Watching the decline...

Archives: American Extremism

Existential Angst: The American Disease

There is a lot to unpack here and this is just one woman’s experience but I thought it was interesting. The part about crime struck me as well as the strangeness of returning to America. I wish I’d been able to travel abroad when I was younger but at least I can explore other’s perspectives of living outside the US.

 

 

 

Violent Crime: The US and Abroad

https://www.vox.com/2015/8/27/9217163/america-guns-europe

 

But Unfortunately He Is, and By Your Silence You Are….

“Based on recent behavior and previous statements, the North Carolina Republican Party is unable and unwilling to support the Republican nominated candidate for North Carolina House District 48″ – GOP chairman Robin Hayes .

The Republican party has been putting up with the precursor to this for YEARS therefore encouraging and supporting it. Chickens….meet roost.

A Message

Alien abduction stories have diminished in the last few years…

I wonder why.

We don’t give a fuck about each other anymore.

We don’t give a fuck that we are demonizing kids, both our own and those just yearning to breathe free.  We’ve created a MS13 factory by separating kids from parents in the vain effort to use them as playing cards in our xenophobic deck.
We’ve hardened our hearts to each other in our webspheres and countless subreddits.
We’ve said the we want to protect life, but only if its politically expedient.
We turn our backs on each other because of our races, languages and the places we live. If we knew, truly, where we’ve been, the politicized history of denial of entry to those we feel are degenerate or lesser. From the Irish, to the Jew, to the Arab and the Mexican, someone always has to be less than us. And don’t even start me on “forced immigration.”
If there really is intelligent life out there and somehow they have condescended to look at us as microbes in a petri dish, they are surely appalled at our lack of care for each other and the big brownish ball we live on. We’d better be happy they can’t see us or haven’t yet found us or we’d surely be wiped off the face of the universe with extraterrestrial Lysol. Good news is that we probably won’t feel a thing.

We’ve become the absolute worst measure of humanity, our better angels have been slain by the devils we’ve nurtured through ignorance and greed.

If we continue down this path, we deserve whatever we get.

I’ve seen this coming, its only going to get worse.

The Dream

On this 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King I’d like to say a few things.

We are, despite our division, in a much better place then we were in 1968.

Despite that we still have a long way to go.

For anyone who wonders if the words and actions of the civil rights movement still have relevance, remember that within most living people’s lifetime there were laws that restricted citizen’s rights to marry, travel and raise children.

That… economic strength, passed on through the generations, was not as strong for women and communities of color, if you were a woman of color things were at least twice as hard.

That… the modern middle class was built on the strength of a massive war effort and the financial benefits that came with it, and that African-Americans were largely exempted from those benefits. These foundations were even further distant when considering that discriminatory hiring, firing and salaries were common and when African-Americans tried to band together to demand better conditions violence always ensued.

The current conditions, economic disparities supported by racist assumptions that are now being used to prove those very assumptions, have been with us a very long time. If the country is over 200 years old and Civil Rights have been in place by law for 50 of those years, even assuming everyone instantly got the rights they deserved, which they didn’t, we have been a bigoted country supported by racist institutions for 3/4 of our existence.

Making it personal, If you have made any “mistakes” in your 20’s are 50 and are still paying for them you are, those mistakes put you about where we are as a country now, older and not really all that much wiser.

Post-racialism is a myth concocted by people who hope we get too lazy to do the math or too distracted to not look at the calendar. If we do nothing else lets not forget that we are only a short few steps into this new paradigm and it isn’t too early to lose it all.

RIP MLK 4/4/1968

 

FAKE NEWS!!!!

Sometimes its hard to tell what our president is thinking. Sometimes I think he’s not thinking at all but reacting.

Yeah, I know, its been said before.

That’s why I haven’t been commenting much on Trump lately. There are far more people (both more qualified and less than I) making statements about and trying to guess what the president is thinking, probably more than at any other time since he’s been a public figure.

Just since November of 2016, the conversation has shifted from trying to do the math as to how he won in the first place to what he’ll do to where he was coming from to is he mentally fit to hold office. So many of these questions have obvious answers. He won by appealing to the baser instincts of a group of Americans who not only feel left behind but even if they voted for him, as many did, were swayed by the constant barrage of dog whistle idiocy that was the media during the Obama administration. They feel left behind by a country that always told them they were golden, chosen people, so when that promise was uncovered as a lie they rebelled. As with most popular rebellions, the scapegoat firewall lay between them and the people who truly fucked them over.

Never before in my lifetime have I seen the Country in such a state of reactionary fervor. If I’ve learned anything it is that you should never think things can’t get any worse, or any weirder. Sometimes being prepared for the worst is the best you can hope for. Not that you should abandon all hope or lose all sense of optimism, but keeping those things in the vacuum of the naive belief that “people are generally good” is downright suicidal.

I often try to look at recent history and try to draw a flowchart in my head to link all the things I’ve seen since the end of the Vietnam era ( I was born the year the conflict reached its Apex of 500,000 US troops) and remember middle-class. I mostly remember the palpable sense of dread that came with slowly admitting defeat in an unwinnable battle. I was born the year of nationwide unrest over the treatment of African-Americans (we were called negro, Colored or just Nigger at the time, in equal measure) and the year before the death of Martin Luther King.

I remember watching as the post-civil rights era played out, how legal segregation turned into redlining and blockbusting and I remember how the wash of irony felt as I sat in a real estate class 40 years later and heard my teacher discuss the practices as if they were ancient history (they weren’t, and aren’t). A few years before that I watched my Mom “steered” into a property in a mostly black part of town and in a double whammy also watched her sold a subprime mortgage with a huge balloon payment that would have kept her in permanent share-cropper status for the rest of her life. I watched as friends who had genius level IQ’s , but had little or no support at home, were shuffled into “alternative education” and taken out of the system of merit they would have all but taken over.

I watched the systematic dismantling of families, the ignorance of the problems faced by people who were just out of reach of the middle-class dream, not quite poverty-stricken, but barely able to make the rent, the car payment, and the heat, and often one or more of the above would suffer. (oh and food, let us not forget food)

I also remember being terror-stricken by television, the resurgence and resurgence, and further resurgences of “hate groups,” militias and various other largely white organizations whose members instinctively knew that their days as the majority were numbered. Who ignored the unequal application of benefits to them and cherry-picked statistics to bolster their own “superiority” (there is nothing funnier and scarier than listening to someone uneducated and unwilling to be, call me a monkey) even when they had an 8th-grade education and hardly a tooth to speak of.

I saw the 50-year slide into identity politics. WHITE identity politics. And now I shake my head when I hear someone like Richard Spenser, Alex Jones or any of their loosely affiliated internet sleeper cell operatives promote the narrative that Blacks, “the Left” and the “the gays” are the ones who started this whore identity politics shit. As a writer, I look out into the world, and it makes no narrative sense, as a truth-teller the story is flawed in a way that disqualifies it even as magical realism. There is nothing real about it.

As I look over all the historical links in my lifetime, I see definite patterns. Some overlap and others diverge, but a few, though taking up different sections of the page, clearly resemble each other.

Taking the experiences of poor White Americans and Poor Black Americans in snapshots of events, drug addiction, poverty, enslavement (Blacks by government mandate through slavery and its aftermath and whites by government mandate through union busting and land grants to wealthy corporations) they trace similar paths.  The positive elements also converge, reverence for the elderly, a sense of community, developments in art and culture, resistance to undue authority…

But somehow, some way, the two rarely meet.

They don’t meet because one group, although downtrodden, believed that they were better by virtue of “whiteness”. That belief carried down through the years and was the current on the river to Trumpville.

This is not fake news.

Thinking for a second about some of the self-described leaders of these folks and their motivations there has to be something other than the endgame that gets them off. Even if they could eliminate or disassociate themselves from the rest of us there are still going to be sociopathic tendencies, violent individuals, and disagreements within their midsts.

I often wonder how an ethnostate of any sort would look. Having no skin in the game and no need to wish for such a thing I think I’m a bit freer than most to imagine a more realistic version of this utopia.

It would be like any other society, divided along some imaginary, or real but either way subtly enforced means, messy and stratified and pretty much just as fucked up as the one we have now. Either it would have classlessness imposed by a tyrant, or be capitalistic and leave some people behind. Either way, there is no escape from the same bullshit we face daily, it would just be whiter, or blacker. There is no way, through merely segregating “Europeans” or “Africans” to magically make everything better. The same power struggles, the same marital disagreements, the same arguments about government and what it should and can do will still exist.

Just because y’all look the same, does not make you the same.

Have you ever seen people who agree, are of the same background or the same political beliefs all in the same room together and NOT arguing? In most cases, intra-group disagreements are more violent than those between groups. Without the political or racial “other” to swerve the distraction bus towards, those conflicts would explode.

I guess perfect is the enemy of the good after all.

 

The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil….

It all comes down to money, doesn’t it?

Money coupled with power. Power over people via “ideas” that have more in common with emotional revulsion than logic. This is what we are now.

Steve Bannon was at the left hand of the seat of power; he was the co-pilot of the administration, arguably the primary architect of the Trump victory. You’d have to be utterly blind, delusional, Stockholm Syndrome-addled or just uncaring not to see this.  The nearly transparent lie that there was no collusion on the part of Bannon’s appeals to race resentment and the violence that often erupted at Trump rallies doesn’t need calling out, it is there, in plain sight, for all to see.

Nor does the connections to the Alt-Right, real Nazis, and other assorted white supremacists, they too, are plain. Through the denials (what common criminal ever said, “Yeah, I did it, that was me” when being cornered by the cops?) the obstrufications and every logical event to the contrary, Bannon, Breitbart and its network of ideologues and hangers-on continue to play a role in the conversation or at least continue to keep the discussion about them, bolstering the profiles of both the wave riders and the hard idealogues.

There is no such thing as bad press.

So why are we still playing this game?

Why are we still under the delusion that we are living under anything but a proto-fascist state, a state that combines the worst elements of our cold war and second world war enemies.  We now represent the things we have purportedly fought against for most of the 20th century. It’s no longer about left and right ideologies because both would be crushed under the weight of the oligarchy. When there isn’t freedom for anyone, ideology is moot.

It is a cold hard fact that for all of the history of the United States we have been awash in white supremacy. Its taken many forms as the idea of whiteness have been adopted by various Europeans and those of European descent. It isn’t unique to this nation, but the brand of white superiority and supremacy is.  We are unique in the fact that we’ve inhabited a Janus-like guise, out of one face we say we are pluralistic and generous, the huddled masses are welcome to come and add their uniqueness to our own and to our collective culture, on the other we are xenophobic, racist and fearful of difference although demonstrably, once we know each other personally those elements diminish.

We also claim to value our collective contributions to our society. We claim to not see race or sex and that the value we place on our fair values is absolute. Even on our political left, there is this illusion, the corridors of power in our entertainment are littered with the desiccated bodies of the women who know better. Liberal Hollywood is awash in its form of hypocrisy. Weinstein, Cosby, and Baldwin, either get a pass or use their considerable power as men to create false personas that defy their goodness while hiding their toxic badness.

At the risk of sounding SWJish, White Male Superiority in general. Yes, even Cosby.

Masculinity is at least a convening force in all this. I’ve spoken before about how this mirror universe came to pass, how the power structure that was had been challenged by an educated, non-white man, and then an educated (albeit universally unlikeable) white woman and the resulting pushback gave us a starring role in the Truman shitshow we live in now. How the years of ingrained, assumed norms of power and who was inherently qualified to wield it, unraveled while Rural White Male America slept soundly in their beds, secure in the fact that their hegemony wouldn’t be undone by a one-term Nigger president.

See how that happened?

We didn’t elect a white knight, we chose the anti-Nigger, the crass boldness embodiment of everything we would have lynched Obama for, and some things lesser, that we tried to. Trump’s money, his conspicuous consumptive nature on full display in House Horrific gold inlay pimp my penthouse bling, his pussy grabbing dullard braggadocio, his obviously ignorant grasp of policy and its implications, all of it punishable by death for any nonwhite who isn’t signed to Bad Boy or in the NBA.  Trump is gangsta personified.

Must be the money…

The Case for “All Lives Matter”

Edited on 10/12/17 because the first time around I just don’t give a f***!

Edited 9/8/17 because brought to you by the letter “M.”

Edited (yet again) on 8/10/2018 for a few misplaced (s)s and slightly augmented wording.

Can we re-purpose a reactionary frame?

Can we take something not quite patently offensive, but triggering and reshape it to mean something that can unite rather than divide? Can a community of people, who already feel burdened with the explainer role, manage again to unify under something they mainly feel is a bastardization and outright insult to the movement they identify with?

If we’ve learned anything from the election of Donald Trump, we should take away this, using the language of the oppressed to claim oppression works, but can the opposite work as well.

When I’d seen the statement “All Lives Matter” in response to BLM, I cringed. I knew it was a reactionary, angry, reflexive response to a needed if not fully appreciated movement. It angered me that people who know better should have understood that killing an unarmed member of any community should be denounced, that people who should know that there is a disparity between the way young Black men are seen and treated in our society, and the way young white men are treated. That Black Lives Matter, of course, wasn’t a statement of exclusivity but one of defense. That the implication that ONLY Black Lives Matter was NOT part of this declaration, nor was the implication that Black Lives Matter MORE, but it was merely that Black Lives Matter AS WELL.

There is much to be said about how we got here, much hand wringing to be done about how history had drawn a clear line to this moment and how forces, both seen and unseen have forced these confrontations.

For context, I suggest reading some of the books on slavery or civil rights or some of the more inclusive books on American history A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a good place to start.

I’m not getting into context here, it’s too obvious to me and would distract from my point. Plus, I believe we should all be more responsible for exposing ourselves to the context of the history of the country of which we so effulgently pronounce our love.

One of the things I have learned about messaging is that sometimes to do it effectively; you have to give up some deeply held preconceptions. You have to resort to some to the tricks of the oppressor, if you will, and one-up them by playing their game. There are limits to this, of course, but within those limits is where progress can be potentially made.

Appropriation is a hot-button term. It evoked Native headdresses or kente cloth; it evokes everything from girls in yoga pants to Rachel Dolezal.

It doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. Appropriation is, in some cases, the same thing as acceptance, it is the brother or sister or transgendered, polyamorous, biracial neighbor of cultural assimilation. McDonald’s appropriated images of Black families in print ads to appeal to the people it was trying to sell burgers to, advertising, in general, appropriates members of audiences it wants to reach, and this is often called “inclusion.”

My feelings are half and half. Half of me welcomes the representation because it brings visibility and half of me knows the motivation is to sell a product. In many cases, even this gives a certain amount of arrival cred but still begs the motivation question. Yet, for whatever reason, it’s better to be seen in a positive light than a negative one, though it can be argued that this isn’t all that positive:

but is was certainly better than this:

Appropriation can be a gateway to conversation and understanding, or it can be a gross misuse of a symbolic cultural totem. I think its time for us to use the poseur of appropriation on the All Lives Matter crowd.

It makes sense that reactionary forces would seize on an approximation of a statement that virtually says the same thing. In this era of lack of imagination, lack of the ability to see things in shades of grey, and lack of connection across lines of partisanship, we have been unable to ask each other, “so what exactly do you mean by that?’ instead of reflexively attacking each other over our perception of that meaning.

So let’s start out by saying that all lives do matter. Black, White, Mexican, Gay, Straight, tall and short, cis, queer, nongender specific, Cops who occupy all of the other identities as well and are both sheltered and wrongly maligned, we can even go as radically far as to say that plants, animals….all life is important. The human variety is where we’ll focus for the moment though, let’s just say that all human experience is valuable.

Now we can get into a little trouble here in our appropriation as we often do when trying to be inclusive, how far is too far? So if the whole point of this is a marketing strategy (and make no mistake, the most efficient way to convey this message is through that means), who is the intended audience?

Assuming the target audience is the former Obama voting Trump devotee, a person who, right or wrong, thinks he is now in the minority, who assumes that being white has somehow become a liability, despite all evidence to the contrary, and now feels he must pull back into an enclave of reactionary juxtaposition. We aren’t going for the 1% White Lives Matter crowd, they are lost and never wanted to be a part of this new America anyway. Calling out the hypocritical other and also the people who genuinely don’t understand why All Lives Matter is such a divisive statement by appropriating the tag is a tact worth pursuing.

Re-branding as All Lives Matter, re-purposing with inclusion in mind of the people of all races that have been discounted and ignored, bringing in law enforcement of all races to have a dialog about how people are not treated equally and to what degree. Actually TALKING to each other about these vital issues under a moniker that doesn’t seem to exclude.

Maybe All Lives Matter can be a vital starting point to challenge the notion that they do conceptually and working on how they can actually.

Taking advantage of the short memories of Americans to change things in the long-term may be sneaky, but it can also be useful. From a marketing standpoint, it would be as brilliant a coup as turning a brand that had been wrongly associated with Nazi Germany into a brand that appeals to the Spanish-speaking among us.

In the world of spin, anything is possible.

 

 

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I’ll Just leave this here…

Bring On the Whiny Liberals

Edited on 8/3 for horrible misspellings.

I like reserving judgment in all but the worst circumstances. Artistic endeavors especially require a delicate and deliberate middle of the road approach.

Watching Jericho, for example. I knew of the shows obvious right of center bent, and it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it one bit. I didn’t feel that it was shoving any ideology down my throat, even when the Republic of Texas was the hero figure, because the story was so engrossing and the acting (save Mr. Ulrich who was at best passable, at worst incomprehensibly ticky) was great. despite or maybe because of his well-known conservatism I love Gerald McRaney, he reminds me fondly of my ex’s dad, and that association humanizes him beyond a political label.

Lately, though, many of my fellow lefties have become so amazingly, insufferably, annoyingly reflexive, that I sometimes feel the need for a new language because the Liberal tag seems more and more like a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head than a badge of reasonable honor.

The reaction to the proposed alternate reality show “Confederate” is one example of an illiberal dousing of a completely fascinating premise (what if the North and South fought to a stalemate and slavery became a institutional part of half our American identity).

This show could be an amazingly rich and disturbing look through “what if” allegory at how little we’ve progressed about race in this country. Of course, it wouldn’t treat racism kindly, what we know about human bondage now would inform the narrative, shape the dialog and create a space for allegory that could be so deeply mined.

Not if the whiny among us have their way.

Let me retreat a bit…

Charles Murray
Milo Yiannopoulos

Usually, I wouldn’t put these two people in the same post, nor think about them in the same context, one is a beleaguered but respected researcher the other a provocateur “journalist” who’s contradictions are so legion he’s incredibly hard to take seriously. Both, however, are proving to be unmistakable examples of actual liberal fascism. Yep, I said it.

There used to be a rule in more liberal circles, and honestly just civil society, that said that regardless of how outrageous and sensational what you had to say was, it should be at least heard.

So, okay, that part is bullshit.

That time never fully existed.

There were fights in Congress, speakers were shouted down, and crowds never behaved in ways we think they did, but my view as a Progressive, Lefty, Liberal etc. et.al. whatever has been that as open-minded individuals who are ideologically inclined to share equally heart and head and argue passionately yet logically would allow even the most heinous speaker his or her due platform.

How we can claim to be liberal-minded and not accept the difference of opinions of other without reading their books or hearing them out astounds me. I am guilty of this as much as anyone else. I have often made opinions of things that had no basis in fact, I have allowed the crowd to determine my feelings about a book or a film without ever having seen it, I have held biases against people I do not know and would never condescend to know, I have been judgmental and prejudiced in my assessment of cultures I have not tried to understand.

I’m sympathetic to people from other countries but not to those living in the borders of my own. I am guilty of feeling like people who live in the “flyover states” are backward and inherently racist.

Some of these things may be, and probably are, true, but why are the assignments made before the exposure? Do they assume that my educated black ass feels somehow superior to them? And why, in some cases are they right. Yes, deep-seated racial, sexual, cultural and regional dynamics play a role and make these biases and divisions a deeper crevasse, than they otherwise would be. I know the history of division and the use of racial tropes that the powers that be have always used to fracture bonds that make more sense than not. But why do either of us pre-define each other before ever setting foot on the same ground?

I firmly disagree ideologically with many folks on the right, vehemently, but why? I got sucked into the Manosphere and still subscribe to the mailing lists of at least three of the sites I’d frequented years ago. I look for dynamics that define the person behind the words and recognize that even in Mein Kampf there is something to be learned about struggle, oppression and the view of them through the distorted and diseased lesions over jaundiced eyes, but up until recently I’d never read it. Same, to a lesser degree, with The Bell Curve, which I am reading (albeit slowly) now.

I’ve slammed the book and its author(s) before without really having heard their story. I assumed its purpose was not to advocate, in a traditionally conservative way, for the restructuring or abolishment of academic inclusion policies and social welfare programs, but that it was arguing similarly to my other example, that one “race” is superior or inferior to another and therefore did not deserve help, let alone inclusion.

When you meet someone or hear their voice, they are humanized, by default. Our brains have reactions to certain characteristics in meeting people on a playing field we recognize. Hearing Mr. Murray speak on Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast was eye-opening in this respect. Although I don’t agree with the conclusions and still feel that the onus and political motivations played a part in the furor, the man seems far from the racist bogeyman he’s been portrayed as. I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast with an open mind and feel free to disagree with the premise and the conclusions but do not miss the salient points made in the margins. The end of the conversation when Murray’s latest book is touched upon is especially relevant and enlightening.

Through the wearing of ideological labels, we have cut ourselves off from opposing opinions and the facts they are based upon. As a good friend of mine told me on a recent visit, he no longer discusses politics with many friends because it’s all about the way you look at things and where you are. So why should it not be about learning where THEY are from and how THEY look at things? Who THEY are.

Yes, there are things that I find unacceptable, that will never penetrate my liberal defenses. Having a protective shin of ideology isn’t always a bad thing. My liberalism doesn’t let baseless claims about superiority and inferiority get through. But it does let me consider uncomfortable propositions. It does not let me lose sight of the fact that behind every label we put on ourselves and each other we are still human beings with a lifetime of experiences that make us who we are. My Liberal underpinnings are both shield and filter in these ways.

Hiding behind a moniker, an ideology that denies you hearing anything you might otherwise let through the filter sitting across the table from another human being is one, Liberal or Conservative, that does no one any good.

Disavowing the artistic creation of a show about a timeline gone awry is the same as crying foul when a female comics editor posts an innocuous picture because the SJWs have taken over everything. Illiberal behavior is illiberal behavior, even when and especially if, it comes out of the mouth or hand of someone claiming to be Liberal.

We can have a plethora of ideas about a plethora of opinions in a way that allows us to see the world from a different perspective. Not allowing a person to speak, or trying to force a show not to air even before the words have been read or the show has been produced is a dangerous form of thought control. It is being practiced not just on the radical right but on the left as well, and it’s sad in either case. It’s more than sad; it’s dangerously fascist.

 

 

The Long National Nightmare is Just Beginning

So I was on a semi-self-imposed news blackout until very recently due in no small part to my own personal upheavals, but also just because….Trump.

So now I’ve begun paying more attention, watching and reading more news and following more closely, the national goings on. Thankfully I’m in a much better headspace for all of this because if I’d decided to forgo reason and dive head first as my personal life was unraveling, I’m honestly not sure I’d still be writing today.

Watching our president move with the sound off is frustrating enough, but with the sound on, it’s utterly terrifying.

How could we have been so stupid? How in the hell could we have elected this orange-thin-skinned pussy grabber, the leader of the free world? How do we not see this as the horrible national embarrassment it truly is? That a uniquely unqualified buffoon who clearly has no aptitude for the truth because he hasn’t a clue as to what that word even means, could possibly win a plurality of electoral college votes, with not a single dissenting maverick to stand in the way of this thoroughly embarrassing national disgrace?

Where are our Paines, our  Parks our Kings and Peltiers?  Why don’t we see how obviously our dissenting voices are absent from the debate, and how obviously we’ve become twisted up in what it means to dissent in the first place? How did the Alt-right, an animal crafted as a propaganda arm of Nazis and internet trolls who finally feel like they have a place at a table that is owned by the Jewish Cabal, actually become a legitimate voice in national politics?

I’m not of the mindset that this country is over, that with this one election we have sealed our fate. I do believe this is the last death spasm of an old skin being shaken off, but what of what’s underneath?

When will we, as a country, as a people, realize that we’ve entirely fucked up.

When we have people like Alex Jones and Mike Chernovich actually participating in the public dialog as legitimate players, how do we not see how truly fucked we are?

At the same time though, it easy to become un-fucked, just pay attention.

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