December 20, 1620: Mayflower passengers finally disembark at Plymouth, after agreeing to the Mayflower Compact

December 21, 2013

Item from The Associated Press‘s “Today in History” feature, for December 21:  “1620 – Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Mass.”  Why in December?  The arrived at the place almost a month earlier, but because of delays in getting out of England due to the leaky second boat (which didn’t make the trip), and difficulties encountered en route, when the group anchored, they first had to come to an agreement how to govern the colony, so far out of the territory of the charter they had been granted, as explained below.  Originally, a version of this desultory ran here, on July 26, 2006.

Credit: Sarony & Major.

From the Library of Congress, one of the few illustrations of the event that makes it clear it was near winter: The Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock, December 1620 Credit: Sarony & Major. “The landing of the Pilgrims, on Plymouth Rock, Dec. 11th 1620.” c1846. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars features a set of comments on an interview right-right-wing pundit John Lofton did with Roy Moore, the former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court who lost his job when he illegally tried to force his religion on the court and on Alabama. In 2006 Moore ran for governor of Alabama, losing in the primary election.

One of the grandest canards in current thought about U.S. history is that the Mayflower Compact set up a theocracy in Massachusetts. Lofton and Moore banter about it as if it were well-established fact — or as if, as I suspect, neither of them has looked at the thing in a long time, and that neither of them has ever diagrammed the operative sentence in the thing.

The Mayflower Compact was an agreement between the people in two religiously disparate groups, that among them they would fairly establish a governing body to fairly make laws, and that they would abide by those laws. Quite the opposite of a theocracy, this was the first time Europeans set up in the New World a government by consent of the governed.

That is something quite different from a theocracy.

I think people get confused by the run-on sentences, and the flattering, intended-to-be-flowery language in the clauses prefacing the meat of the document.

First, a very brief history: There were two groups aboard the ship in 1620, about 70 artisans and craftsman along to provide the real work to make sure the colony made money, and about 30 religious refugees. The London Company (accurately) thought the religious refugees lacking in key skills, like trapping, hunting and hide tanning, and barrel-making (barrels were needed to ship goods to England). So the London Company had insisted the craftsman go along, to make sure somebody knew how to harvest stuff and ship it back.

The London Company had a charter to establish a colony in Virginia. Because of delays with leaky ships and uncooperative winds, the Mayflower got to America late, and much farther north. The Mayflower landed well outside the territory the company was chartered to colonize, and the 70 craftsmen announced they were striking out on their own. Bradford realized his group would freeze, or starve, or both, and at gunpoint he kept both groups aboard ship to work out a compromise.

Here is the full text, from the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law site:

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&.

Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620.

See what I mean? It’s loaded with clauses that tend to obscure what is going on. Starting out with the standard contract language of the day, “In the name of God, Amen,” it loses modern readers. We tend to think that with so many mentions of God without a “damn” following, it must be a religious document. But it’s not.

Here’s the meat the the document, the money quote:

We, whose names are underwritten . . . do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

Got that? They promised to form a government, enact fair laws, and obey those laws — government by consent of the governed, by mutual compact, not by divine right.

Just because God is mentioned in the document doesn’t change its nature. It’s a secular compact, an agreement between men, outside the stricture of any church, outside any particular belief.

As we noted over at Ed Brayton’s site, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, many New England settlements and towns became little theocracies. But it wasn’t the Mayflower Compact which set that up, or encouraged it.

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Can’t make this stuff up: Utah internet sales magnate wants Constitutional Amendment for . . . religious freedom

August 13, 2013

You know what?  The Stupid doesn’t burn, after all — if it did, this guy would have self-immolated long ago.

Utah Policy Daily is an online-newsletter of public policy stuff in the Beehive State — a very good one.  It’s done by some top Utah political consultants from both parties, and former political writers, colleauges and friends from the University of Utah and the political and culture wars in the state.

Utah Policy Daily carried this story, this morning, which I present in full only because you wouldn’t believe it otherwise:

Constitutional Amendment Would Protect ‘Religious Liberty’

By Bryan Schott

Jonathan Johnson, Executive Vice-President of Overstock.com, is leaping into the political ring with a proposed constitutional amendment to protect religious liberty.

Jonathan Johnson of OverStock.com

Jonathan Johnson of OverStock.com

The Daily Caller reports Johnson wants his proposed amendment to exempt churches from being forced to perform same-sex marriages. Johnson says the amendment wouldn’t interfere with the Supreme Court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage, but it also protects groups opposed to the practice at the same time.

Johnson and some friends hatched an idea for states to pass a constitutional amendment saying: ”A religious organization, religious association, religious society or any person acting in a role connected with such organization, association or society and shall not be required to solemnize, officiate in, or recognize any particular marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of its constitutional right of conscience or its free exercise of religion.”

(The wording is still being fleshed out, but that’s basically what it will say.)

In some ways, this shouldn’t be controversial. The proposed amendment “doesn’t get in the way of gay marriage,” Johnson notes — “but it [also] doesn’t have gay marriage encroach into areas of religious liberty.”

Read more: Utah Policy – Constitutional Amendment Would Protect Religious Liberty

As I understand it, this amendment would be aimed at preventing the government from ordering preachers to marry people they don’t want to marry.

Maybe Johnson is so much a Mormon (I do not know his faith) that he does not know that this “right” is protected by the First Amendment, and has been practiced by far too many Catholic priests, Baptists ministers, and even Mormon Bishops, over the past 225 years.  Preachers regularly refuse to allow their churches to be used by people for any fool reason whatever, and no preacher is forced to solemnize a marriage.  In short, his proposed amendment is wholly superfluous, already covered by the First Amendment.

Unless his real purpose is to create some new way of bashing homosexuals, as I suspect.  Bigot.

Here’s the scary part:  This guy has created a lobbying group to push for the amendment, and has already raised more than $100,000 to push it.  According to the RWNJournal Daily Caller:

As conservatives work to create a firewall on the issue of religious liberty, don’t be surprised if this effort catches on nationwide. Johnson already has a Utah PAC (First Freedom PAC) and a 501 (c)(4) that he says has “raised low six digits — and we’re not really trying yet,” he says.

How many stupid people, people wholly unaware of the First Amendment, are out there with the checkbooks open willing to be suckered by confidence schemes like this?  Enough to raise “low six digits.”

Hey:  For just $10,000, I’ll come to your home and explain why the First Amendment already gives us religious freedom, and tell you why it shouldn’t be mucked with.  I’ll bring PowerPoints and patriotic music, if you want, and give it all to you in less than an hour — or take a whole day if you want.  I won’t even charge expenses.

Then you can put your remaining money into a group that really works to defend the Constitution, or the First Amendment specifically — and I’ll tell you who they are.

Next thing you know, this guy will “come up” with an idea for an amendment to recognize Jesus.

History and policy ignoramii.  Santayana’s Ghost is grumbling and going back for another cup of coffee.  Has Chris Rodda heard about this yet?  Ed Brayton? (Oh, yeah, Ed’s on it already.  Good.)

One point of light:  My old colleague at the Daily Utah Chronicle, Bob Bernick, wrote a column detailing that Utah politicians generally are not so stupidly right-wing as many in the rest of the nation, “Utah, not as crazy as we could be.”  Maybe some of those not-stupid people will take Mr. Johnson aside and explain the Constitution to him.

Update:  Point of darkness:  Johnson has a law degree from BYU.  Seriously.  I thought U.S. Sen. Mike Lee was an aberration,

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Here in Texas, we have the First Amendment engraved in stone, at Southern Methodist University.

Here in Texas, we have the First Amendment engraved in stone, at Southern Methodist University. Photo by Ed Darrell – use encouraged.
Text of the First Amendment: Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Shhhh! While Tea Party shouts against Sharia law, GOP sneaks some Sharia into national platform,

August 22, 2012

Checking out the main stage for GOP 2012 Convention - AFP photo

While the platform committee meets a few blocks away, GOP planners check out the main stage for GOP 2012 Convention – AFP photo

You’d have a tough time dreaming this sort of stuff up for Saturday Night Live skit, or a comedy movie.

Eric Koenig, one of my few Follower-of-Islam friends, wrote:

The GOP has been talking for quite some time about “creeping Shariah Law,” the notion that, little by little, Muslims are taking over America by demanding that they be allowed to have Shariah rights, in this city, in that city, until the whole thing creeps across, and engulfs, America itself, whereupon we will become an “Islamic theocracy” (there are none, but the “pundits” always love to use the term) such as in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, etc. So anything that may have to do with “Shariah Law” is the absolute antithesis of the GOP.

Right?

Yes, that’s right.  In fact, here in Texas the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz, complains about Sharia law almost as often as he warns the United Nations is coming to take away our golf courses.  (See what I mean by, “you can’t make this stuff up?”)  Ted Cruz, who once upon a time had a Harvard education, defeated the rich-but-sane-by-comparison “mainstream” GOP candidate just a few weeks ago.

Eric continued:

Well, the GOP has recently released the draft of the language of their party platform for this month’s national convention in Florida. And they have something to say about abortion. Namely, they call for a Constitutional ban on abortion, even in cases where the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest. No exceptions other than if the expectant mother’s life is at risk.

Here’s the irony: ask anyone from a rather conservative Muslim country — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan etc. — what their country’s policy is towards abortion and they’ll tell you no abortions are allowed except if the expectant mother’s life is at risk.

In other words, in a Muslim nation, no abortions are performed on women who have been made pregnant through rape or incest. Nope; the law states that they should go ahead and have their kids. IT’S THE LAW.

And nobody sees the irony here about the GOP complaining of “creeping Shariah Law” and jumping into bed with the very “Islamic theocracies” they claim to denounce regarding the abortion issue??

I think we got the GOP by the family jewels. They can’t have their cake and eat it too. Either they have to stop with this talk about “creeping Shariah Law,” or drop the language in their platform about a Constitutional ban on abortion that perfectly matches Shariah Law procedure.

Contradictions?  Sure!  My money would go on the GOP letting Ted Cruz and others complain about creeping Sharia law, while at the same time helping Sharia creep in through the Platform Committee’s back door, and keeping quiet about the contradictions.  What do you think might happen, Dear Reader?

In the “More” section, below, you may find articles both decrying Sharia, and inserting anti-Sharia planks in the platform, oblivious to the pro-Shariah planks pushed by other Republicans.  You might say, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”  My prayer would be that they might become enlightened, realize what they are doing, and stop it.

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Conference for women skeptics, in Dallas, September 15

August 17, 2012

Stealing the news completely, including most of the formatting, from P. Z. Myers:

On 15 September, you could attend the Feminine Faces of Freethought Conference in Dallas for only $20. Check it out!

Women of Reason–Dallas presents Feminine Faces of Freethought, a conference featuring women speaking about topics that affect the freethought community as a whole.

Join us for a day of talks by

Panels include

  • Secular Parenting,
  • Diversity in the Freethought Movement,
  • and What Atheist Women Really Want.

We welcome people of all genders.

Childcare will be provided. Please reserve childcare while purchasing your tickets.

Less than a month away.


Religious liberty in America: July 21, 1591, baptism of Anne Marbury (Hutchinson)

July 21, 2012

Do we overlook her because she was female?  Do we overlook her because she stands for religious freedom?  Either way, Anne Marbury Hutchinson gets the cold shoulder from most U.S. history texts used in high schools.

She was a woman to celebrate, and the Library of Congress explains why in detail:

Anne Marbury Hutchinson

Although her exact birth date is uncertain, on July 20, 1591, the infant Anne Marbury was baptized in Alford, Lincolnshire, England.1 The first female religious leader among North America’s early European settlers, Anne Marbury Hutchinson was the daughter of an outspoken clergyman silenced for criticizing the Church of England. Better educated than most men of the day, she spent her youth immersed in her father’s library.

At twenty-one, Anne Marbury married William Hutchinson and began bearing the first of their fourteen children. The Hutchinsons became adherents of the preaching and teachings of John Cotton, a Puritan minister who left England for America. In 1634, the Hutchinson family followed Cotton to New England, where religious and political authority overlapped.

The General Laws and Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony: Revised and Reprinted [right page]      The General Laws and Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony: Revised and Reprinted [left page]
The General Laws and Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony:
Revised and Reprinted,
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Samuel Green, 1672.
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, Section I. Part 1
Many criminal laws in the early New England colonies were based on the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Often called “Bible Commonwealths,” the New England colonies sought guidance from the scriptures in regulating the lives of their citizens.

Serving as a skilled herbalist and midwife in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Anne Hutchinson began meeting with other women for prayer and religious discussion. Her charisma and intelligence soon also drew men, including ministers and magistrates, to her gatherings, where she developed an emphasis on the individual’s relationship with God, stressing personal revelation over institutionalized observances and absolute reliance on God’s grace rather than on good works as the means to salvation. Hutchinson’s views challenged religious orthodoxy, while her growing power as a female spiritual leader threatened established gender roles.

Mary Dyer
Mary Dyer Led to Execution on Boston Common,
Color Engraving,
Nineteenth Century.
Courtesy of The Granger Collection.
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, Section I. Part 2
Like Anne Hutchinson, Mary Dyer was banished from Massachusetts. Eventually, she was hanged for challenging Puritan orthodoxy.

Called for a civil trial before the General Court of Massachusetts in November 1637, Hutchinson ably defended herself against charges that she had defamed the colony’s ministers and as a woman had dared to teach men. Her extensive knowledge of Scripture, her eloquence, and her intelligence allowed Hutchinson to debate with more skill than her accusers. Yet because Hutchinson claimed direct revelation
from God and argued that “laws, commands, rules, and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway,” she was convicted and banished from the colony, a sentence confirmed along with formal excommunication in the ecclesiastical trial that followed.

Refusing to recant, Hutchinson accepted exile and in 1638 migrated with her family to Roger Williams’ new colony of Rhode Island, where she helped found the town of Portsmouth. After her husband died in 1642, Hutchinson moved to Dutch territory near Long Island Sound (an area now known as Co-op City, along New York’s Hutchinson River Parkway, which is named for Anne Hutchinson). There in 1643 Hutchinson and all but one of her younger children were killed by Siwanoy Indians, possibly with the encouragement of Puritan authorities. “Proud Jezebel has at last been cast down,” was the supposed comment of Hutchinson’s nemesis, Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop.

Learn more about early America in American Memory:

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What about the crazy, militant Christians?

September 9, 2010

Pastor Joe Leavell, recently a frequent bather in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, reports on the crazy — it doesn’t involve burning anybody’s scripture, but it’s pretty offensive.

Not sure if you heard about the first army chaplain to have been killed since the 70s, but he was killed on Aug. 30th in Afghanistan. Several pastors I know knew him as a personal dear friend – a true American hero who loved God, loved the troops he served, and gave his life going above and beyond to be with them.

Guess who will be there protesting his funeral? Westboro Baptist Church – protesting the funeral of a Baptist chaplain! The only way it ties in to this discussion is the “should factor”, but I’m sorry – I just had to voice that this sort of stuff is so disgraceful and makes me so upset – especially when our soldiers are dying to give them the freedom to protest at their funerals! :-( For shame!

Here’s the news article:
kktv.com/military/headlines/102406419.html

At KKTV’s site the story is very short; here it is the complete article:

Posted: 9:54 PM Sep 7, 2010
Reporter: KKTV News
Email Address: news@kktv.com

A controversial Baptist Church group from Kansas says they’ll be in Southern Colorado to protest at a funeral for an army chaplain who was killed in Afghanistan.

Captain Dale Goetz died August 30 in Afghanistan. He’s the first army chaplain to die in combat since 1970.

A funeral has been set for Thursday at Fort Carson, and that’s where the Westboro Baptist Church says they’ll be as well to protest.

Members of the church have repeatedly protested the acceptance of homosexuals by picketing at the funerals of fallen soldiers.

It’s very controversial move.

11 News is asking what do you think about the planned demonstration? We’d like to hear from you. Just comment on this story on the 11 news Facebook page or here on kktv.com.

Time Magazine’s blog carries more details of Pastor Goetz’s life and an interesting tribute to the value of military chaplains in war.

He [Goetz] acknowledged that Muslim concerns over what they perceive as a degenerate Western culture can drive some Muslims toward terror. “As Americans we repudiate the practice of the terrorist,” he said. “Though I disagree with their practice, I do understand their complaints against western society.” Goetz wondered if Americans are devoted to something so much that they would willingly die for it. “Our love for freedom is worth dying for,” he concluded, “and many have gone before us to preserve this freedom.”

Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/09/03/army-chaplain-dale-goetz-rip/#ixzz0z25p1eqN

(South Dakota will fly flags at half-staff today, September 9,  in Goetz’s honor. See also the post at Urban Grounds.)

Early in the U.S. involvement in World War II Americans had to put up with those factions who had argued that the U.S. should intervene on Germany’s side in Europe.  But I don’t recall that the pro-Germany groups kept up their protests much after Germany declared war on the U.S.  In the long arc of the history of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s longest-ever wars, does a sense of history and honor smack the crazies in Christian pulpits in the head to make them think?

Our Constitution’s strength proves itself over and over, as courts have ruled that Westboro Baptist has the right to make these protests.  Their continued exercise of that right is a testament against the lack of a national education system and against the virtue of religion in the failure of common decency of the tiny band of protesters.  Al Queada draws strength from the protests of the Westboro crew, and al Quaeda draws recruits from the actions of the Florida band who plans to burn scriptures.

Walt Kelly’s Pogo observed, “We has met the enemy, and he is us.”

Update: You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried:  The Westboro Baptist group is angry that their burning of a Qur’an many months ago didn’t get them more attention.  I am reminded that James Earl Ray and Timothy McVeigh both expressed disappointment that their work didn’t get more attention and sympathetic action, too.


Michael Kinnamon on Cordoba House and mosque at Ground Zero

August 14, 2010

An essay from a thoughtful Christian about the controversy over building a mosque in Manhattan; Kinnamon notes some of the history that should be considered:

For thousands of families, Ground Zero in southern Manhattan is holy ground. Thousands lost someone they love in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and hundreds of thousands know someone who was directly or indirectly scarred by the collapse of the World Trade Center. The emotional investment in Ground Zero cannot be overestimated.

That is precisely why Ground Zero must be open to the religious expression of all people whose lives were scarred by the tragedy: Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, and more. And Muslims.

No one knows how many Muslims died on 9/11, but they number in the hundreds. One was Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New York City police cadet, emergency medical technician and medical student. When Salman disappeared on September 11, law enforcement officials who knew of his Islamic faith sought him out among his family to question him about the attacks. His family lived with the onus of suspicion for six months until Salman’s body was identified. He was found near the North Tower with his EMT bag beside him, situated where he could help people in need.

The point of this now famous story is simple. Not every Muslim at Ground Zero was a terrorist, and not every Muslim was a hero. The vast majority were like thousands of others on September 11: victims of one of the most heinous events of our times.

But for the family of Salman Hamdani and millions of innocent Muslims, the tragedy has been exacerbated by the fact that so many of the rest of us have formed our opinions about them out of prejudice and ignorance of the Muslim faith.

It is that narrow-minded intolerance that has led to the outcry against the building of Cordoba House and Mosque near Ground Zero. It is the same ignorance that has led many to the outrageous conclusion that all Muslims advocate hatred and violence against non-Muslims. It is the same ignorance that has led to hate crimeand systematic discrimination against Muslims, and to calls to burn the Qur’an.

On the eve of Ramadan on August 11, the National Council of Churches, its Interfaith Relations Commission and Christian participants in the National Muslim-Christian Initiative, issued a strong call for respect for our Muslim neighbors.

“Christ calls us to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:39),” the statement said. “It is this commandment, more than the simple bonds of our common humanity, which is the basis for our relationship with Muslims around the world.”

The statement supported building Cordoba House “as a living monument to mark the tragedy of 9/11 through a community center dedicated to learning, compassion, and respect for all people.”

Now the National Council of Churches reaffirms that support and calls upon Christians and people of faith to join us in that affirmation.

The alternative to that support is to engage in a bigotry that will scar our generation in the same way as bigotry scarred our forebears.

Three-hundred years ago, European settlers came to these shores with a determination to conquer and settle at the expense of millions of indigenous peoples who were regarded as sub-human savages. Today, we can’t look back on that history without painful contrition.

One-hundred and fifty years ago, white Americans subjugated black Africans in a cruel slavery that was justified with Bible proof-texts and a belief that blacks were inferior to whites. Today, we look back on that history with agonized disbelief.

Sixty years ago, in a time of war and great fear, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were deprived of their property and forced into detention camps because our grandparents feared everyone of Japanese ancestry. Today that decision is universally regarded as an unconscionable mistake and a blot on American history.

Today, millions of Muslims are subjected to thoughtless generalizations, open discrimination and outright hostility because of the actions of a tiny minority whose violent acts defy the teachings of Mohammed.

How will we explain our ignorance and our compliance to our grandchildren?

It’s time to turn away from ignorance and embrace again the words of Christ: Love your neighbor as yourself.

In that spirit, we welcome the building of Cordoba House and Mosque near Ground Zero.

Michael Kinnamon's signature

Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of Churches

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Disciples of Christ minister who is the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman and a long-time educator and ecumenical leader, is the ninth General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America’s Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American, evangelical and traditional peace churches. These 36 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

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Also, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


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