ronkempmusic

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Posts Tagged ‘acceptance

Why November’s Election is SO Important

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I’ve been trying to get this thought out, now, for almost a month.  One thing after another has gotten in the way of its completion.  Yet, I feel it’s vitally important for me to get it out.  Then, last Wednesday following the Scott Walker recall election, I was presented with just the catalyst I needed to see it through.

While out playing music, which is what I do, this local homeless Viet Nam vet came up to me and pushed my button!  “Well, those stupid fucking Democrats really took it up the ass yesterday!”  Now, I’m use to his vitriolic statements.  He’s still at war.  I get that.  I’ve known him for quite some time.  And, his conversations are usually right along that same line.  And, typically, I just listen to his rhetoric, smile, nod, and go on about my day.  It usually works.  Not today.  Today, he pushed my buttons.  He pushed my buttons because he reminded me, up close and person, of exactly why it is of extreme importance for Obama to win in November.

This isn’t about politics, really.  This is about loving and caring.  This is about tolerance.   This is more about right and wrong.  And, it’s about survival.

I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m no professional political analyst.  Not even close.  In fact, the only thing I am, as a professional, is a musician.  I’m a single, gay, black male.  I’m an older black male who was around, albeit as a young boy, when blacks were fighting for their own right to exist.

Our country is entrenched in a cultural war.  That should be no secret to anyone with a pulse.  We’re seeing a second-coming of the Civil Rights movement of the 60s as the LGBT community fight, essentially for their right to even exist.  Just as blacks did in the 50s and 60s.  The parallels are undeniable.

Of course, there are many who would vehemently disagree with me.  Over and over again, I’ve read this older black leader or another protest the notion that today fight for equal rights by the LGBT community is an extension of the Civil Rights battle of the 60s.  I can state as a black man who lived during those times as a young black boy in the South that it is, indeed, the same fight.  In truth, despite their efforts to distance themselves from today’s struggle, it is the same fight being fought against the same establishment.  The same hateful, mean-spirited, bigoted people who wanted to keep Blacks “in their place” 50-60 years ago now want to do the same with the LGBT community.  Well, of course not the same people.  That was a half-century ago.  However, it IS, in fact, the same establishment.  Now, before I get called out on this for not knowing my history, I’m very well aware that there were Democrats and Republicans, alike, who were fighting against Civil Rights back then, whereas today’s war is being waged solely by the ultra right-wing, Christian fundamentalists.  In that day, the political lines were a bit more blurred than they are today.  Today, there is an unmistakable gulf of a line drawn between the two parties.  And, that division has permeated our entire society.  We’re very much a “them and us” culture.  And, therein lies the problem.

Listen, I’m a Democrat, myself.  However, I can readily acknowledge that there’s a lot that Obama has not done during his current presidency.  He’s left a lot to be desired.  I get it.  At the same time, I was realistic enough from the beginning to know that he WOULDN’T be able to do but so much.  Why?  There was no way “they” were going to let a smooth-talking black President show but so much accomplishment.  The Civil Rights struggle of the 60s may have been won in theory, but in reality there are still struggles on the racial front, as well.

Today’s Civil Rights struggle is being fought by the LGBT community, making this the second Civil Rights struggle that I will be directly affected by.  As with the Blacks in the 50s and 60s, all we’re seeking is equality.  That’s it.  Simple equality.  We want to be able to marry the person we love.  Legally.  We want to be protected against discrimination in the workplace and in the housing market.  We want the hate crime laws to protect every single America, which include us.  We want to see an end to the incessant bullying of our LGBT youth, sanctioned legally in some states!, which is leading far-too-many of them to end their lives.  In short, we just want the right to live our lives, as who we are, just as freely as our heterosexual counterparts.  That’s really not asking too much, and it certainly isn’t asking for “special rights” as they try to make you believe

Why IS is so incredibly important that the current President of the United States win the election this year? The answer is quite simple, actually.  The short answer is if Obama fails to retain the White House, our culture will be doomed back to the days, and ways, of Ward, June, Wally, and the Beav.  It’s that simple.  That’s the utopian world they envision.  That’s the simple answer.  A deeper look reveals a much more disturbing picture.  Failure by Obama to win the White House in November will ensure:

  1. Every single hard-fought gain the LGBT community has made will be erased.  The few states that do have marriage equality?  Gone.  Anti-discrimination policies that protects the LGBT community?  Forget about it.
  2. The death rate amongst LGBT teens will continue to soar.  It’s as simple as that.  Look, let’s take off the blinders.  The ultra-conservative, far-right wing, Christian faction hates us.  Period.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Christians hating.  Yet, we’ve heard preachers tell their congregation that we should die.  These are Christians.  These are leaders.  These people are the driving force behind the Republican Party today.
  3. Today’s Republican Party is being spearheaded by some of the most narrow-minded, evil-spirited “politicians” I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.  That there are Republican senators working feverishly to pass legislation that will, in effect, sanction the bullying of LGBT teens should tell you all that you need to know.  And, that’s just a small fraction of the threat they pose to the LGBT community.

I’m not naive. I understand that there will always be narrow-minded, bigoted people in the world and in our society. However, at this specific point in time, they’ve risen to positions of power. With that, they’ve seemingly made it their life’s mission to all but do away with anything gay. Indeed, there has been right-wing political and religious leaders calling for the death of LGBT people. They’re flexing their political/religious muscle, spewing extraordinarily hateful and intolerant rhetoric to their followers. In doing so, they are creating a very dangerous environment for members of the LGBT community. To wit:

  • Just last week, a landmark gay bar was set ablaze in Chicago.
  • The LGBT Headquarters in Washington, DC recently endured a bomb threat.
  • Schoolyard bullies are more empowered than ever in their attacks against those they perceive to be LGBT schoolmates, driving many to commit suicide.
  • In the news just today, an ultra-conservative mayor in Michigan added fuel to the already-raging firestorm directed towards her by way of a recall vote with yet another ridiculous statement about the LGBT community.

Indeed, Obama losing the election in November would be catastrophic for the LGBT community. Not just because he’s gone public in his support for marriage equality. It would be catastrophic because it would put in power the absolute meanest, most narrow-minded collection of “leaders” I’ve ever witnessed. Giving power to this group of people would take the LGBT community back to pre-Stonewall days. At least! Giving power to them would absolutely assure an escalation in the already-alarming suicide rate amongst LGBT teens. Why? Because they don’t care about you if you’re LGBT. In their eyes, we shouldn’t exist. And, quite frankly, people with this mentality have absolutely no business whatsoever in positions of power.

Honestly, this really isn’t about politics, per se.  It’s more about right and wrong.  It’s wrong for people to use positions of power to systematically destroy a group of people.  To call for the death of a group of people is called genocide.  How is that even legal?  Maybe within the next four years, they’ll get some people in their party who actually care about ALL people, including people in the LGBT community.  Maybe that’s asking too much.  Well, at the very least, we can hope for a group of people who aren’t as mean-spirited as this collection is.  Until then, I think we need to do everything in our power to make sure they don’t succeed in November.

Love and Determination

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It’s great to know that there’s a safe place where people can reach out and know that someone will reach back for them.  A member on the facebook blog page sent me a private message that was beautiful yet disturbing at the same time.  It illustrates, perfectly, how and how not to create a healthier environment for LGBT teens.

I don’t know where to begin. I just know that I need to share this. My 14 yr old son came out to me two weeks ago. He is bisexual. I knew something had been bothering him, he seemed so angry, so sullen, and sad. I didn’t know what was going on, and though I tried he never seemed to talk to me. Then 2 months ago all the sudden he started opening up. We talked about everything. I finally had my happy, bright, smiling child back. When he told me he was bisexual I could tell he was nervous. I could tell he was scared. He blurted it out and I think my response surprised him. I laughed. He asked me if I thought he was joking, and I said, NO that’s not why I had laughed. I laughed because I am bisexual too. I laughed because I love him. I laughed because I was happy that he could share that with me, something SO brave at his age to do. When I told him that, he laughed too.

Oh how I wish that’s where it ended happily, but it’s not. My dear sweet son has been living with his dad for the last couple of years. He wanted so much to get to know his dad better, but things aren’t going well. When my son came out to his father, he flipped out. He said some horrible things. And then he called me, to yell at me. Because I knew before he did. Because I didn’t come running to him with that information. He made it all about himself, and how I had lied to him, that my son CHOOSES to be “this way” and that by not telling him I am a bad parent because I put his “life in danger”. My son’s father apparently thinks that coming out and telling people you are gay or bisexual unleashes some sort of free for all orgy and my son will now magically get an STD based on a vocal admission of his sexuality.

My son will be coming to live with me now. I have always been a supporter of the LGBT community for myself of course, but somehow it’s a deeper support, now that it’s my child. I’ve never felt more protective of him than I do now because if his own father could behave like a hateful bigot….I don’t want to finish that thought.

I needed to share this because it NEEDS to be heard. Parents NEED to realize that their children are part of who they are, no matter what their sexuality is. They are still that baby you held in your arms. They are still that child that reached to you when they were hurt. They are still that smart little person you help teach to ride their bike or tie their shoes. And they can still be the successful and happy adult you’ve always dreamt they could be. Sexuality shouldn’t be a deal breaker to parenthood, to LOVE.

I want people to think back, remember that sweet face that came bouncing into a room. That sweet little voice that said “I love you mommy, daddy” and remember she/he is the SAME child as before. Nothing changes that, nothing!

Whereas the father in this case makes my blood boil, we’ve sadly learned that this is far from unusual.  We know from recent history that there are parents, and in some cases both parents!, who reject their own offspring simply because of who they are.  We need look no farther than January, and the suicide death of EricJames Borges, to be reminded of the devastating effects parental rejection can have on LGBT teens.  Any teens, for that matter!  The bright side is that he has a fantastic mother who is there to support, protect, and nurture her LGBT son.

What was most impressive about this, though, was the bravery of the teen, himself.  It would be much easier, and healthier!, for him to simply pick up and flee to his accepting mother.  Instead, he chose to stay with his intolerant father through the remainder of the school year, hoping “…to make some progress…” with him.  That speaks volumes for his inner strength and courage.  Let’s hope it works out in his favor.

As for the dad, reality seems to be only a concept.  His viewpoint on the LGBT community and his own son are antiquated, at best.  Maybe the son can get through to him.  Let’s hope so, anyway.  Look, loving is much easier, much healthier, and much less stressful than hating.  Especially when it comes to your very own offspring.

The silver lining to this is that due to this 14-year-old’s tenacity, and because of the unconditional love and support of his mother, he gives other LGBT teens hope.  It can and does get better.

Written by Ron Kemp

April 26, 2012 at 5:30 am

To MY 7th Grade Self

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Maybe there’s something to this.  Last week, I did a bit of time-traveling.  Almost simultaneously, there was a powerful video released called “To My 7th Grade Self”.  Brilliant idea!  If only we could.

7th self

Our collective minds were in the same place.  Telling my 7th grade self to get it together and move on would be a life-changing event.  I know that, now.  In their video, speaking to their 7th grade selves would’ve also been life-changing, for sure.  And, I’m sure that holds true for everyone.  Hindsight is perfect vision.

In both my article and their video, however, one common thread is bullying.  See, it really isn’t anything new at all.  It’s been going on for as long as I can remember.  Today, however, it seems to have hit a fever-pitch.  In the video, some talk to their 7th grade selves because they were the bully; some were bullied; some were struggling with their sexual identity.  Face it:  the early teen years are hell!!  We go through a myriad emotional changes, hormonal changes, puberty, and social angst.  That’s quite a load for a 12-year-old.

From my own perspective, the summer leading into my 7th grade year was one of the defining moments of my life.  However, it didn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t have been.  The problem was who could he talk to about it?  There was no Internet back then.  There was no Wipe Out Homophobia to turn to, no Trevor Project.  He was on his own to just wing it and figure it out on his own.  And, that’s exactly what he did.  He figured it out and decided that internalizing it was the easiest way to cope.  What a mistake that turned out to be.

From their perspective, there was also a lot of trauma going on that year and the years to follow. The differences are strikingly similar.  What becomes clear is that there needs to be much more resources for all of our “7th grade selves”.  The ones who attacked me were only doing what was taught to them:  to be hateful and intolerant.  The ones from the video who were, themselves, bullies can say the same thing.  They didn’t know any better.  Why?  Because they weren’t taught any better.  They were taught to hate, to be intolerant, to belittle, to…hurt.  What is obvious, by my own story and by the pain that some of the people from the people from the video who were bullies when they were younger, is that the pain and trauma, on both sides of the bully spectrum, runs deep and for a very long time.

As we grow older, and out of those tumultuous early teen years, we who were bullied learn that “hey, it really does get better”.  Well, some of us do.  Unfortunately, some of us couldn’t wait around long enough for it to get better.  And, those who were our tormentors learn just how much damage they did to another human being.  In most cases, but certainly not all, as the tormentors grow older, they become remorseful at what they did to someone “back then”.  In some cases, they learn their lesson too late.  Their actions caused someone to end their life.

Alas, we can’t go back and educate our 7th grade selves.  What’s done is done.  That’s just the way life is.  We live our lives, have our experiences.  We learn and, hopefully, grow from them.  What we CAN do, though, is understand how important being able to go back and “coach” our 7th grade selves would’ve been, then pass that on to today’s young people.

There are young people, right now!, right under our noses who need to hear what we would tell our like-aged self if we could.  They need to hear that their words can be just as deadly as any material weapon.  They need to know that their negative actions can and, in some cases, will cause someone to end their life.  They need to know that the feelings that they’re having for someone of the same-sex is okay and normal, that there’s nothing wrong with them.  They need to understand that it’s completely okay to be just who they are, that they don’t have to try to be someone they’re not just to fit in.  And, more than anything else, they need to be taught that there’s nothing in the world more powerful than love, but it must start with self love.  See, I’ve said it, they say it in the video:  we are born to love; hatred and intolerance are taught and learned behaviors.  Teaching today’s young people that life is about loving and caring is such a very crucial lesson.  Since we can’t go back in time and teach our own younger selves, the next best thing is to pass it on to today’s youth. There are some who are literally dying to hear it.

The Opposite of Love is Fear

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When I wrote about Sophie Miriam Herold’s hateful rantings yesterday, “Spreading Hate”, the last thing I said was for everyone to send her an email “…to cheer her up.”  You may remember that Sophie was the one who said that “homosexuality is abnormal and disgusting.”  Well, how many of you sent her an email?  Were you kind and loving in your message?  Or, did “lay into her” in response to her amazing level of…whatever you want to call that rant?  Well, here’s what I’ve learned about Sophie:

  • First of all, this isn’t something new she’s started doing.  One comment to another anti-gay rant of hers is from a year ago.  Therefore, it’s safe to assume that she’s been doing this for at least that long.
  • In reading what she posted, that received the response a year ago, I was reminded of an old truism I heard decades aga:  The opposite of love is fear.  This will come as a surprise to some people, but Sophie’s “anger” is a manifestation of fear.  She’s afraid of her own feelings.  See, Sophie denies herself her true feelings that she has for someone of the same sex.  Or, as we like to call it, lesbian.

Why do I think that Sophie is a lesbian?  She can say it better than I can, in her own words:

I know what I’m talking about, I have had feelings for the same sex a while ago. These feelings were different to anything I’ve ever felt before. When this person was around me, I felt safe, relaxed, comfortable.

I’m not sure if you know that feeling, it’s…you’re totally calm, you don’t feel the need to prove yourself to the other person, you always find something to talk about and, most importantly, there is a sort of ‘basic agreement’ between
the two of you what means that you don’t need many words to communicate with the other person, and when there is silence between the two of you, it’s not an awkward silence, it’s a feeling of being understood.

I could have done what you did: just go for my feelings for the same sex. But I didn’t. I cut off contact to this person completely, I even moved to another city and denied all attempts of contacting me.
I mean it was hard, in fact I’m still thinking about this person, almost every day since six months, but I bear with it. You just have to do something in order to distract yourself, you know? Then it works. Not every day, but most the days.

This is an excerpt from one of her “anonymous” emails she sent to someone, apparently a year or so ago.  Reading the whole thing is very revealing, indeed.

What this says, in my opinion, in an attempt to suppress her own lesbianism and, worse, play her “gender role”.  At 21, she’s accepted that she has to “do what society expects..or suffer the consequences.”  To me, that’s sad.   Somewhere along the way, someone has beaten her self-esteem down so badly to a point where she doesn’t feel she deserves to be happy, that she’s put on this planet for one purpose, and one purpose only:  to perform her gender role as expected of her from society.  Personal happiness be damned.  Clearly, she’d found love, possibly even the love of her life.  And, to paraphrase her words, “all was right in the world.”  However, she denied herself that happiness.  Her “gender role” is more important.  Now, rather than being happy with herself and with the girl her heart chose for her, she lives in fear.  She’s fearful that she’ll never find that true connection again.  Sure, she’ll find some guy to perform her gender role for, and she might even force herself into believing that she loves him.  The truth will always be the truth, though.  And, the truth, her truth!, is that she’s denying herself of the love every human soul craves.  She found it.  But, she moved away from it.

Now, that fear has turned into anger.  Anger at herself for not being true to herself; anger at a society that imposes its beliefs on individual, personal lives; anger at the LGBT community for doing what she’s, so far, been incapable of:  loving ourselves and embracing the real love we deserve.  And, that fear has now manifested itself as hatred.  Make no mistake, that’s self-hatred we’re reading.  Self-hatred that was born of fear.  Sophie writes:

What if all the people in this world just go for their feelings, for what makes them happy? The world would turn into chaos! You have no right to ‘simplify’ your life by being gay.

What if?

Written by Ron Kemp

March 26, 2012 at 12:33 am

Celebrating Acceptance: Dad gets “Born This Way” Tattoo!!

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What a marvelous story of acceptance!!  At a time when we’re grasping and struggling for acceptance, at a time when we’re losing teen after teen after LGBT teen to suicide because of a lack thereof, we get this heartwarming story from Jessica Romani about her brother, Dylan.

Dylan, who is bisexual, went through all of the usual trials and tribulations that nearly all LGBT teens experience.  He knew at a very young age that he was “different”.  He struggled with acceptance of himself!  And, of course, he was bullied.  Or, according to Jessica, he dealt with “extreme bullying”.

In Dylan’s own words, “…I was so scared of what he would do or think or say because he’s a tough guy and i am his only son so I didn’t want to be a disappointment or anything.”  That sounds familiar.  What he found, instead, was the surprise of his life.  Fred Romani, the dad, in an amazing show of unconditional love and acceptance, got the Lady Gaga-inspired catch-phrase, “Born This Way” tattooed in Italian on his wrist.  Dylan already had it on his.  You have to watch the video to see the reaction to it.

When I read Jessica’s and Dylan’s description of their dad, the image comes to mind of the stereotypical testosterone-driven Italian male.  Sylvester Stallone.  Santino Corleone.  Fred Romani showed, however, that macho men also have a heart.  Especially when it comes to family.  Even moreso, I would say, when it comes to his only son!  It’s that show of unconditional love and acceptance, even if he doesn’t yet fully understand what his son is going through, that makes the most significant difference.  It’s that acceptance that, say, EricJames Borges was looking for but got the opposite, instead.  And, we know where that led.  The mental and emotional health of young Dylan Romani grew exponentially by Fred’s gesture of support.  That’s what makes this story so important.  And, quite touching.

I first viewed this video, and story, yesterday on Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, the social network super page that is helping so many people, LGBT and straight alike, and saving lives.  It’s stories like this that makes us realize that love really is winning the war over hate.  For Fred, an old school Italian dad, to reach out to his young, struggling son with such a loving gesture, and then to see Dylan’s caught-off-guard, stunned reaction speaks volumes to the power of love and acceptance.

The hope, of course, is that this video will catch on and go viral so that people all over the world can see with their own eyes the sheer power of unconditional love and acceptance.  Dylan’s tears of joy say it all.  If more families showed their LGBT teens this type of support….  Well, you know.  Let’s hope that this video is a harbinger of things to come.

How to Watch Your Brother Die

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I started this blog in November in direct response to Jamie Hubley’s suicide in October.  Those of you who have been reading it for a while are aware as I mention him frequently.  So, I wanted to take time out to say how honored I am to have a member of his family join in as one of the blogs’ followers today.  You know who you are.  Thank you for following.

If you haven’t already “liked” Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, go do it now!  You don’t have to be gay to be a part of the most positive, informative page facebook has to offer.  The only prerequisite is that you have a burning desire to see equality for every human being and to be a part of an army of people “enlisted” to work towards that end.

I read today something from Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook that I had to share with everyone.  If you go to the page, you can find it and other very moving reads in the “notes” section.  This letter moved me:

How To Watch Your Brother Die

When the call comes, be calm.
Say to your wife, “My brother is dying. I have to fly to California.”
Try not to be shocked that he already looks like a cadaver.
Say to the young man sitting by your brother’s side, “I’m his brother,”
Try not to be shocked when the young man says,
“I’m his lover. Thanks for coming.”

Listen to the doctor with a steel face on.
Sign the necessary forms.
Tell the doctor you will take care of everything.
Wonder why doctors are so remote.

Watch the lover’s eyes as they stare into your brother’s eyes as they stare into space.
Wonder what they see there.
Remember the time he was jealous and opened your eyebrow with a sharp stick.
Forgive him out loud even if he can’t understand you.
Realize the scar will be all that’s left of him.

Over coffee in the hospital cafeteria say to the lover, “You’re an extremely good-looking young man.”
Hear him say,
“I never thought I was good looking enough to deserve your brother.”
Watch the tears well up in his eyes. Say,
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what it means to be the lover of another man.”
Hear him say,
“It’s just like a wife, only the commitment is deeper because the odds against you are so much greater.”
Say nothing, but take his hand like a brother’s.

Drive to Mexico for unproven drugs that might help him live longer.
Explain what they are to the border guard.
Fill with rage when he informs you,
“You can’t bring those across.”
Begin to grow loud.
Feel the lover’s hand on your arm, restraining you. See in the guard’s eye how much a man can hate another man.
Say to the lover, “How can you stand it?”
Hear him say, “You get used to it.”
Think of one of your children getting used to another man’s hatred.

Call your wife on the telephone. Tell her,
“He hasn’t much time.
I’ll be home soon.” Before you hang up say,
“How could anyone’s commitment be deeper than a husband and wife?” hear her say,
“Please, I don’t want to know all the details.”

When he slips into an irrevocable coma, hold his lover in your arms while he sobs, no longer strong. Wonder how much longer you will be able to be strong.
Feel how it feels to hold a man in your arms whose arms are used to holding men.
Offer God anything to bring your brother back.
Know you have nothing God could possibly want.
Curse God, but do not abandon Him.

Stare at the face of the funeral director when he tells you he will not embalm the body for fear of contamination. Let him see in your eyes how much a man can hate another man.
Stand beside a casket covered in flowers, white flowers.
Say, “Thank you for coming” to each of several hundred men who file past in tears, some of them holding hands.
Know that your brother’s life was not what you imagined.
Overhear two mourners say, “I wonder who’ll be next.”

Arrange to take an early flight home.
His lover will drive you to the airport.
When your flight is announced say, awkwardly, “If I can do anything, please let me know.”
Do not flinch when he says,
“Forgive yourself for not wanting to know him after he told you. He did.”
Stop and let it soak in. Say,
“He forgave me, or he knew himself?”
“Both”, the lover will say, not knowing what else to do. Hold him like a brother while he kisses you on the cheek. Think that you haven’t been kissed by a man since your father died. Think,

“This is no moment not to be strong.” Fly first class and drink scotch. Stroke your split eyebrow with a finger and think of your brother alive.
Smile at the memory and think how your children will feel in your arms, warm and friendly and without challenge.

~Michael Lassell.

Before it’s too late, while you can still do it, if you know someone who is LGBT, whether it’s a family member, friend, or co-worker, let them know that it’s okay to be gay.  Let them know that you accept them completely just for who they are.  Let them know that they are beautiful human beings just as they are.  The world is changing.  Be a part of that change.

Written by Ron Kemp

January 19, 2012 at 4:39 am

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