Asking for Prayers

I was up all night with Mama again last night.

She’s gone from sleeping around the clock for days on end to not sleeping at all. She’s also beginning to hallucinate again. Nothing bad. She just hears people telling her how pretty she is. I’m ok with it so long as it stays positive.

Hospice is supposed to help me figure out what we can do to regulate her sleep.

In the meantime, I’m just tired. Not sad. Not miserable. Just tired.

I’ve asked for your prayers before, and you always come through.

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America is Still the Hope of the World.

I’m a bit behind the curve in covering Pope Francis’ trip to Korea. But it is a significant event.

I spent a week with Youth With a Mission in Hawaii a few years ago. While I was there, I met many Korean Christians who were training to go into missions all over Asia. One of them told me that Korea is the number two missionary-sending nation in the world. The first is the United States. These were Protestants, but the Catholic Church is also growing in Korea.

All this underscores the savage persecution of Christians in North Korea, as well as the history of Christian martyrdom in Korea as a whole.

South Korea would not exist without America. It would have been absorbed into Communism, and the people who today have built a country that can compete both economically and in missionary-sending on a world scale would be enslaved, instead.

The freedom of South Korea was purchased with American blood and treasure.

South Korea is an example of what America has done all over the world in protecting and building other nations into free societies. The fact that this has been such a massive fail in Iraq raises questions that we need to consider with an honesty that I do not think we have the courage to entertain.

America, which once freed whole civilizations from tyranny, is crippling and wounding herself with political correctness, corporatism, moral decay, partisan bickering and the petty nihilism of the pampered. I do not see any indication that we are willing to accept the astringent of honest self-appraisal.

In fact, we throw people overboard whenever they raise questions that poke holes in the politically-correct magic-think we use to shield ourselves from the realities of life.

Martin Luther King, Jr said, “A lie can not live.” He was right.

But lies that comfort people in their fears, the self-lies we use to shield ourselves from the stark realities of life, only die after prolonged, vicious and utterly wasteful battles to defend those lies from the truth. America has always been able to face truths before, however reluctantly.

We turned high-powered water hoses and unleashed dogs on the truth in the battles over segregation, but we allowed the truth to be said and in the end, the truth prevailed. We fought a whole civil war over the truth of the humanity of all people, and even in that terrible event, the truth prevailed. Will we be able to face the many truths we are denying now?

I do not know.

I only know that if we do not, we will destroy ourselves for the lies.

Pope Francis is visiting South Korea, a people and a country that America saved and then empowered to become a great free nation. We have much to be proud of when we call ourselves Americans.

America is still the hope of the world. I saw that in the faces of Iraqis who were hoping and praying that the Americans would come to save them from ISIS.

No one can destroy America but America itself. The question for all of us is are we so in love with the comforting lies we force everyone to parrot that we will, in fact, destroy ourselves? Are we willing to die for the lies we tell ourselves to keep from facing the truths we don’t want to know?

 

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Amazing Grace

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9/11

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5 Healthy and Holy Things You Can Do For Pope Francis and For Yourself.

Pope Francis challenges all of us.

Evidently, a lot of people are irate with the pope because of the choice between their politics and their faith that he’s put in front of them. I’m caught in more prosaic conundrums. I made the decision a long time ago — and it was painful at the time, with a lot of payback from the outraged — to dump partisan politics and follow Jesus. I think that means, among other things, following the teachings of His Church and his Vicar.

I did this so many years back that I have trouble relating to people who are faced with it now. Most of the people throwing these hissy fits over the pope’s leadership are private citizens. They don’t face reprisals for accepting the Pope’s teaching. I doubt that they’ll lose their friends. I’m pretty sure that no one is going to try to get them fired from their jobs or picket them or threaten to kill them.

I can see that putting faithfulness to the teaching authority of the Church ahead of their politics a big, big deal to a lot of people. But I honestly have trouble grokking their anguish.

Not that Pope Francis’ encyclical or his recent statements left me unscathed. I’m not reeling from the blow or anything.  But I know that the things he’s suggested are going to require sacrifice from all of us, including me.

For instance, am I supposed to bury my retirement savings in a mayonnaise jar in the backyard? That’s about the size of it if I keep my investments totally out of the hands of people who do evil with my hard-gotten gain. I certainly haven’t gone out and bought bonds issued by arms dealers or companies that manufacture abortion drugs. But I imagine some of my money gets to them, anyway. I have a chunk of my savings in total market index funds. That means I own a piece of everybody.

Should I sell this and put the money … where? Maybe the mayonnaise jar?

Another troubling thing is air conditioning. It seems that the Holy Father doesn’t think too highly of refrigerated air.

I live in an area where the temps go over a hundred degrees almost every summer. This isn’t the desert, so the heat has the added punch of high humidity. When I open my front door on a hot summer day, it feels like I am standing in the gateway to hell.

Am I really supposed to switch off the air con?

I tossed my politics overboard for Christ so long ago that, while I can remember the fear and dread I felt at the loss of friends and the attacks that I knew I would be subjected to, I can’t conjure up even a twinge of the emotion itself. That’s all burnt bridges and spilt milk for me now.

The heat of an Oklahoma summer is a present reality. No conjuring is needed to recognize that it drains the life out of me like pouring baking soda in a battery.

I can, if I become convinced that it’s what I must do, empty a mayonnaise jar, dig a hole and toss my savings into it. That I can manage.

But air conditioning? Give up air conditioning? Isn’t there some other way to heed the pope’s call?

For those of you like me, who trust the pope and want to follow him, but who aren’t quite ready to rip out the air con, here are five healthy, holy, and relatively painless things you can do. Implementing them will not only give you time to work your way into the tougher things, it will grow your faith while you do them.

1. Honor the Sabbath day. I experienced an out-of-the-blue conviction that I had been ignoring one of the commandments on a Saturday afternoon about a year ago. I’ve been doing my best to be a Sabbath keeper ever since. The surprise is how good it’s been for me. Since I take care of my elderly mother, my day of “rest” isn’t all that restful, but it is a day on which I don’t do the world’s work.

How does this help the environment? It takes me out of action. Every 7 days, for one whole 24 period, I stop spinning the wheel. I don’t shop on Sundays or run around all over everywhere. I pretty much stay home and hang out with my family. It is a break from the steamroller pressures of daily life.

I’m sure Sabbath keeping lowers my consumption of everything from fossil fuels to credit card plastic. I know that the break itself is invaluable to me as a person. I thought Sabbath keeping was an act of obedience. It turns out that it’s a gift God wanted to give me.

If enough of us start actually keeping the Sabbath, the drop in consumption is bound to have a positive impact on the environment, both social and ecological.

2. Give a couple of oldsters a ride to mass this Sunday. It’s tough for disabled people and the elderly to get to church. They often aren’t safe for themselves or others when they get behind the wheel. Giving them a ride would be an act of holy carpooling.

3. Limit the activities your kids can do after school. Too many parents are really their children’s chauffeurs instead of their parents. They spend an inordinate amount of time, driving their children from one activity to the next. Let the kids pick one activity they like. It can be sports, or chess club or whatever. But keep it at one. Then spend the other evenings at home as a family. This not only saves on gasoline and wear and tear on your car, it will give you and your kids some genuine family time.

4. Turn the thermostat up in summer, down in winter. Dress in cool clothes and use fans to supplement the air con when the weather is hot. Do the reverse in winter. Turn the thermostat down and wear warm clothes. Turn off things you aren’t using. Use power strips to make this easy. It will save you money, and if we all do it, it will have a positive impact on the environment.

5. Give a thought to where you invest your savings. If you have a 401k, you will be limited to the options your employer gives you. But, within that limitation, think about those options in terms of the behavior of the companies those investments represent. Does the company use slave labor to manufacture its goods? Does it have a history of labor or social abuses? Are its products harmful to people? (Big tobacco is a for-instance.)

I think it’s impossible to play cop on all the stocks and bonds held in a heavily diversified mutual fund. Index funds hold stocks and bonds representing the whole market, or a segment of the market. Managed funds hold far less investments. If you have one of these funds, you can look at their portfolios and see if they are weighted to companies that you know are objectionable. If nothing else, you can write your plan managers and let them know of your objections.

I know that these may seem like tepid suggestions. But simple, small things like these, when they are multiplied by over a billion Catholics, can become a culture-changing force.

The important thing is for each of us to look at ourselves and our lives and make positive decisions about how we can follow the Holy Father’s leadership. That’s what Catholics do.

 

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Yes, I’m a Feminist. Why Aren’t You a Feminist Too?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jay https://www.flickr.com/photos/jryde/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jay https://www.flickr.com/photos/jryde/

I’ve received a few jibes lately from Catholics, claiming that I must be a feminist. These comments are usually full to the brim with what are either implications or direct claims that I can’t possibly be a good Catholic, since I am … you know … the culture wars f word.

Truth told, I am a feminist. I’ve written about it, and, indeed, made whole speeches about it in many public forums. I don’t hide it. I’m proud of it.

In fact, I have a question for those of you who think being a feminist is such a terrible thing:

In a world with widespread and endemic rape,

In a world with female genital mutiliation,

In a world where women constantly suffer degrading name-calling,

In a world where many men consider it their right to beat and batter women,

In a world where baby girls, both before and after they are born, are routinely murdered, simply because they are baby girls,

In a world where the President of the United States calls women pigs and dogs, hints at incest, puts his own wife in a porn photo shoot (which pretty much answers the question, Does he love her? with a big fat “no.”) and is a serial sexual predator who sexually assaults women and brags about it in what he calls “locker room talk,”

In that world, why aren’t you a feminist too? 

I wrote about this last week for the National Catholic Register.

Here is what I said:

Pope Francis recently made a few remarks about women in which he tried to describe the phenomena that I observed over and again when I was a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

He talked about women’s ability to bring “harmony” to the world. That isn’t how I describe it, but I think we are talking about the same thing.

The House District that I represented for 18 years had a large number of illegal immigrants. I refereed the arguments between them and the Anglos of my district on a daily basis. I was the one both sides called to settle disputes, help them with their problems, and often, just to listen to their gripes.

They taught me a lot of things, these magnificently good constituents of mine. They are wonderful, wonderful people, all of them. The hardest thing about leaving public office was worrying about who would take care of them when I was not there to do it.

One thing they taught me in a clear-cut way was the civilizing power of the female.

It is inaccurate to refer to the human race as “he,” or as “man.” Because the human race is not male.

The human race is also not female. It would be just as inaccurate to refer to all humanity as “her,” or “woman.”

The human race is not “man,” and it is not “woman.” The human race is men and women, male and female, together.

Take us apart, and we die. Literally. We go back to the half-humanity uselessness that is man or woman without the other.

I saw this in real-time among the illegal immigrants in my house district. Young men would wend their way across the border to find work. They were young, really just boys, and they were in a strange world with strange customs and a language they didn’t speak. They would rent a house and hole up together;  even 15 young men sleeping on floors and existing to work.

 They went out and stood on the corners or went to the right employment agencies and were hired as day laborers by the local businesses. There was no lack of work from businesses who wanted to pay slave wages. Then they came back, with money in their pockets and nothing much to do.It is to their credit that these young men didn’t usually do anything really violent. But they were trouble. All kinds of trouble. Because a group of men without women cannot function. They descend rapidly to the lowest form of their sex. If they hadn’t been believing and sincere Christians, it would have been much more difficult for me to manage the problems they caused, and they might have done much worse things.

Over time, they were joined by women, and as soon as that happened, everything changed. Men, without women, are a mess. They are dangerous, including dangerous to themselves. Their thinking runs along nutty lines of violence and swagger. They are destructive.

Women, without men hiss and spit and turn in circles.

But when you put them together, it’s almost like a science experiment when you combine hydrogen and oxygen to get water. Put men and women together and you get life. You get men who use their strength, aggression, and physical courage to protect, provide and build. You get women who use their incredible moral strength, intuition and insight to nurture and sustain.

Together, men and women are the creative force that has built all the good we call culture, society and civilization. Take them apart, and you get ultimate and uncaring destructiveness.

That is why we need both men and women in our government. (Read the rest here.)

 

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Pope Francis’ Pro Life Message

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

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Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention for February 2017

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/

I’ve decided I’m going to post Pope Francis’ prayer intentions every month.

This one is challenging for those of us in the West because the Holy Father is asking us to do something that runs against our basic instinct for survival. Americans have always welcomed those in need, and we have a long history of reaching out to help others.

It is unfair and untrue to characterize the American people as indifferent to the suffering of the world. We have demonstrated a willingness to do things which no other great power in history has ever done to  build, help and lift up people all around the globe.

Today we are challenged to find ways to continue with our basic goodness in the face of what amounts to an existential crisis for the whole Western world. Western nations are being flooded with immigrants and refugees whose viewpoints and cultural mores are antithetical to the founding principles of their own culture. Some — not all, but some — of these people refuse to assimilate. They have become violence vectors, breeding terrorist attacks and destruction.

There is a lot of name-calling and shaming being thrown about to try to bully people into standing down and not voicing their concerns about all this. At the same time, there is also a lot of vicious racist talk directed at people who are simply trying to live their lives and become part of the new societies in which they live.

It is not easy for anyone to wend their way through this morass of conflicting ideals and needs.

When the Holy Father asks us to pray for refugees, he is doing the right and the Christian thing. He has stubbornly hewed to the Gospel line in the face of backlash and hatred directed at him because what he is saying runs against the easy impulses that drive the rest of us.

That is to be expected. Anyone who honestly follows Jesus is going to be attacked. They will be attacked because Jesus is not convenient. He does not fit into our politics or our desires for self. He is Lord of All of us, including those who we do not like or fear.

I could say that these are difficult times, but all times are difficult to the people living them. What I will say instead, is that these are the challenges we face today, in our time. Difficult as it always is, our challenge as followers of Christ is to do the Jesus thing, not the smart thing.

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Kellyanne Conway: Was It Foot-In-Mouth or an Ethics Violation?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

President Harry Truman’s daughter wanted to be a singer. When one reviewer gave her a bad review, her Daddy reacted as Daddies do and sent the man a letter in which he called him an obscene name.

I don’t really think this is a straight-across comparison between the situation with President Trump and the recent cancellation by Nordstrom of his daughter’s fashion line. I don’t see them as the same thing.

Margaret Truman was a young woman in her first trembling attempts at building a professional life. Ivanka Trump is a multi-billionaire, who, as Kellyanne Conway has stated, has run parts of her father’s business empire. This is not a trembling young thing, just starting out. And it’s not about one performance. It’s a business decision based on what is a big business venture of starting a fashion line.

On the other hand, the two situations bear enough symmetry that I’m not disturbed by President Trump’s twitter tantrum over Nordstrom cancelling his daughter’s fashion line. If he in any way tries to use the powers of his office to push her business ventures, then I’ll have another opinion. But a father, shooting his mouth off in defense of his daughter, doesn’t bother me.

The real story here involves Kellyanne Conway, the pro life woman who had a great deal to do with President Trump’s win, and who has been his mouthpiece for months now. Time was, I was a big supporter of Mrs Conway. I saw her as the pro life canary in the Trumpian mine shaft. I backed down about writing about the election largely because someone I trust with National Right to Life assured me that KellyAnne Conway was proof that candidate Trump would stick to his new position on abortion.

I really admired Mrs Conway at that time.

But she has lost a lot of her luster, at least with me, because of her continuous lying. I know that it is impossible to go out in public and defend President Trump without lying, but it gets tedious, listening to her rip off one big windy after another.

People become what they do. Even if she was an honest person before she got into this thing, she’s going to be changed for the worse by it. To put it simply, you cannot lie and lie and lie without becoming a liar.

Then, when she did that little drama with Governor Romney over the Secretary of State position, I began to think of her as a woman who bought into President Trump’s sadism. In short, I’ve gone from a Kellyanne Conway admirer to someone who pretty much dismisses whatever she says as probably a lie.

So, it’s a big surprise to me that I’m stepping up in her defense with this blog post today. Evidently, Mrs Conway, in her role as President Trump’s mouthpiece, launched a defense of Ivanka Trump and her cancelled clothing line. She rambled a lot, but the gist of it was that Ivanka is great.

Ok. So far, so good.

Then, she added a punch line, urging people to go out and “Buy Ivanka.”

That was a stupid thing to say. Mrs Conway was speaking as the Senior Counsel for the President of the United States, and she opened her yap and told people to go out and put money in the president’s daughter’s purse. No doubt about it, it was an ethics violation.

But it was also — or it certainly appeared to be — an off-the-cuff comment that wasn’t said with the intent to break any laws. It was a foot-in-mouth moment from someone who spends a lot of time in front of cameras.

I do not think that Mrs Conway committed an intentional ethics violation. I think she just accidentally said the wrong thing.

I can tell you right now, I couldn’t do what Mrs Conway does. If I spent that much time running my mouth in front of cameras, they’d have a lot better stuff than this to use against me. It’s just too easy to put your foot wrong — or perhaps I should say, put your mouth wrong — and come out with something that can be blown up to big proportions and used to do you harm.

Mrs Conway has been having a lot of bad press moments lately. There’s her ridiculous statement that the Trump administration was offering “alternative facts.” Then, we have the “Bowling Green Massacre” goof. And now this.

She’s obviously getting worn down by being in front of the cameras so much. And frankly, the strain of continuously lying may be eating at her, too.

Whatever’s going on, I think formal ethics charges are way over the top. If she or the President do more than this, if, say, they begin to use the White House to promote Ivanka’s business, then that’s another matter. But I think this one-time foot-in-mouth should be called out so that it doesn’t happen again, and then dropped.

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When It Comes to Political Parties, Wise George Said It All

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=14476. Public Domain.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=14476. Public Domain.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

FAREWELL ADDRESS | SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1796

 

George Washington cared about America. I honestly believe that differentiates him from just about everyone in a position of power in Washington DC today.

I include in that assessment the Congress, which is so enthralled with loyalty to political parties and personal ambition that they consistently put America last. They have abrogated their duties to author, debate and vote on legislation and by doing so they have created a presidency which is, right in front of our eyes, an elected dictatorship.

The American people themselves have become so devoted to their political party — and it does not matter which one it is — that many of them are willing to toss aside everything else they say they believe to follow these parties.

Christians toss Christian teaching in the trash to follow their party. Catholics attack the Pope because he says that some of the “teachings” of their political party are antithetical to following Christ.

The party in power — again, it does not matter which one it is — demands loyalty from its followers in a “fight” with the “other” side; a “side” which they tell us is nothing less than the spawn of satan. The party out of power — again, it does not matter which one it is — inspires almost hysterical loyalty from its followers in order to “fight” the evils of their “other” side, which,  of course, they say is the spawn of satan.

Both parties claim the moral high road. Both parties say that the other is evil incarnate. Both parties tend to tell the truth when they talk about the other party. Both parties lie, lie and lie when they talk about themselves.

I began writing Public Catholic because I understand politics. I see through things that most other people don’t even really see. I wanted to use this hard-learned knowledge to equip Christians to be more effective for Christ in the political sphere.

But I no longer believe that I have anything to offer that will be heard. My first message, and the one which I just don’t think can get through, is that Jesus has to be first. If you are unable to be around politics without becoming a slave to political forces, then you should stay away from it. Your vocation lies elsewhere.

The most important thing anyone has to do if they want to be effective for Christ in the political sphere is to follow Christ without question. You must follow Him even when it’s unpopular, even when it’s lonely, even when it’s the flat-out and obviously stupid thing to do.

Following Jesus means you follow Jesus.

It does not mean that you pull out lines in Canon law that you think exempt you from following Him. It does not mean that you parse and split the Gospels until you grind them down into some little masticated something that will allow you to ignore His commandments because you have adapted them to fit your political party’s cant.

Following Jesus means you follow Jesus.

You cannot blindly follow your political party and follow Jesus.

You cannot blindly raise up some political demagogue and make him lord of your conscience and follow Jesus.

If you want to follow Jesus, you have to follow Jesus.

Not lead.

Not dissemble.

Just … follow.

Jesus said,

You cannot serve two masters. 

If the master of your conscience, if that which informs your understanding of right and wrong, and tells you what to think and do is your political party, then you are not serving God.

There are many other sayings of Jesus I could use, but that one is enough for now. To be honest, I would like to quit doing this. I don’t think I’m getting through. But for now, it seems that this is my calling. To say what won’t be heard.

Wise George said it all when he told us that political parties would become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

He was prescient with that statement. We are watching it unfold in real time, right in front of us.

In the midst of this chaos and the deeper chaos that is coming, there is only one Way to turn that offers sanity, hope and a future. That is the Way of Christ.

But that Way requires that we stop giving over our thinking capacities to these two political parties. We absolutely must stop drinking down the mind-bending poisons of lies and propaganda that emanate from them and start thinking for ourselves.

If we do that, we will not all agree. Even Christians, who have the same principles on which they build their actions, will have different ideas about the best way to do things. That is the strength of human beings, that we are each original and that we each one think differently from everyone else. It is healthy, it is holy, for us to be the individuals we are.

It is democracy when we think together about things and work out our differences in open discussion and debate and then settle on a single best solution that is a pastiche, a compromise, of all our ideas. That is the power of the great engine that is our minds.

The blind loyalty to political parties, which are never acting for our good, unless it is by accident, cancels out both our own individual thinking powers, and the enormous power for good that is all of us, thinking together about how we can do what is best for everyone.

Blindly following a political party is offering up your greatest power, which is your individuality and ability to think, on the altar of nothing much. This little g god is like all other little g gods, in that it does not care about you.

When I first got cancer, I put an affirmation in my phone and scheduled it to come up every morning. Change or die.  That was what it said. Every morning I reminded myself that the way I had been living was, in reality, a way of dying.

America is at just such a pass right now. We are tearing our country apart over partisan loyalties. I’ve actually had people come on this blog’s comboxes and flat out say that they didn’t care what happened to the country, they only wanted to get the other side in the political wars.

There is so much hatred in our political world right now that it is scalding to behold. It saddens me more than I can say that so many Christians have given themselves over to this partisan hatred, that they behave as if their country doesn’t matter, as if the common good doesn’t matter, as if the Gospels don’t matter, just so long as they can get even with the other side of these political wars.

It doesn’t matter much which political party you belong to — and I know I’m going to get speeches here about how terrible I am for saying that — but it does not matter. What matters is what you do.

Follow Christ.

Follow Christ and Him crucified.

Stop following the little g gods of political parties and political demagogues.

Then you can be effective for Christ in the political sphere.

But so long as you blindly follow these little g gods of politics, you will be nothing more than a tool for the power brokers who own these parties. You will be a thing they use to help themselves.

Jesus said,

You cannot serve two masters. 

Think about it.

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