Check out this book excerpt from, “Wake Up America: The Nine Virtues That Made Our Nation Great—and Why We Need Them More Than Ever,” written by Eric Bolling, Fox News cohost of “The Five.” Read the book review HERE.
noun \’grit \
(1.) mental toughness and courage
— Merriam- Webster’s definition
(1.) an archaic descriptor denoting male-chauvinist micro aggression in the form of an oppressive, traditionalist/individualist approach to adversity
(2.) a hardness of character that renders individuals unsuitable members of a progressive, collectivist society
— A Leftist’s definition
If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.
— Samuel Johnson
I hate the question, “What’s the secret of your success?” There is no secret to being successful. Ask anybody who is successful and they will say some version of the same thing— perseverance, mental toughness, or my personal favorite: grit. Grit is getting up again and again after being knocked down to continue the fight. Grit is going over, around, or straight through obstacles to reach your goals—no matter how much it hurts to do so. Grit is the power to try, fail, and rebuild yourself in a nation of endless possibilities. Grit is the soul of the American spirit.
But in our society, we value grit less every day. Thanks to radical Leftists, the liberal media, and collectivist stalwarts teaching our kids at all educational levels, “grit” is no longer considered an essential component of success—or of the American character. We value our personal security and our personal liberty, but they’re not the same thing. Sometimes, the freedoms we enjoy under personal liberty can shake the foundations of our personal security.
Here’s the thing: to be gritty and tough, you have to take risks, and by definition with risk comes the possibility of failure— a lack of security. The grit comes in when you fail, get back up, dust yourself off , and keep trying, as many times as it takes for you to get the job done. That’s why grit is such an essential component of the American character. We’ve always been a mentally tough people— because we had to be. You can’t survive slavery or brave weeks on a rickety ship on the Atlantic without some serious grit, folks.
Grit, however, is anathema to liberals. Gritty, free-thinking citizens are harder to control. Oh, sure, liberals love to spout happy talk about perseverance and the American Dream, but they are doing every thing they can to make sure there is only one path to this dream: through the government. What they don’t realize is that if the government is the way, it actually isn’t the American Dream anymore. Because the American Dream is about building something for yourself, not about being handed something by someone else, especially not a bloated, inefficient, deck-stacking government.
Liberals, by nature, just aren’t comfortable with risk. The dirty little secret of liberalism is that, at least in today’s form, it’s not liberal at all. Liberals don’t want “liberty.” They can’t handle the messiness of real democracy in a dynamic republic. Instead of allowing individual citizens to pave their own way in life, liberals want a bunch of technocratic “experts” to decide what is best for the rest of us.
So, it is very much in the Left’s interests for the citizenry to be soft, docile, and obedient. That’s why liberals have spent decade putting forth what I sometimes call the “softness doctrine,” which tells Americans that the ideal person is conformist, collectivist, and in need of government assistance in nearly every aspect of life. Think of the 2012 Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia” nonsense as the perfect example. This slideshow tells the life story of the fictional cartoon character “Julia” and how she benefited from a benevolent government literally from cradle to grave.1
It’s also perfect nonsense. Do you think it was an accident that the Obama team created a cartoon to tell this story? It’s first thing that the tale is told in the same media form as a Disney fairy tale, because Julia’s life is just as much a fantasy as Cinderella’s or Snow White’s. It’s the Joe Camel of political advertisements.
This is how they spread the “softness doctrine.” Our government, media, and academia are brainwashing all of us— especially your kids— into being mushy blobs of fragile self-esteem, all in the name of “progressivism.”
As they do with masculinity itself, today’s liberals treat grit like an anachronism from a time when people hadn’t evolved enough to live in the progressive paradise that they believe is just around every corner. Grit is unnecessary. You don’t have to be mentally tough, because if you have a problem, a supposedly benevolent government will take care of it for you— and take care of you.
While this cotton candy philosophy may make sense to sophomoric college students and sheltered media elites, those of us who have fought in the trenches of our own lives, the global economy, and the nation’s politics know better. You can’t save every one, and when you try to do so, you end up doing much more harm than good.
This isn’t just a social problem— though it most certainly is that—it is also an economic and national security problem. Do you think China and Russia will sit back and let us continue to be the most powerful nation in the world once we’re too soft to fight for market share—or even our homeland?
As a nation, we need to toughen up, stop whining, and get to work.
When I was a kid, I loved to ride my bike. I especially loved doing tricks like popping wheelies, skidding, flying off of makeshift ramps— the more dangerous it was, the more fun it was to do. I did it without a parent or other adult supervisor hovering over me, pretending to be a guardian angel. I’ll put my faith in God’s own angels, thank you very much. Getting to ride a bike was my first taste of true freedom. I could go farther, faster than ever before, and all on my own. On my bike adventures, I was my own master— taking on both the joys and responsibilities that freedom demands.
I bet a lot of folks reading this book could tell a similar story about riding bikes as kids. The speed. The fun. The freedom of it. Juxtapose this freedom with the bike-riding experience of children today. Swaddled in more padding and headgear than an NFL fullback, it’s amazing these kids can even get on their bikes, let alone ride them. And when these little plastic-and-Velcro- encased darlings do finally get going on their two wheelers, you bet your ass they have to stay in specific areas under tight adult supervision. We’re so scared of our kids getting hurt, we barely let them out of our sight until they are in their mid-to-late- teens.
This is not entirely the parents’ fault. Driven by liberal collectivist dogma, as delivered through politicians, activists, academia, and the media, we are taught that we must make our children’s paths through life as easy as possible. We do everything we can to expose them to what we consider positive, while avoiding anything negative as if it were a nuclear waste dump full of lepers.2
Due to intensive liberal propaganda that has morphed into a bizarre kind of social pressure, parents have taken on “softness indoctrination” like a religion. Before a kid is even born, parents are inundated with a thousand “musts” for being a good mother or father. They “must” take the right prenatal vitamins. They “must” do the right kinds of exercises. They “must” keep calm so their baby doesn’t feel any negative emotions through the umbilical cord. They “must” buy the insanely overwrought and overpriced strollers, cribs, and (especially) car seats on the market today if they want to keep their kids safe.
But the real indoctrination begins with the actual raising of a child. Quite simply, we are told to protect our children from every thing, and if we don’t, we’re bad parents. The “softness indoctrination” industry preys on this very real fear that all parents have, especially new parents. It’s disgusting, disingenuous, and it’s a major reason why grit is being taken out of the American character.
Of course, we all want our kids to be safe, but there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to safety. If your kids never face any real challenges or dangers when young, they will have no idea how to handle themselves when they face problems as adults. As so- called Millennials join the workforce— the first generation of the ultra- ultra- coddled to do so— we’re seeing examples of just how ill- equipped these kids are to handle the rigors of the real world.
Do you think those stories of parents of Millennials calling bosses to complain about something on their adult child’s behalf are urban legends? Think again. In July 2015, employee dynamics expert Lisa Orrell, CPC, wrote an entire blog post about how widespread this phenomenon is. Orrell wrote:
In my SEVEN YEARS of being a keynote speaker and conducting workshops for companies about how to better recruit, manage and retain Millennial talent, I’ve yet to ask this question and NOT get a hand raised: “Who here has heard from the parent of one of your Millennial employees?”
This is especially scary when you consider, as Orrell notes, that by “2025, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials.” Will we have “bat phones” from all the retirement communities to all the corporate headquarters in Amer i ca by then? What the hell are we going to do when these perpetual children are in charge?
As our children age, the “softness indoctrination” continues in school and in sports, and intensifies into a cult of self-esteem:
It values self-esteem above all qualities while also taking away the tools for fostering and maintaining it. Today, every body gets a trophy. We’re so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, we deceive our children into thinking collaboration always trumps competition, and that there are no losers in the game of life.
That is why college campuses today require so-called safe spaces for students who feel overwhelmed by . . . what ever it is they feel overwhelmed by. It’s also why anything that an overly sensitive student finds objectionable— especially in the context of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation—is called a “microaggression.” We’re getting to the point where the very sight of a straight, white male is an affront. They even have a term for us average folks: “cis”—as in “cisgender.” I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to think being “cis” a good thing or a bad thing.
But what else do we expect from an educational system that subverts competition, champions unrealistic levels of collaboration, and neuters male behavior in a constant effort to “feminize” boys and men? We can’t be surprised our children are bizarrely fragile— it’s what we’ve been taught to teach them, and what they’ve been taught, for decades.
All of this combines to create an intense, even crippling, fear of failure in Millennials. And people who are terrified of failure are much less likely to take the kinds of risks that are necessary to grow an economy, build character, and sustain and continue to improve upon a great nation.
TRY, TRY AGAIN
I played baseball in high school and college, and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates to play in their minor league system, but after a shoulder injury ended my baseball dream, I was lost. I went back to Chicago, where I had grown up and my parents lived, to figure out my life. I was broke and needed a job. And I didn’t want to be some cipher on the welfare rolls, though that would have been the easiest thing to do.
So you know what my dad did? He didn’t have a good cry with me and tell me it was okay to wallow in my own self-pity. Instead, he dropped the classified section of the newspaper on the table with a Mobil Oil ad circled.
The cattle-call job interview was being held at the O’Hare Hyatt, and when the day arrived, I thought I was in luck. A massive snowstorm was pummeling Chicago— typical winter— and I figured most folks would be stuck inside, unable or unwilling to make the trek out to the airport. Maybe, I thought, if I was really lucky I’d be the only guy there!
Boy, was I wrong. When I arrived, there were hundreds at the Hyatt who had braved the weather for a shot at this job. The line wrapped out the door and down the hallway. I waited my turn— patient, but hungry.
When I met with the Mobil executives doing the interview, they had one question. One of the execs held up a Bic pen and said simply, “Sell this to me.”
I was stunned for a second. I could see my job prospects evaporating before my eyes. I felt a cold sweat break out and start to trickle down my back. Instead of panicking, though, I cleared my mind for a second— then it hit me. I knew what to do. I said, “Okay, I’ll sell this pen to you. It’s a great pen, it lasts a long time, and it’s very good for the price, which is fifty cents.” Then I added, “But I’ll do you one better. I’ll sell you three pens for a dollar.”
I saw the Mobil guys look at one another and smile. In that instant, I knew I got the job. It was like the great ballgame I played in college that I knew would get me drafted into the pros. Sometimes, you just know.
Of course, at the time, I wasn’t sure why exactly they picked me and a handful of others. Six of us were hired out of hundreds of applicants who showed up in the middle of a snowstorm. It was only after beginning the Mobil training program that I realized why I was hired. Mobil is a gasoline producer and marketer. They make more money as their number of gallons sold increases. In other words, they rely on beating down prices to sell more overall gas, just as I had cut down the price of a pen to sell more of them.
I didn’t have a clue about any of this at the time, but I learned the basics of how commodities work— and in commodities I would make my name, and my fortune. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Even more than that, it’s better to be motivated—to have the grit and determination it takes to keep going even after a major failure or challenge. That’s what lets you risk crushing disappointment for a chance at major success.
TRUE GRIT: GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON
The concept of grit is at the very heart of American democracy, economics, and history. The American Dream itself is an homage to grit: work hard, never give up, and you’ll succeed in your endeavors, and deservedly reap the benefits. Ours is a nation hewn out of raw wilderness. We created the greatest system of government in history, twice saved the world from tyrannical domination in the world wars, and then again in the Cold War. We’ve faced down mighty challenges, all with our gritty, tough-minded determination.
Think about our ancestors. Almost all of us are the descendants of immigrants, whether free or involuntary. In each case, our American ancestors had to endure situations and challenges we’d find almost unbelievable today: cutting roads and farms out of virgin forest, having your spouse or children sold and never seeing them again, braving the angry Atlantic in hopes of a better life and more liberty for you, your family, and your descendants.
We are the children of risk-takers, and have strength of will and character built into our DNA. And it’s just these strengths that allowed us to tame a vast wilderness, create the most powerful economy and nation ever seen on earth, and help spread freedom and justice around the world. It’s been with us from the very beginning, from the first settlers and slaves up through World War II and the beginnings of the Cold War. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the long slide to softness began.
The greatest example of the true power of American grit comes from the man who exemplified the word: George Washington. Though we tend to think of Washington today as a stiff , refined figure— which he was—we cannot forget that the formal face Washington put on in public was backed by an absolutely iron will and determination to see his countrymen set free of the yoke of British tyranny. One could argue that it was his sheer grit that defeated what was then one of the world’s great superpowers.
Lost in the mists of nostalgia is the fact that Washington endured numerous failures before finally turning the tide of the war and bringing about its successful end at Yorktown in 1781.
In fact, the war itself could have been lost in the first year or two if it weren’t for Washington’s gritty determination. After being appointed commander-in-chief by the Continental Congress, Washington rushed to Boston to take over command of the ragtag band that made up the Continental Army.
After successfully driving the British from Boston, however, Washington smartly figured out that the British would try to capture New York City next, so he quickly moved his men south. Washington’s army was defeated, though, and forced to abandon New York, and then suffered a series of defeats as they were steadily driven into New Jersey. Finally, Washington was able to cross the Delaware River and bring his men (and himself) a brief respite.
Washington was in trouble, and he knew it. He’d lost a lot of men, and those who were left were exhausted, demoralized, and in many cases ready to go home when their enlistments were up. Instead of succumbing to despair, though, Washington drew upon his heroic well of grit, rallied his men, and won a daring, crushing victory over the Hessians— German mercenaries allied with the British—in Trenton, New Jersey, on the night of Christmas 1776. Taking advantage of the momentum, Washington moved on to defeat a force of British regulars at Princeton just days later.
Washington faced another tough winter the following year. After defeats at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, the Continental Army set up their winter camp in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, about twenty miles from Philadelphia. We all know about the hardships of Valley Forge— not having enough food, clothing, or fuel for heat, our brave patriots and their tough-minded commander endured a level of physical and mental discomfort few (outside our outstanding military) could stand today.
Washington, however, didn’t spend this time pouting—he got to work training his men and doing every thing he could to keep up morale. He also spent enormous amounts of energy trying to get Congress to pay for more supplies and fighting off accusations of incompetence, including at least one high-level attempt to unseat him. The result? In June, a much stronger and better-trained Continental Army emerged from Valley Forge, ready to face the enemy. Once again, Washington’s grit— his strong will and mental fortitude— kept the army, and our country, together.
And Washington was just one of many men and women whose determination helped push the United States forward and make us a great country: from the Founding Fathers to Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan, gritty, tough Americans have been the driving force in making us great. However, we’ve lost our way— and nowhere is this more evident than in our limping economy.
GRIT FORGES THE AMERICAN ECONOMY
For most of our nation’s history, our economic policies were based on the philosophy of the father of economic “grit”— Adam Smith, whose famous Wealth of Nations was published the same year (1776) as the nation that would most vigorously embrace his philosophy—at least until recently— was born. Smith wrote the book on economics— literally. The Wealth of Nations was the first book on economics to capture the public’s interest. Why? It’s no mystery. In this groundbreaking tome, Smith outlines the positive power of determined self-interest (i.e., grit) and how both drive mighty public goods. It should be required reading for every student— especially every college student, and even more especially their professors—in the United States.
In one of the book’s most famous quotes, Smith states that it is “not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” Instead, people’s actions— and therefore the free market as a whole— are led by what Smith famously called an “invisible hand” that promotes “an end which was no part of [one’s] intention.”
In fact, says Smith, by pursuing one’s own interest, an individual “frequently promotes [the interest] of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.” Centuries ago, Smith recognized this essential truth, upon which the economies of much of the world are now at least partially based.
What Smith is saying is that as we successfully pursue our selfinterest—which can only be done with grit and determination— we help create a stronger, better, and freer society for every one.
With a handful of exceptions, up until the 1930s, this was America’s approach to economics, resulting in the rise of the United States as an economic power house and geopolitical giant.
But then came the Great Depression and the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as President. The tentative collectivist roots of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” matured throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and were hardened by Lyndon Johnson’s “ Great Society” in the 1960s, when things began to fall apart. This collectivist— really, socialist— trend has now found its purest expression in Barack Obama’s “hope and change” administration. During this time— with the exception of the Reagan Eighties—America and Americans continued to soften. And we’re now a nation of wusses. We let China walk all over us when it comes to currency manipulation. We let Russia push us around in the Middle East. And our people look more and more to government to tell them what to do, instead of taking risks, building our own lives, and creating wealth for ourselves and our communities.
To a degree, we are victims of our own success. As our country grew more powerful, and wealth and technology made life easier, a certain amount of softening was prob ably inevitable. Where we are today, though, is not a natural progression of a society—it is the deliberate outcome of decades of indoctrination intended to turn what used to be a nation of mavericks into a nation of sheep. We avoid risk, seek safety, and cower in corners— both real and proverbial.
And it’s killing our economy, literally. Between 2012 and 2014, GDP growth was just 2 percent.13 This is considered the “new normal” of growth, at least according to the tame liberal media, which keeps trying to convince us that this is a strong recovery. This is utter and complete bullshit. This has been the worst recovery in nearly a century,14 as further evidenced by the “good” employment numbers we keep hearing about.
Every time new, lower unemployment numbers come out, the liberals and the media (but I repeat myself ) tout how the job market has bounced back from the Great Recession. What they fail to mention is the historically low workforce participation rate.
According to a July 2015 U.S. News & World Report analysis, the “country’s labor force participation rate— which mea sure the share of Americans at least 16 years old who are either employed or actively looking for work— dipped last month to a 38- year low, clocking in at an underwhelming 62.6 percent.”15
Translation: the jobs numbers look “good” not because we are creating tons of good jobs, but because so many people have given up looking for work—or simply don’t want to work, because they know that Mama Government will be there to take care of them.
Anemic 2 percent GDP growth and an insanely low workforce participation rate are perfect economic metaphors and indicators of the Left’s “softness doctrine.” Essentially, we are being told that this economy is “good enough,” and that we should accept our lot. That’s not the American way, though— and that’s not the conservative way, either. We can only hope the next President is a true, pro-growth conservative who will return our economy and society to its gritty, tough-as-nails roots.
CRAMER VS. CRAMER
Without great risk, we cannot achieve great success. I learned this lesson pretty clearly once when I’d just started out on television. I found myself going head- to-head with the then- biggest name in finance TV, Jim Cramer. Cramer, whose show Mad Money was known for its off -the-wall antics as much as its stock tips, was still regarded as the “big dog” when it came to stocks and bonds. I was relatively new to CNBC, mostly talking commodities— but I had started to branch out into general financial analysis as well.
I must have been making somewhat of a name for myself—and apparently pissing off Big Jim for some reason— because I heard through the grapevine that Cramer was on the warpath.
For me. In fact, I learned he wanted to come onto Fast Money where I was a panelist specifically for the purpose of taking me down a peg or two. I wasn’t sure why, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to back down, either. I didn’t doubt my own financial analysis, but Cramer was a TV pro, and could make almost anybody look like a fool in front of millions of viewers. I felt like I was being backed into a corner.
I’d worked so hard to get where I was, to do well as a trader and then to break into TV, and now one of the biggest guns in the business was coming for me. So I went to see Mark Fisher, my mentor from the trading floor, to talk things out.
Mark Fisher was a real sage. He never spelled things out for me, but he helped me figure them out for myself through sharp analysis. We agreed that if Cramer wanted, he could come after me then and there. But then, Mark asked a simple question: What if I won? “Would Cramer risk you beating him?” Mark asked. No, I realized, he wouldn’t. “Think about that for a second,” Mark said. And I did.
So the day came when Cramer was due to appear on our show. He didn’t go after me right away, but instead started talking about how good the stock market was looking. I saw my opening. I jumped in, cut him off , and said simply, “Cramer, you’re wrong.” Big Jim looked stunned. The panelists were stunned. And I’m sure the audience was stunned.
“What do you mean I’m wrong,” he stammered, clearly not used to hearing that phrase. I was ready. I told him that I thought commodities were a better bet than financial stocks, and decided to make it interesting.
“I’ll bet you fifty thousand dollars for charity,” I offered, “and you can have your financial stocks, which don’t look good to me, and I’ll take gold and oil. We’ll come back one year from now and we’ll see who does better, and the loser pays the winner’s charity fifty grand.”
Cramer had no idea what to do. He couldn’t back down, though, not in the face of the upstart new guy. All he could get out was: “Big hat, no cattle, pal” and finally “on your way!”
This exchange happened just before the financial meltdown that started with the banking sector, which held all the stocks Cramer had picked. Every single stock that he talked about tanked over the next year: Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, all the big financials, they all went belly-up. Gold and oil, of course, rallied because investors abandoned banks to seek shelter in commodities. Gold and oil doubled, and his stocks got wiped out. And that moment is preserved on YouTube for all to see.16
A year passed, and I never heard anything about the bet. I haven’t heard anything to this day. I took a gamble confronting a veteran financial guru on live TV, and it paid off —at least for me and my reputation. However, I can think of some deserving charities that would really appreciate that $50,000, and Cramer could certainly afford to pay it. His silence has been deafening.
I didn’t set out to humiliate Jim Cramer, but I wasn’t going to let him humiliate me. I had to stake out my territory, and prove I belonged in the TV big leagues just as much as he did. Mark Fisher helped me realize my opening: Cramer was afraid of losing to me. That was his weakness, and I exploited it. It was just like when I had to fight— sometimes literally—my way to the top of the trading pits. You define your objective, then figure out what (or who) is in your way. What set me apart was an intense desire to solve the problem. I made my analysis, took Mark’s advice, and eventually the way opened and I was able to meet the challenge.
The kind of risk-taking I demonstrated with Jim Cramer is a good example of the grit necessary to build and sustain a great country. It is also exactly what the Left is trying to grind down with its collectivist policies and “softness indoctrination.” Instead of challenging the status quo and trusting in your own abilities, they would rather you trust in government. Just stop worrying and let the state do the thinking for you, right? Why make things hard for yourself?
After all, they know more than you do about choosing what information you get, what nonprofit groups should be allowed to function, what social services you need, and what kind of health care you deserve. Who needs grit to sustain themselves when you can just sit back and let the government take care of everything? The softer the citizenry, the more susceptible they are to liberal claptrap— and the more strings the Leftist puppet masters can pull.
And all along the way, a biased media, a morally bankrupt academy, and a clueless Hollywood have abetted this softening. Rugged manliness is denigrated— being “macho” is assumed to be the same thing as being a male chauvinist. Being a thug or an outlaw is cool, while being a soldier or police officer is a tool of oppression. And besides, crime is a result of social conditions, not personal choices. Children are taught that the world is full of dangers— which is true— and that they aren’t capable of handling them without government assistance— which is a lie.
Speaking of truth and lies, on September 29, 2011, President Obama said the following:
I mean, there are a lot of things we can do. The way I think about it is, you know, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and, you know, we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track.17
Hearing this, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry . . . or put my fist through a wall. This may be the truest thing this President has ever said, and yet he has done every thing in his power to make us softer! This is the kind of media bait- and- switch liberals excel at. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds, and their souls know no shame. To the liberal, their ends are so obviously good (to them), that any means are justified. Think I’m wrong? Pick up a book about Stalin or Mao and you’ll see that I’m 100 percent right.
However, it is important to note one thing: there are a few major exceptions to today’s “softness indoctrination.” The biggest and by far most important is the U.S. military. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are among the toughest, grittiest folks to ever walk the planet. Those who have fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terror in general—as well as many of our first-responders and law enforcement— are the exception to today’s soft America.
In today’s America, you can choose to be soft. In the old days, you had to be prepared to be tough, even if the fight you were preparing for never came. While the full reasoning behind this softness is unknowable, there is no doubt in my mind that the policies and philosophy of the Left— including and especially Barack Obama— have played the primary role in the deterioration of our national grit, character, and mental toughness.
“Wake Up America: The Nine Virtues That Made Our Nation Great—and Why We Need Them More Than Ever” is now available on Amazon.
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