marketing firms, public relations firms and a myriad of sycophants and boot-lickers who exist solely for the purpose of helping your candidates get re-elected for life.  I was very much against this idea for office and I felt that no man no matter how great, or woman by the way, should be elected for more than two terms for any office in the nation.”

John P.:  “President Adams, I understand you had some views about this as well?”

President Adams:  “I have repeatedly said that I was in favor of term limits. I will repeat my advice again as no time in American history do I think you have more need of this advice than now.  I am for making of terms annual, and for sending an entire new set of politicians to congress every year or at least every term.”

President Jefferson:  “And I have said, perhaps more eloquently than John that:   ‘My reason for fixing them in office for a term of years, rather than for life, was that they might have an idea that they were at a certain period to return into the mass of the people and become the governed instead of the governors which might still keep alive that regard to the public good that otherwise they might perhaps be induced by their independence to forget.’  I think two terms is enough for anyone who is elected to any office in the country.”

John P.:  “Let us move on to the next question.  This question has to do with bi-partisanship and working together across party lines. There are many who think that we have never been more polarized than ever before and that it has become impossible for Democrats and Republicans to work together or to compromise. President Lincoln, can I start with you on this subject?  What is your opinion about partisanship and what do we need to do?”

President Lincoln:  “Thank you John.  I have very strong feelings about this issue.  You may think you have polarization today but you forget that I presided over a country and congress that went to war with each other. In point of fact, the war was as much between parties as it was between states.  I tried to tell the people that ‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.’  It turned out to be a fruitless plea as you know. However, that does not dismiss the necessity of compromise and collaboration for the public good.”

President Jefferson:  “I think an evil that you have instituted today lies in the taking of oaths to support certain positions. Any requiring of any person to take an oath other than an oath of office is an abomination. To take an oath to support an amendment, regardless of the nature of the amendment fixes forever the opinion and position of the oath taker and prevents them from compromise or seeing other possibilities.”

President Adams:  “I warned this country that there is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.  Many have said since then that I am wrong. If so, it has only been because of great leadership which has managed to reconcile the differences between the two parties and find that middle ground which follows the truth more closely.”

President Washington:  “I strongly concurred with Mr. Adams on this issue and said the following at my commencement speech.”  ‘There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose.’

John P.“I have one more question for the panel today before we open it up to the audience.  All of you have endorsed the importance of knowledge and education for a free society.  What do you think of the state of education in America today and what would you recommend we do about improving it?”

President Jefferson:  “I do not see that your education system today is fostering the open minded ability to critique and question the important issues that you must address. I have said that ‘The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.’  However, your politicians seem bent on politicizing issues of marriage, race, religion and many other private matters that are not the province of government.”

President Adams:  “I believe: ‘There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.’  Your education system today has seemed to forgotten this important point.  One can be smart and intelligent but that is only one kind of knowledge.  The role of education and the role of a school are not the same thing.  When I was president there was a great deal more illiteracy and ignorance than there is today. However, your education system has not evolved with the times.  It now seems unable to either show people how to make a living or how to live.  I would suggest you revisit Socrates and Plato and ask how they would teach today.”

President Lincoln:  “My views on this subject are well known:  ‘Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.’

It is evident that this esteemed objective has now become the general good to which your entire populace aspires to but nevertheless, it has lost some vitality that was essential to the original mission and purpose of education.  Thomas mentioned that you are not creating “critical thinkers” and John Adams mentioned that your present system seems to ignore helping people to make a life.  I think it is important to realize that all systems must change, evolve and adapt to the new times and circumstances they find themselves in.  It was the changes in the world that really brought about the end of slavery as an institution.

The War Between the States was just the final gasp of an evil institution that had outlived any purpose, if any good purpose ever indeed existed for it. Your school system today has outlived its original purpose, at least in its original form and needs to evolve. Education remains essential for any democratic government, but schools are not necessarily where education must take place. And if you want to keep a democratic government, education must be as accessible for the poor as for the rich.”

John P.:  Thank you all for your great insights and comments. I now want to invite the audience again to post questions or comments or send them to me via text at 612-310-3803. 

Time for Questions:

How would you address these questions? What are your opinions on the State of American Politics?  What would you change if you had a magic wand and could simply wave it and change our political system?

Life is just beginning.

“The grandest work that a mortal can accomplish is to get people talking, and thereby stir people up to do something.”  —  Susan B. Anthony 

 

The First Past Presidents Forum on American Politics: Part 1

I summon them!  I summon them! I summon them! 
Let it be the quick or the dead.
So long as they are American Presidents, born and bred.
I summon them!  I summon them!                                                                                                               
You are called to the first ever Past Presidents Forum on the State of American Politics.                                                                                                                                                        

I have repeatedly cited the famous quote by Santayana that “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”  What better way to discuss current events than by calling upon these esteemed and worthy (Dare I Say) experts from the past.  What better way to review the State of American Politics than through the eyes of our past presidents and leaders.  Would there be any who would say that Adams or Jefferson despite their somewhat opposing viewpoints would not be able to sit down together to discuss politics and perhaps even reach a compromise?  Note the comments of Jefferson in a letter to a friend and then ask yourself whether this seems to be characteristic of today’s politicians:

“Differing on a particular question from those whom I knew to be of the same political principles with myself, and with whom I generally thought and acted, a consciousness of the fallibility of the human mind and of my own in particular, with a respect for the accumulated judgment of my friends, has induced me to suspect erroneous impressions in myself, to suppose my own opinion wrong, and to act with them on theirs.

The want of this spirit of compromise, or of self-distrust, proudly but falsely called independence, is what gives [some opponents] victories which they could never obtain if these brethren could learn to respect the opinions of their friends more than of their enemies, and prevents many able and honest men from doing all the good they otherwise might do. These considerations… have often quieted my own conscience in voting and acting on the judgment of others against my own… All honest and prudent men [should] sacrifice a little of self-confidence, and… go with their friends, although they may sometimes think they are going wrong.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:50

 

John Persico:  Moderator for this discussion.  Blogger, writer, teacher and consultant.  It is my privilege to host this panel discussion on the following topic and issue:

What do you think of the state of American Government today?  

Panel Members are:  George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

John Persico:  I would like to introduce each of our panelists though I am sure most of you are very familiar with their backgrounds.

George Washington:  The first President of the United States of America.  You turned down the chance to become president for life or a monarch of the newly emerging federation of colonies.  You abhorred party politics and saw politics as an evil to be avoided.  You freed your slaves when you died and made no money from your role of president of the USA.  Many consider you as the greatest of American Presidents for your leadership, courage and compassion.  Your position on government can be characterized by the following quotes:

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is a force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
 
“The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”
 
John Adams:  The second President of the United States of America.  You were highly educated and you represented enlightenment values promoting freedom and democracy. You advocated for a strong centralized government that would help to create uniform trade and culture between the 13 colonies.  Your position became known as Federalism.  You were a strong advocate for eliminating slavery in the new Republic.  Despite your many contributions to the new government of the United States you were defeated by your major adversary and also best friend Thomas Jefferson.  Your position on Government was summarized very succinctly in your book:

Thoughts on Government:                                                                                                                            
“There is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; because the very definition of a republic is an empire of laws, and not of men.”
 
Thomas Jefferson:  The third President of the United States of America.  You are famous for being the principle author of the Declaration in Independence.  You served two terms as president after defeating your best friend John Adams for the presidency. You organized the Democratic-Republican Party to help get you elected.  You tended towards states’ rights and were afraid of the Federalists since they advocated a strong centralized government which would take supremacy over the individual colonies.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
You were a strong advocate for freeing all the slaves but you nevertheless neglected to do so in your own estate.  It was also claimed that you fathered several children with one of your own slaves named Sally Hemings.  You were considered one of the leading and most influential intellectuals (along with John Adams) of your times.  You have made the following statements which somewhat reflect your thoughts on government:
 
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
 
“The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.”
 
“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”
 
Abraham Lincoln:  The sixteenth President of the United States of America.  You have been named (along with George Washington) as one of the two greatest Presidents in American history.  You ran for the presidency as a Republican. You were elected during one of the most turbulent times in American history as the conflict over slavery and states’ rights reached a boiling point. Your election led to a Civil War between the states over these issues.                                                                                                                                      
Your strong leadership and bold actions led to a reunion of the country and the abolishment of slavery as a legal institution.  Many of your critics say you cared more about keeping the country together than you did freeing the slaves.  Your presidency was characterized by many actions that gave the Federal government considerable power over the states and military.  Some who say you as a new Caesar assassinated you on April 15, 1865 as you began your second term in office. You have held the following beliefs about the role of government during your life:
 
“It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service.”
 
“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves – in their separate, and individual capacities.”                                                                                   

Due to the lengthy nature of their travels, we will reconvene and begin our discussion after the panelists (fresh from trips of over 200 years for some) have had a chance for some rest and sustenance.

Time for Questions:

In keeping with our modern technology, I would invite any of you who have questions for the panelists to either put them in the comments section today, send them to me by email or text message me at 612-310-3803.  Tom and John were particularly curious about our new technology and would love to see it in action.

Life is just beginning.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”   —  Issac Asimov

Where Can You Find Beauty?

Of course the answer to this question is that beauty is all around us.  However, some things seem more beautiful than others and they are either worth being noted or worth being found.  (And yes, I realize Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that is a cliché.  Some things are indeed universally beautiful.)  If noted, they are somehow singled out for special attention.  They may become landmarks or tourist attractions like: Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon or Carlsbad Caverns.  If you have ever visited any of these places, you know that you can stare and stare and stare at them for days.  You want to somehow drink or absorb their beauty.  You can walk around them and from different vantage points they provide a different panorama of beauty.  I am sure you can add many places or items to the list that I call “Noted” beauty.  By the way, “noted” beauty may include people, place, things or even ideas.  Someone noted that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was beautiful in its simplicity.  Matthew R. Crawford in his blog “Albert Einstein on Beauty, Science and God” believes that:

“what drove Einstein to his scientific conclusions was a conviction that nature displayed a beauty that was discernible, and that a characteristic feature of this beauty was simplicity.”

There are many lists of “beautiful men and women.  Every few years, the list of notable women beauties includes such familiar celebrities as:  Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Seyfried and Halle Berry.  These are just a few of the many notable beauties who get nominated each year for the “most beautiful woman in the world list.”  I keep waiting to get nominated for most beautiful man in the world but alas to date, my name has not appeared on any lists.  They keep picking guys that would be low on my list like:  Matthew McConaughey, Brad Kroenig and Josh Harnett.  So there is no accounting for taste which is why some people say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”   However, I have already stated that this is a lie.  Some beauty is universal.  The beauty of a rose or a humming bird or a newborn baby can be put on a list of things that are universally admired.

Then there are the items that I will put in the “unnoted” beauty list.  Unnoted beauty is beauty that surrounds us or that is often hidden to our eyes either because we take it for granted or because for some reason it has not become popular.  Many “beautiful” items become fashionable and then are assumed to be beautiful.  The “notable” beauty list is full of such items.  These items have the weight of public opinion on their side.  For instance, the Mona Lisa is considered to be one of the most beautiful pictures in the world and no trip to Paris is said to be complete without a visit to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa.  Right?  Well, sorry but I don’t agree.  Not only would I say it was not worth the effort, (Go to the Louvre anyway, you will not be disappointed) but I did not think it was such a great picture and NO, the eyes did not follow me.  I am not sure where that bit about the eyes comes from but I think many viewers must have been sucked up into a form of mass hysteria if they really believe the eyes followed them anywhere.

“Unnoted” beauty surrounds us as well and unlike notable beauty, unnoted beauty is most often free.  You have only to open your eyes and you can find unnoted in everything that encompasses you. Sometimes unnoted beauty is found in the least likely places.  On our trip back to Wisconsin from Arizona, Karen and I stopped for two days in Bisbee, Arizona to see some sights.  We went to the art shops, clothes shops, and antique stores and spend a day in Tombstone watching reenactments of the “Old West.”  One night we went out for a walk (We stayed at the Bisbee Grand Hotel which I highly recommend).  Prices, food, service, rooms were all incredible.  For $65 dollars a night we had a wonderful room and a great hot full breakfast each morning.  The view from the balcony which we ate out on was spectacular and in the saloon next door on a Tuesday night we were able to hear a great live Klezmer band called the The Underscore Orkestra which played for three hours a variety of jazz, Balkan and swing music.  They were staying in our hotel and traveling around the world performing.  You can find their schedule at their website.  If you enjoy some eclectic music you will really enjoy the Underscore Orkestra.  If you see them say hi to Jorge and Joshua and Willo for me.  They were fun to listen to and talk to as well.

To return to our walk, we decided to journey up hill, Bisbee seems to have two parts, uphill and downhill.  We had already toured downhill so we decided to visit uphill.  As we walked by a number of shops we came to an area where there was a large town hall and some municipal buildings.  Right behind the buildings was a large church.   We always enjoy looking in churches to see how they are decorated.  Most churches would not be on any list of notable beauty but you can often find some very beautiful artifacts in them that are not on any tourist list or brochure.  Unfortunately, today most churches now are locked except during service hours.  Since it was nearly 7 PM, we did not expect the church to be open.

stpat6Remaining an optimist, I walked up the steps to the church and pulled on the door.  Sadly, it was locked. As I started to walk down the steps, I heard a voice call out “Would you like to go inside.”

I saw a young man in a pickup truck starting to climb out and approach me.  I did not want to importune him but since he offered, I said “sure, thanks,” He told us his name was Jesus and then opened the doors and turned the lights on for Karen and I.  When he did, we were astonished.  As the Millennium generation like to say, it was awesome.  Before us, were the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen in my life!   I don’t want to brag, but I have been in many churches and cathedrals including the Vatican, Notre Dame and St. Patrick’s in New York.  Never in any place in my entire life, have I seen a more beautiful set of stained glass windows.  There were two large ones at the front and two at the back of the church, a ceiling window and stained glass windows along each side of the church.  Karen and I just looked and looked. We did not have our camera.  Finally, while we did not want to leave, we decided we should probably let Jesus go home.  I had introduced myself to the man that let us in and he told us a little about the church and we exchanged names and thanked him profusely for letting us in.

On this special evening in Bisbee, Arizona “unnoted beauty” was displayed before us in two ways.  The first is obvious. We saw some beautiful art that was not on any tourist list I have yet seen.  I should mention, we went back the next day and the church was open so we went in again and this time we took some pictures.  I was also so impressed that on the morning we left, I rose early and went to a 7:30 AM mass they held at the church.   Jesus was there as were about 7 or 8 other parishioners.  I found out that the name of the church was St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church.  A subsequent web search revealed the following facts about the church.  I should note that none of these facts were evident at the church or in any local tourist literature that I saw while in Bisbee.  Hence, I still proclaim this to be an “unnoted” treasure and beauty.

Perched 200 feet above the floor of Tombstone Canyon in historic Bisbee, Arizona, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church stands as a monument to the exuberant determination of the town’s early residents to transform a primitive mining camp into one of the largest commercial centers in early Arizona.

bisbee

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Gothic Revival church is a copy of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the Irish district of Whitehaven, England.

St. Patrick’s 41 stained glass windows were designed and produced by Emil Frei, whose work is recognized as an unsurpassed example of Victorian-style stained glass.

The Bavarian-born Frei (1869-1942) studied at the Munich Academy of Art before immigrating to the United States in the late 1800s. In 1900 he opened the Emil Frei Art Glass Company in St. Louis, Missouri.

Now for the second example of beauty that day, it is not as obvious as the windows but it is even more beautiful than the wonders of the church.  Think about this for a minute.  It is 7 PM at night, you have been doing construction work all day and it is time to return home to your family and a hot meal.  Just as you are getting ready to start your car and head home, two yahoo tourists walk up to your church and appear to be trying to gain entry.  You are not a tour guide or the pastor and you do not earn one cent by abandoning your original plans to go home and letting them in.  Furthermore, you have no idea how long they will remain or whether or not other tourists will suddenly emerge who want to come in.  What would the average store clerk do? What would the average store owner do? And bear in mind, store clerks are potentially making some money off of visitors.

Jesus had nothing to gain and yet he took the time to let us in, talk to us and tell us some brief facts about the church.  So what was this “unnoted” beauty of which I speak?  I am talking about “beauty of the spirit” and that night in Bisbee, Jesus showed us what a beautiful spirit really was and how it gave to others with no thought of reward or privilege gained.   Jesus was not the parish priest and he had no responsibility at all in the area of perhaps talking to potential parishioners.  What Jesus did was done simply out of the beauty of the man’s heart.

“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.”  – Albert Einstein.

“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a laborer’s hand.” – Kahil Gibran

Time for Questions:

Do you look for beauty in unexpected places?  Do you find that beauty can lie in ideas and spirit and not just in things and glamour?  Do you raise your children to see the beauty of life and not just accomplishments or rewards?  How do you find beauty?  Do you have enough beauty in your life?  Can you still find beauty despite growing old and more infirm?  Can you help others by sharing your beauty with them?

Life is just beginning.

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” — Ashley Smith

 

Now that the Indians Gone – You Don’t Have to Feel Guilty Anymore.   

Please, it is my birthday today, so read my favorite and most self-deprecating blog. Mea Culpa should be its real title. Let me know what you think.

Aging Capriciously

(Please listen to Buffy Sainte-Marie’sNow that the Buffaloes Gone”)

war protests1964.  A time of increased social consciousness:  Civil Rights marches.  Women’s Rights marches.  Free Speech marches.  Protests in the grape fields.  The Indian Movement.  The Free Love Movement.  The Whole Earth Movement.  Anti-war marches.  Lots of social commentary and inspiring folk songs written during this period by musicians such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Buffy St. Marie, Sixto Rodriguez, Richie Havens, Leonard Cohen, Country Joe McDonald, Peter, Paul and Mary, not to mention hundreds of others.   (Many others came before these, like Paul Robeson and Woody Guthrie.)

Can you remember the times
That you have held your head high
And told all your friends of your Indian claim
Proud good lady and proud good man
Your great great grandfather from Indian blood came
And you feel in your heart for these ones

hippies1The Baby Boomers (I…

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