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"Armed and Angry"; Another Sociologist Attacks Gun Owners

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posted on Jan, 26 2011 @ 08:08 PM
I have been busy enough lately that it has been a while since I picked up a newspaper and read it. Today, even though I remain busy, I made the time to read today's issue of the Los Angeles Times. When I got to the OP - ED Page, the prominently featured opinion of the day was Armed and Angry by Barbara Eherenreich:

Barbara Ehrenreich (born August 26, 1941, Butte, Montana; pronounced /ˈɛrɨnraɪk/)[1] is an American feminist, democratic socialist, sociologist and political activist, a prominent figure in the Democratic Socialists of America. She is a widely read columnist and essayist, and the author of nearly 20 books.

I had never heard of Ehrenreich before, and only began reading the OP - ED piece because it was so prominently featured. Interestingly, the L.A. Times link for their website has the opinion piece but has retitled it, (presumably because Armed and Angry isn't SEO friendly enough), to: A Call to Protest Ignites a Call to Arms:

Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac.

Being a member of ATS, reading the first paragraph gave me a sense I was reading an opinion piece by someone not at all tapped into the American psyche. Wusses? Is she serious? American's aren't protesting enough? Frankly,, I find protest to be a limp wristed way of admitting helplessness, and given so many of American protester's are inclined to apply for permits to do so, and then will often corral into a chain link fenced in area called "free speech zones", I would suggest that today's brand of American protest ain't your grandfather's brand of American protest, but okay, Ehrenreich wants an audience, and calling us all wusses is as provocative way as any to start an OP - ED piece. So, I continued reading:

The question has been raised many times in the last few years, by a variety of scholars and commentators -- this one included -- but when the eminent social scientist Frances Fox Piven brought it up at the end of December in an essay titled "Mobilizing the Jobless," all hell broke loose. An editor of Glenn Beck's website,, posted a piece sporting the specious headline "Frances Fox Piven Rings in the New Year by Calling for Violent Revolution," and, just two weeks before the Tucson shootings, the death threats started flying. Many of the most provocative comments have been removed from the site's comment section, but at one time they included such charming posts as: "Bring it on biotch [sic]. we're armed to the teeth." Or: "We're all for violence and change, Francis [sic]. Where do your loved ones live?"

(Emphasis added)

Wondering, by this point, what her argument was, I decided to look and see who she was. So I skipped down to the blurb of a biography below the opinion piece:

Barbara Ehrenreich's most recent book is "Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America."

I figured she was a sociologist herself, given what I had all read, and of course, I read the rest of her argument, and it came as no surprise to me that it was an academic's idea of attacking American "gun culture". Those who are inclined to read her argument in its entirety will take the time to read the OP - ED piece I linked, but for those who don't care to, here is her two final paragraphs:

Never mind that there are only a few ways you can use a gun to improve your economic situation: You can hock it. You can deploy it in an armed robbery. Or you can use it to shoot raccoons for dinner.

But there is one thing you can accomplish with guns and coarse threats about using them: You can make people think twice before disagreeing with you. When a congresswoman can be shot in a parking lot and a professor who falls short of Glenn Beck's standards of political correctness can be, however anonymously, targeted for execution, we have moved well beyond democracy -- to a tyranny of the heavily armed.

What is, you might ask at this point, my argument? Great question! I am taking the time out of my busy day to create this thread for a number of reasons. Life has a serendipitous way about it, and the coincidences regarding Ehrenreich's opinion piece were many. Last week I was busy with several gigs, but one of them was helping a client I tutor get through his final research paper in sociology. It was the third paper he had to write in this sociology class. So, there was the coincidence of that, coupled with the new knowledge that I was reading an article by a sociologist who has just recently written a book challenging the efficacy of positive thinking. Her book; How Positive Thinking is Undermining America is a book I have not read, and yet, that title seems to give clues as to what this book is about:

A sharp-witted knockdown of America’s love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realism

Americans are a “positive” people—cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity.

And, of course, her own website confirmed what I suspected, that positive thinking, in her "sharp witted" view was not "realism".

In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal nineteenth-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude. Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to “prosper” you. The medical profession prescribes positive thinking for its presumed health benefits. Academia has made room for new departments of “positive psychology” and the “science of happiness.” Nowhere, though, has bright-siding taken firmer root than within the business community, where, as Ehrenreich shows, the refusal even to consider negative outcomes—like mortgage defaults—contributed directly to the current economic crisis.

It was interesting, while reading Ehrenrich's shameless self promotion from her own website, that she hoped to frame the mortgage default crisis as a consequence of positive thinking rather than the consequence of highly cynical business practices, and how she seems to view positive thinkers as naive, while it strikes me that ignoring the cynicism inherent in banking institutions is sort of naive. The coincidence in Ehrenreich's most recent book, and since she has a website dedicated to shameless promotion of that book, I will take an opportunity to shamelessly promote a thread I wrote singing the praises of positive thinking...sort of.

Ehrenreich continues with her own self promotion with a final paragraph that states:

With the mythbusting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America’s penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts. On a national level, it’s brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best—poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science, and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.

The emphasis was added to accentuate yet another coincidence, and yet another opportunity for me to shamelessly promote another thread in this site regarding critical thinking, and my contribution to that thread regarding the use of the word myth, and how this word has gone from describing a particular type of story that has been told since time immemorial to being equated with falsehoods.

It is also worth taking a critical look at the last paragraph of Eherenreich's shameless self promotion beyond the use of the word "mythbusting" and taking a look at the assertions that stamping out "negative" thoughts is akin to "morbid preoccupation" and the amusing assertion that the power of positive thinking is "faux science" -- amusing because the social sciences seem to be faux sciences as well - and her call to "existential clarity" -- a philosophical doctrine that demands people embrace their limitations -- and courage, as if holding a positive thought in this day and age doesn't require courage.

So much to address, and yet so little time to do that in. I am under deadlines for work where I am being paid to write, and yet, here I am writing for no pay, first because I believe this topic is important, and secondly because part of positive thinking, or more specifically the Law of Attraction, requires I give back to the universe and not just take and take and take. Of course, I am convinced that the gigs I take are predicated on an even exchange and it is not as if I am taking, but only exchanging, but even so, part of mythology is the hero's journey, and part of being a hero is the understanding that hero's accept not just responsibility for their own actions, but for the actions of as many people as they can possibly bear. So, while I jump in between this threads creation, and working on my paid gigs, I somehow hope to accept the responsibility for what I believe is the morbid preoccupation sociologists have with collectives - particularly sociologists such as Ehrenreich who is an admitted "democratic socialist" - and if not bring some much needed sanity to the discourse, at least some sort of balance to this ever noisy "U.S. Political Madness".

In tutoring my clients, it never fails that why they come to me is because they are either bored with what they are being taught, or they "hate" the subject. This was no different for my client in this sociology class. The trick is to find out why they are bored, or "hate" the class they chose to take. It is most often times because of either misunderstood words, or because they instinctively know they are being indoctrinated and this agitates them to the point that their grades suffer. For my client in the sociology class it turned out to be an instinctive understanding that he was being indoctrinated. He wasn't consciously aware of this, but as I kept pushing him to communicate to me why he hated the class, he finally pointed to a single sentence in a single paragraph of his text book that offered a definition of law, and said that definitions like that made him feel stupid.

The text book was Richard T. Schaefer's Sociology: A Brief Introduction, 7th edition, (the text cannot be found online), and the sentence that was agitating my student was on page 64 from Chapter 3 (Culture), and the sentence read:

Sociologist Donald Black (1995) has termed law "government social control", meaning that laws are formal norms enforced by the state.

This single sentence made my client feel stupid. Why? I asked, and he answered that he didn't know why. I pushed. Finally, in exasperation he declared because the sentence was "BS". Then he asked me if I thought that was stupid. I asked him if he thought that was stupid, and he answered no. I asked him why the sentence made him feel stupid then, and he finally came to the conclusion that it wasn't he that was stupid, but that it was that sentence that was stupid. Of course, the reason he came to me is that he had failed his first two quizzes in the class, and had answered "incorrectly" the question of law on a multiple choice question.

As a tutor, part of my job is to point out that when a student reads a sentence with a word bolded in it that chances are that this bolded word will be a question on a quiz or test. He understood this, and this is why he felt stupid. He felt he should have known the answer to that question, but when it came time to answer "correctly" he couldn't remember what Donald Black had defined law as. He couldn't remember because he thought the definition was stupid, but didn't realize this was his thinking, so he just felt stupid. Further, he resented the notion that he was expected to memorize a stupid definition just to get a good grade. In short, he resented the indoctrination that was being shoved down his throat.

Where my sessions are supposed to run an hour, we spent over two hours that day discussing what law is, and whether or not Donald Black was right or not regarding law. While there are plenty of people who will agree with Black on his definition, my client, and certainly I, respectfully disagreed, and had used our own critical thinking skills to make our own conclusions about what law is.

My client did not go to college because he is an idiot, and before taking this sociology class he had taken a few history classes, so we discussed revolutions, we discussed the 18th Amendment and its subsequent repeal, and various other insurrections to support our own argument that governments are fooling themselves if they truly believe they can "enforce social norms" or that law is "governmental social control". Of course, it is interesting that the universe sent this student to me to help him get through a class he thought was full of crap, and that he would point to a sentence declaring law as "governmental social control". I showed him an online copy of Frederic Bastiat's The Law, and we discussed natural law and the idea that law is not made but discovered.

We discussed the irony of a social "science" class asserting that the laws of justice are separate from the laws of science, and laughed at the colloquialism of "soft science" of which sociology is often called. I told him that he had a right to challenge this indoctrination in class, and demand discussion be allowed regarding what was being taught. The next day he went to class and did precisely that, so the next time I saw him he could barely contain his excitement. Suddenly, this student who hated his sociology class was thrilled to be in it, and to use his own intelligence and critical thinking skills to challenge what was being taught. To his professor's credit, this discourse was allowed, and what had been a quiet Catholic mass in church of a class soon become a lively Southern Baptist evangelical class where students began to engage and "testify" to their own ideas and understandings. What my client once hated, he soon began to love.

He wound up leaving that class with an A- making strong A's on all his papers, all of which challenged what was taught to him, and in fact, one paper he was assigned the subject of cultural imperialism and to find a corporation guilty of imposing cultural imperialism. He chose to hold up academia as that corporation, and took to task the arbitrary and rigid rules of academia as an imposition on students at the expense of critical thought. His professor wrote a note that said; "While I do not agree with all your points, those points were so well argued, so well organized, I am happy to give you an A". He then wrote; "Just between you and I, the I didn't make up the rules, and am just a cog in the machine". Ha! He claimed not to agree with my client, but then admitted to some degree that he did agree.

My client left that class feeling as if he learned something, but even more importantly that his professor learned something too! I cannot help but wonder if Barbara Ehrenreich ever taught her professor's anything, or if she just memorized the data being thrown at her, and now regurgitates that data. Of course, being a "democratic socialist", it is fairly presumed she has to accept Black's definition of law being "governmental social control", because even if she is qualifying her socialist idealism with the term democratic, she means democratic in the form of a majority who embrace socialism, regardless of what this majority will do to the unalienable rights of the minority who reject socialism. It makes sense, then, that Ehrenreich fears the "tyranny of the heavily armed", and without a hint of irony means by "heavily armed" the populace instead of the single most powerful military in the history of the world with the largest nuclear arsenal ever to be assembled. She apparently doesn't fear that heavily armed portion of America, just the populace who own guns.

As a writer, I have always been of the mind that the pen is far mightier than the sword, and I have never owned a gun in my entire life. Truth be told, I don't like guns. I don't like what they represent. I don't like the cold impersonal steel that makes up this tool. I hope I never, ever have to own a gun. This, however, doesn't mean that I favor gun control, and I certainly do not favor banning gun ownership. I fully understand why guns exist, and I begrudgingly acknowledge their necessity. If we, as a people who have come together to form a more perfect union, that perfect union being the collective right to self defense, then we must have the freedom to arm ourselves if we so choose, and we must understand that each individual has the right to self defense - which is what justifies forming a government to achieve that end collectively - and a part of that self defense is often times being armed.

Ehrenreich clearly disagrees, and will in her "witty" way make claims that guns will not improve economic situations, while ignoring the fact that in America, increasingly if one wants a job the best shot they have at getting a job is with some government agency where being armed is a requirement, and also ignoring the fact that our war in Iraq seems to be one being fought for economic reasons and that guns are a big part of how America hopes to improve our future in oil.

Ehrenreich, being a collectivist, and as a sociologist dedicated to studying collectives, has not regard for the individual and does not care that the vast majority of gun owners in America aren't shooting politicians nor are they threatening other sociologists with guns. Indeed, she will gladly take what is a very small fraction of the populace and endeavor to inflate that fraction into a big scary monster who is "heavily armed", and she does so because the particular "governmental social control" she advocates is a leviathan state imposing its legal plunder on a disarmed populace. Somehow, all those gun owners out there are far less scary than she is.

posted on Jan, 26 2011 @ 08:27 PM
*slow clap*

A detailed report on basically the lashing out on a socialogist romanticizer. Star and flag. This is probably the first thread where someone actually makes an attempt to tell why they dislike this.

posted on Jan, 26 2011 @ 08:40 PM
Great Piece JPZ

You "busted" the "mythbuster".
It's good to have you back if perhaps only briefly and this piece is a great example of why you are missed when you're not here.

The indoctrination process in the US has been incremental and quite successful in turning public opinion towards their own mental demise.
Personal responsibility is time-worn excuse to them and everything that happens is due to environmental and hereditary factors that can be remedied with more laws, programs and propaganda.
In their thinking If the goose is overcooked, let's blacken the damn thing and call it fine cuisine
Then they can charge us more for it.

Star and flag,

posted on Jan, 26 2011 @ 09:08 PM
reply to post by Asktheanimals

Wow you have done your work and make sense! I love the way how you can dislike something AND have an objective opinion as to why something is still useful. A truly wonderful viewpoint brother. A right not excercised is a right lost.
S&F's all the way

posted on Jan, 26 2011 @ 09:09 PM
My Friend Jean Paul Zodeaux, S & F. You know what the Chinese people say? We may think we're correct in this matter, we still must wait for the Government to tell us if we are right or wrong. I'd truly hate to see my New Country come to this, even though I think Fools like your editorial writer in your O P wishes this to happen.

I'm happy to see you back and posting even though it may be a short time, I always enjoy your threads.

I'm sorry, I wish my English was better so I could better explain my self.

edit on 26-1-2011 by guohua because: spell check

posted on Jan, 26 2011 @ 09:12 PM

Originally posted by Jean Paul ZodeauxSomehow, all those gun owners out there are far less scary than she is.

haha! very nice ending

i enjoyed reading all that and thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to post

posted on Jan, 27 2011 @ 05:02 AM
reply to post by Jean Paul Zodeaux

...he understood this, and this is why he felt stupid. He felt he should have known the answer to that question, but when it came time to answer "correctly" he couldn't remember what Donald Black had defined law as. He couldn't remember because he thought the definition was stupid, but didn't realize this was his thinking, so he just felt stupid. Further, he resented the notion that he was expected to memorize a stupid definition just to get a good grade. In short, he resented the indoctrination that was being shoved down his throat."

Off topic but this is a great example of the subconscious/conscious bind and how our subconscious can 'trick' us into thinking believing certain things. I am going to swipe this part of the story to show how conscious processes can influence us in ways that are not obvious. Yes i've been reading lots on hypnosis and it would be every helpful to the OP with new students to tell them this story as it will install lots of information and might show them the direction that studying with you will take. Then again I remember studying sociology and boy do they make it boring.

In terms of the OP, the sociologist have to pay bills and appeal to a certain audience, as in all cases, the argument is based on incomplete evidence, personal opinion and above greed. How can we trust anyone with vested interests in these issues? For me guns are bad, banning guns is even worse

posted on Jan, 27 2011 @ 10:21 AM

off-topic post removed to prevent thread-drift


posted on Jan, 29 2011 @ 02:18 PM
reply to post by Jean Paul Zodeaux

in your original post you touch on how the education system is basically teaching and conditioning students into 'the new standard'

i was wondering, and this is a question for you about your personal opinion, would you say Ehrenreich represents one of the people conciously creating this system. or would you conclude she herself is just a product of the sytem, and thus she is only regurgitating the nonsense she was once forcefed

posted on Jan, 29 2011 @ 04:40 PM
reply to post by indigothefish

That is a great question, and I have not read near enough of her work to make an intelligent observation, or even an educated guess. As an off the cuff guess, I would guess that she is just regurgitating what she's been taught. Her website promoting her book How Positive Thinking is Undermining America claims that the book is an "utterly original take on the American frame of mind", and perhaps the originality she lays claim to is that she addressing the American frame of mind, but the dismissal of positive thinking as being something less than "realism" is really not that original.

I would say that to a large degree we are all products of Immanuel Kant and his Critique of Pure Reason especially if we haven't read that book and are fully aware of what he is arguing. That tome is well over a thousand pages long, and rather tedious so I don't blame people for not reading it, but in my opinion, Kant, more than any other philosopher, had more to do with bringing an end to the Age of Enlightenment. He was certainly a huge influence on the philosophers that followed. The Wikipedia article I just linked states that he argued that "we can face metaphysical problems fruitfully understanding the sources and limits of knowledge" (emphasis added).

While I think that is fairly accurate take on Kant's philosophy, I would add that Kant's complaint with reason is that it only addresses a beginning a middle and an end, and doesn't address what comes before the beginning, or what comes after the end. My complaint with this complaint is twofold; a.) he seems to be concerned with metaphysics, and as difficult as it is to define precisely what metaphysics is, a fairly simplistic definition could be a study of what is in nature and how what is operates. In fairness to Kant, metaphysics is also concerned with being, and as beings it is arguable that we are more than just our body, but in terms of the physical universe, much of that physical universe appears to have a beginning, middle, and an end. Even energy, which apparently never dies, has stages of which it goes through, and those stages have beginnings, middles, and ends.

It's as if the water was remarkably pristine and clear during the Age of Enlightenment and we could see clearly what was difficult to see before that, and Kant came along with a big stick and stuck it in the water and muddied it up, then turned around and complained that things were not so clear. That there are "limits" to knowledge. Even further, and in a nut shell - which is to say I am grossly paraphrasing Kant here - he argues that we should forget happiness and do our moral duty. I would argue that happiness is our moral duty.

While I vehemently disagree with Kant, I also urge everyone to read Kant's work, only because he was so damn influential and Locke, Hume, and most certainly Marx, to name just a few major influences on our thinking, were remarkably influenced by Kant. So, what does all this blathering about a philosopher have to do with sociology and how that is being taught in schools, and what does this have to do with your question? I am not so sure that the indoctrination process has been so much by design. I don't think Kant was an evil scientist who plotted to destroy enlightenment, and by all accounts he was a really good guy. A likable Joe. Of course, it is often said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions, but I think that speaks more to intentions and peoples proclivity towards expecting people to forgive their bad actions simply because the outcome of the actions was not their intention.

I don't believe that Kant was part of some master plan to dumb people down, and especially since the vast majority of people - educated or otherwise - have even read his work. However, other philosophers have read his work and buy into his philosophy and they in turn create their own tomes which in turn influence other philosophers who in turn influence other academic types, such as Ehrenreich. When Ehrenreich calls "for existential clarity" we understand she has been influenced by philosophers. We shouldn't assume that she has read all the existentialists, nor should we assume she understands existentialism, and only assume that she has undoubtedly been influenced by that philosophy.

The biggest problem is when we become influenced by philosophies without understanding those philosophies, and even worse not even aware of the fact that we are influenced by them. It is imperative that we form our own philosophy, or at the very least consciously adopt an existing philosophy that we fully understand. Philosophy tends to be like water, and we all have a philosophy whether we know it or not. When we know we have a philosophy it is like water that is a great thunderous storm, or roaring ocean, but when we don't know we have a philosophy it is more like a drizzle or sleight stream. Either way philosophy, much like water, is insidious. It creeps into our actions and shapes the way we think and guides the directions we take in life.

Perhaps Ehrenreich fully knows and understands her philosophy, or perhaps she has simply been influenced by a hodgepodge of philosophies. Either way, it appears that her own philosophy is a firm belief in collectivism, and that individuals are nothing more than the product of groups and their actions. I suspect that she is the victim of a hodgepodge of philosophies, and this suspicion only comes from the very little I have read of her. To date that would be the OP - ED piece I linked in this thread, and her self promotion on her website. Of course, I don't know if she actually wrote the self congratulatory blurb on her book, but it is her website so it is fairly presumed that if she didn't write it, she read it and approved it. Language such as "utterly original take" reveals a celebration of her own individuality, but arguing that positive thinking has undermined a nation reveals her reverence for collectives. Her proclivity to take a few anecdotal experiences and link them with all gun owners also reveals her reverence for collectives.

The death of reason has never truly been mourned and perhaps that is a good thing. Rather than mourn the death of reason, it is better that we embrace reason again and like the great Phoenix rising from the ashes use the power of reason to separate the black from the white that has become all too gray, and to stop stirring up ponds of water and allow them to clear up so that we may see clearly what it is we're looking for. What are we looking for? The truth! You, Ask the Animals, mr10k, agentblue, the couple who have become one known as guohua, yyyyyyyyyy, Phedreus, and even Ehrenreich are searching for the truth. In that quest for truth, I suggest we use reason as a map, but do not ignore any spiritual or "paranormal" signposts along the way. Kant was justified in critiquing pure reason, as reason has its limitations, but knowledge does not. Knowing is a worthwhile pursuit, and perhaps what we have forgot is that sometimes knowing is discovery, and at other times it is remembering. Not memorization, but remembering what we have always known.

How this relates to your question regarding Ehrenreich is that I think the academic institutions have sacrificed critical thinking, not as some insidious plot to dumb down the public, but have done so out of expedience. It is easier to limit research pages to five or six pages, but to demand that the page limit of six pages come with at least four scholarly references outside of the textbook, as if six pages gives a student enough space to speak to the research done using a minimum of four scholarly articles and the textbook. It makes the professors job easier, it makes bureaucratic life easier, it can even make the students life easier, but it does nothing for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. It is expedience placed as a higher value than critical thinking, and perhaps at times this is a correct assessment of the value but when critical thinking is being sacrificed, then by definition, sacrifice is giving up of one thing of a higher value, for another thing of a lesser value, and in this regard, expedience is no longer justifiable.

Too often we get drawn so far into the forest that we can only see the trees that surround us, and while we can never know the forest from all angles at all times, we can do our best to survey that forest and to at all times keep a reasonable sense of the whole forest. Academia is at a time where they are lost in the woods. They have lost their sense of the whole forest, and the only true saviors of academia will be her students. When students insist on relying on critical thinking as a proper tool for gaining knowledge, then whatever indoctrination these babes lost in the woods hope to teach, it will be pointless, and teachers who are there to genuinely teach will come to understand this and find there way again. If students, after all, cannot teach their teachers then both student and teacher has failed.

posted on Feb, 1 2011 @ 04:51 AM
reply to post by Jean Paul Zodeaux

Jean Paul Zodeaux YOU are a definatly someone to whom I admire. It takes a lot of insight and rhetoric to come to the bones of the core primal aspects of humanity. I may be a philosophical hillbilly but you have a handle on what is your philosophy and I respect that. People often times criticize the layman or country folk as dumb because of the simple ways of life that we choose to live but too often the solitude and slower pace of life gives insight that can't be obtained in a constant bombardment of society. I refer to the beehive as an example. If one sits in a beehive it looks like chaos.... step back and look and the intricate workings and relationships suddenly become apparent. S&F and whatever else people give eachother on ATS! I'll give you one even better, I'll tip my hat and shake your hand.

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