The Loss of Innocence

Dear all – I am struggling today to find an approach to blogging, to my daily life even, that does justice to the state of the world as it is. I heard of the Manchester atrocity as news broke late on Monday evening, and at the time I was still hoping – against hope – that it *was* a technical failure, not a terrorist attack. While the outcome would have been as devastating for the affected families and individuals, it somehow would have been less of an atrocity than what has transpired since. The loss of children and teenagers due to vengeful terrorist activity is even more deplorable. As an avid concert goer – and the mother of two teenagers who frequently go to concerts, too – I feel devastated. It has hit very close to home – even though there is a sea between here and Manchester. What is wrong with this world???

The short break over, I was travelling home yesterday to attend my son’s graduation ceremony. It should have been a glorious evening, an occasion to celebrate the first achievements of a young generation, who are now ready to take their first step into adulthood, ready and eager to make their mark on this world. The ceremony started with a short reflection to mark the horrible event in Manchester. And at the same time, that very moment almost served as an epiphany to me. The principal highlighted the long list of recent terror attacks – Paris, London, Nice, Berlin, Brussels, Manchester – pointing out how heinous an attack on a concert principally attended by young teenagers is. And yet she left out the most horrible atrocities that are frequently ignored when we are grieving the current spate of terror. No mention of the thousands of children who have innocently died in ongoing unrest in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine… There is no hierarchy in death. Each young life lost, whether in Manchester or in Palestine, was equally precious. Yet I haven’t seen the Afghanistan flag superimposed on the Brandenburg Gate in all these years… It devastates me to see the world so divided, so unfair, so blatantly biased. I would like to be positive and defy the threat to our freedom by shouting #IRefuseToBeAfraid. But for the first time I feel less than hopeful. I am truly sorry for any parent who has lost a child – in Manchester or in the Middle-East. And my heart is breaking for the class of 2017 who are inheriting a world with problems that are not of their making – but which they are forced to suffer under. The innocence is lost. Forever.

In hindsight I regret that I didn’t pull yesterday’s post. It just all seems so trivial, discussing favourite plays and scenes. Is our attention better focussed on other things? I don’t know, but for the moment my mood is sombre, and not even a pretty picture of my favourite man can lighten the heavy heart…

51 thoughts on “The Loss of Innocence

  1. This is an attack on ‘us’ rather than an attack on ‘them’. Inevitably we feel it more, but that doesn’t mean we should not be outraged about all such attacks.

    Yes, keep on blogging the little things, because our souls, however we define them, still need to find hope. I believe our response remains to do good to others however small a kindness, and that includes making people smile.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I know you are right, and that we need to start with small things in order to change the bigger picture. Everything just seems so futile. Here we are, doing our little bits to make the world a better place – and then just one individual sweeps in and throws us back… I am finding it increasingly hard to stay defiant.

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  2. We can’t put our heads in the sand, but neither can we focus all the time on the troubles of the world. There is a time for mourning–and for taking action–and a time for resting. That’s how I think about it.

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    • That sounds like a reasonable approach, I agree. I don’t like the idea of being forced into retreat by the terror that is inflicted on us. And I don’t believe that I can change the world singlehandedly. But I worry about my priorities, and of the priorities of the world in general. Finding the right balance seems very difficult, and for the first time in recent times I feel really resigned about what is happening in the world…

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      • True, I ask the same question about whether I should be doing more, and if so, what. A lot of Americans have been asking that since the presidential election. And there is the question of finding a balance. What you wrote about lost innocence happened to me in 2015-16 when I realized that US police were shooting black men and boys without cause, and not being held accountable for it. I never knew before because the media simply didn’t report it, but then they killed a boy in Cleveland who had a toy gun. There may not be much we can do about ISIS, but there are other issues we can tackle.

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        • I am glad you are writing this here, Linnet. Discussing this feeling of helplessness here on blog is actually beginning to lift my mood. I still feel sombre, but the feeling of hope is returning. The example you are mentioning, is another case in point for the unfair bias of the world – and yet I have also seen how the public is now more vigilant about exposing abuses of power such as the killing of black people based on prejudice. Sure, it is still not resolved, but the level of awareness has changed. I guess we have to hope for small steps.

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        • You mean in terms of the ‘troubles’ that used to plague Ireland? I guess it has gotten better, yes. Mind you, I never saw that as a war of religion but a class conflict that was deliberately distracted/mislabelled with religious affiliation.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. I understand how you feel. So well…looking at my own daughter with 17 at the beginning of being grown up. Even working is somehow difficult.
    Although I generally find my work meaningful. That often helps in situations like this. It feels good to work on building accommodations for refugees when you see what risks they take to bring their children here.
    But in the face of terrorism killing children I ask myself if it’s really enough. I wonder if there is anything I could have done, any project I could have contributed to to make things better.
    Have I elected the right politicians who care more about humanity than about multiplying money for an economy that would be much better off if we humans were consuming robots? Have I set the right priorities or have I allowed myself to profit from the wealth I was born into by chance?
    The questions become bigger and the answers more difficult to find with each new act of violence carried out in the name of terrorism.

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    • You are hitting it on the nail, Dorothea. I am struggling with my own conscience in this. With a limited sphere of influence – only my family, possibly on my friends, mayyyyyybe on my readers – I feel helpless in stopping this senseless spiral of violence. We demonstrated against the various wars – Afghanistan, Iraq – we declared solidarity – Palestine, Syria – we try to be decent human beings in our daily lives, and yet I don’t see change. What do we need to do to provide peace and security in the world? Elect other leaders? Stop arms production? I just feel really hopeless at the moment. And guilty to the point of embarrassment for implicitly creating a violent world that our children have to live in.

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      • As I have learned it during those last few years it’s mainly not been us as a generation who started this mess. It has been a long process of countries domnating each other. That started at least practically during the crusades. But it got worse, more subtle, more secret and…very important…more based on economic interests. That combined with the power multinational companies gained during the last 40 years it has led to our current situation.
        In short: we not only feel helpless in this…we are. Because much of it happened before we entered this world.
        But it escalates now. And as little as we are responsible for much of it, we are responsible for changing it. In a very general way, as a generation of a species who has to keep our species running by having children and passing them a world to live in. That’s a point that is often not seen enough. We see our very personal responsibility for our own children.
        I see it this way: These two responsibilities mix up now. The general topics influence our personal topics. Climate change already existed when our parents still danced Rock’n’Roll. But it had no influence on them and they didn’t expect it to influence their children’s lifes. So they cared for us and that was fine enough. Today we care as much for our children and it’s not fine enough.
        But it took me a long time to see it.
        I guess many people still see this “inside world” (family, friends, job) as something different from the “outside world” (politics, economy, state).
        It’s not longer that way.
        That’s where we stand now, rubb our eyes and have no concept for the next future. We know that following our impulse (either of being afraid and staying at a safe home or of fleeing it all and leaving the worries behind) is very likely to be wrong.
        We have become the first generation of humans who have to follow our brains more than our hearts.
        We all know, that our brilliant brains at Universities have the methods at hand how to solve our major problems. How to feed Africa, how to save the earth, our environment. How to make this planet work for another billion of humans. All there. It just has to be done.
        But all of those ideas are not made for our instincts.
        That’s what makes it so difficult…

        Liked by 2 people

        • That is an interesting point, Dorothea – having to make decisions based on the wider picture, not on the immediate sphere of our own influence (or brain vs. heart, as you put it). With better education and means of information at our disposal, we should be able to do so. Yet I see a retreat into right-wing ideology and isolationist approaches. The fact that right-wing candidates have been strong contenders for positions of power in various parts of the world in recent elections, is a huge worry to me.

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  4. I was having this discussion with a friend today. As a person of colour from a non European/non US city, it saddens and upsets me to see that even empathy is so biased.
    Apart from monuments in various countries being superimposed, I don’t see twiiter/fb profile pics being changed to the Iraqi flag/Syrian flag etc to show solidarity. Very few celebrities (your fella included) tweet about incidents in non white nations.
    I’ve lost friends and a neighbour to bomb blasts & terrorist attacks in my city. I never saw monuments emblazoned with the India flag.
    Last year when there was that awful attack in Iraq on the eve of Id and families were annihilated, I didn’t see twitter over run with RTs locating lost people. I can’t remember which attack it was, that FB didn’t activate it’s “safe mode” They only did so after outcry from people.
    What sort of message is it giving the new generation? That only incidents in first world, white, european & US nations are important? Yes, this attack was horrific. All terrorist attacks are horrific.
    Terrorism is not colour prejudiced. Why should empathy & sympathy be so?

    Liked by 3 people

    • That is exactly the point, Nancy. I totally understand that a horrible incident literally feels closer to home, the closer (in distance) it actually is. But all these shows of solidarity and collective outrage ring increasingly hollow to me as the noise that is created for them seems to drown out the day-to-day atrocities that are happening in non-European, non-Western, (non-white?) contexts. It was particularly galling last night in my son’s school – which prides itself on being “international”. Yeah, white middle-class international, that is…
      I don’t want to downplay the horror of Manchester, Berlin or Paris. And I don’t even think that any of these events can or should be put into proportion with the day-to-day terror that is happening in the known war zones of the world. As I said – every single life lost is one too many. But the attention given to Europe is disproportionate, even if it reflects that social media use is more wide-spread in the Western world than other, possibly under-developed regions. Last night it felt as if we were ignoring the deaths that were more inconvenient for our conscience. What a poor example for the younger generations.

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    • I’ve noticed that Nancy. When everyone was handwringing over the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, I kept reminding them there were attacks in Lebanon the day before. There were also some environmental disasters about the same time in other parts of the world. It’s why I don’t add little flags to my profile pictures. Because it doesn’t seem right to cry over one event and not the others. We mourn them all.

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      • Exactly. I roll my eyes at the people who change their profile pics or endlessly tweet about one particular terror attack over another. And those who slobber over their favourite celebrity’s tweets about a particular atrocity while ignoring other attacks, are even worse. As is the celebrity

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  5. We have all inherited a world not of our making. What is the answer? I don’t know. In times like these, I cling to my little shards of happiness, so don’t feel bad about what you did or didn’t do yesterday.

    As is my wont, I tend to go to the Scriptures during times of heartache, hardship, and joy. (yes!) Right now, Ephesians 3 comes to mind.

    Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 King James Version (KJV)

    To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

    I would think now is a time to weep and a time to embrace. Many will say we – or they – are rending, tearing apart the very fabric of our world, that we/they are plucking up what’s been planted, whether it be weed or not. I don’t believe we have experienced the beauty of silence in some years.

    For me, that Southern Sassy part would simply like to go bomb some idiots – offer free 12 packs to some redneck Kentuckians to go over a kick some ass. But the reality is – you are my friends. I don’t care what faith, political swing, sexual orientation you are. You are my friends and I love you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that is a really interesting piece of the Bible, Zee. At first reading, I thought it was very apt, asking us to mourn when we need to mourn, and celebrate when we need to celebrate. (Except I do not want to accept that these contrasting pairs always come together. It implies that one does not come without the other; that love also implies hate, or peace comes at the cost of war. I do not have any time for war.) As you said, we are at a point in time where we need to embrace – both in shared grief, but also in an attempt to accept change. It frustrates me forever and ever that there is so little that I can do myself. I am not good at accepting things, I guess…

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      • it’s about balance. There will always be war, there will always be bullies, there will always be someone or a group, that wants it their way. There will always be someone who demands absolute power, Utopia can’t exist as long as man reigns.

        But at the same time, there will always be peace, somewhere. There will always be joy, there will always be happiness. There will always be life and death, there will sickness, but there will be healing. There will always be evil, but there will always be justice, because there will always be one person who stands up for it. People have always lived in perilous times, ever since Cain murdered his brother Abel.

        So I CHOOSE to pursue happiness. I CHOOSE to pursue good health. I CHOOSE to pursue a way to make the world I live in, a better place. I CHOOSE to stand up to bullies. I CHOOSE to grieve innocence lost. I CHOOSE to refuse to allow those who would wreck havoc a foothold to stand on. I CHOOSE to be stubborn, I CHOOSE to read Regency Romances… I CHOOSE to do a lot of things.

        I’m going to step off this stump before I start getting political. And when that happens, I end up sputtering and sounding like a Howler. Not pretty. Usually not understandable either.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m not religious but Amen to all you wrote, Guylty!
    I was having a bit of a same regret regarding my Emma Thompson post that I had posted just as the whole tragedy was unfolding but I didn’t know it at the time (no TV or radio on and wasn’t doing Twiitter or news online). I then figured, this is part of life too, and so be it. As Linnet says and Zee’s bible quote: there is a time for everything…
    Hatred bequeaths hatred, and the division of the world in ‘them versus us’ is so painful. No country should be put first or last, all should be equal. If the West should now retaliate with hatred towards a whole group of people then all it can expect in return is more hatred as well. Somewhere this circle and this division needs to stop… We are all human beings and we all want our children to grow up healthy and happy, be it in Manchester or Brussels or Paris or Aleppo or Baghdad or Gaza…

    Liked by 2 people

    • The whole vicious circle of terror and counter-terror, of hate and counter-hate scares me, as does the vehemence with which people divide the world into good and evil. I do not condone any of the terror attacks at all, especially as those behind them are simply misusing religion as a motivation/excuse for their own greed for power. But I can see why the argument is so potent. I wish it was as easy as appealing to the opposing sides to think of their children.

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  7. In 2011 we did a FanstRAvaganza just as the earthquake happened in Japan. Of course, there were fans who thought that was inappropriate, but we’d been planning for a while and so we acknowledged the tragedy and continued with the FanstRAvaganza. I take Pirkei Avot 2:21 pretty seriously; I am required to continue working at the problems, even if I can’t solve them. What I can do has to be enough because it is what I can do. And my fan social media does not represent my whole charitable or political life. Life is not either / or; that’s actually what religious extremists (not just in Islam, but in Christianity, too) want us to think, and how they want to make us act, but it’s not true.

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    • Thanks for pointing out Pirkei Avot – a thought that I find encouraging and reassuring at the same time, as it acknowledges or even allows for not finishing the task (of solving a problem). It makes the insurmountable problem easier to live with.
      What it comes down to for me, though, is that I am wondering whether my energies are invested in the wrong thing. I fully acknowledge that there is a need for joy, especially in times of strife and fear. But would my energy/throughts/time be better applied to other topics than the one that I am currently devoting a lot of time on? If I accept that I have a responsibility to work on a problem, and I know that I have time to do so, should I divert my energy from the less important issues to the more important ones? Am I not pulling my weight because I am applying my knowledge/time/efforts to the wrong cause? – Those are questions that only I can answer, of course.

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  8. I live just south of Manchester and we are hit pretty hard here. Thankfully, my sons are fine, and no reports (yet) of anyone lost from their school. A girl from the next village has been killed. I keep seeing groups of teenagers walking home from school in tears. GCSEs and A level exams are about to start and I don’t know how they will be affected.
    I met a group of mums for book club this afternoon and the talk kept turning back to the attack, who had been at the concert, who was still missing, how our teenagers had been affected by it. My sons have been to several gigs in Manchester, and I hope I will be brave enough to let them go again, but I know I will never let them go with as easy a heart as before.
    I’m proud of Manchester, that the response of so many people was to help not hate, and the last time my motherly sympathies were stirred like this was over the Syrian toddler drowned and washed up on a beach. Yes, each child’s life is equally valuable, and each mother grieves alike. ‘An eye for an eye’ will blind us all.

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    • Thank you for your comment, Lost, and thanks for taking my post in exactly the right way. I am sure you must be shaken to the core by this tragedy hitting so close to home, and I am right there with you. Like you, I have the same physical feeling of feeling sick to my stomach with grief and fear, as I had when I saw that heartbreaking picture of the dead toddler. It would be so easy to give in to revenge and retribution, and it is uplifting to see that the response has deliberately focussed on positive, constructive reaction rather than blind hate. That is also important for our children to see – the way we are reacting to these things, will shape their own approach. No doubt, this is also deeply traumatic. My heart goes out to all those teenagers – having to realise that the world can be such a cruel, unfair, horrible place – at such a young time – is tough. That is what makes me so sad, the loss of the innocence of our children – here, and of course also all those children affected by war.

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  9. I was doing a bit of reading recently and ran across a bit that I found helpful. Erich Fromm wrote ““To have faith means to dare to think the unthinkable, yet to act within the limits of the realistically possible.” That spoke to me that faithfulness (or, in my way of thinking, hopefulness) is to recognize the unthinkable – those horrible things that happen in the world and will continue to happen – and still do what we can about them. And then to let go of what we cannot do. Doing what we can do without kicking ourselves for what we cannot do is how we stave off paralysis and despair.

    I’m also a firm believer in celebrating the beauty and humor of the world even in the midst of pain, loss, and heartache. Laughter from tears and tears from laughter. Without those moments side by side, we forget how human we all really are.

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    • It’s the letting go bit that I find difficult. Acknowledging the fact that there is only a very limited amount of influence that I have on the wider scheme of things. (Not that I would want power – but I wish I had more direct influence on those who *can* change things.)
      Celebrating beauty and humour is never needed more than in these times, I guess. Still, it somehow makes me feel guilty to do so when so much is wrong in this world…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this post Guylty. We have indeed lost a lot of our innocence with this wake-up call. I too will worry more when big events are held not only here but elsewhere. It is so easy to get depressed over the state of the world and I found myself almost getting into a panic mode yesterday the more I thought about not only the Manchester atrocity but all similar events that have taken place in many other countries. My eldest son and I were discussing this earlier today and he also voiced the fact that we are often guilty of forgetting or putting to the back of our minds such terrible things that happen all over the world but being more aware when such events as this occur in the UK or Europe. This should not be. People young and old are dying every day. I and all my children were born in the UK so I guess we are often more shocked by events there, but we must never forget that terror attacks could happen here too although I dread to think of it.

    My youngest granddaughter graduates on Friday and it would be only too easy to despair of the world she is stepping into. But above all I have hope – however faint at times – that a better world is possible even though it may take many years to come and I may not live to see it. As it says, “Hope is the anchor of my soul”. If I lost that it would be almost impossible to look at what the future holds for any of us.

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    • That’s it, Teuchter – a feeling of panic. I am beginning to lose my calm over all of this, both in terms of personal safety and in terms of global politics and loss of freedom. With the UK’s security level now at “critical” (i.e. “an attack is expected imminently”, according to MI 5), I do worry about travelling over to London next week, for instance, as well as worrying for my friends over there. It takes a lot of will-power, not to feel disheartened. And yes, I know that that is *exactly* what the terrorists want us to feel, yet I am finding it hard not to step into that trap.

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  11. Congratulations for your sons graduation! proud mother!
    And I agree – mit allem was Du geschrieben hast!
    Immer wenn es junge Menschen trifft sind wir besonders betroffen. Der Anschlag in Manchester macht mich sprachlos da er so gezielt auf junge Menschen gerichtet war. Wie gestört kann man überhaupt sein um ein solches Attentat zu begehen? Ich selbst gehe gerne auf Konzerte aller Art, mein Großer auf alle möglichen Festivals. Durch die vielen Menschen ein attraktives Ziel für Anschläge, aber sollen wir unser Leben jetzt tatsächlich einschränken und Angst vor dem Alltäglichen haben nur wegen ein paar Bekloppten die meinen sie müssen die Welt in Angst und terror stürzen?
    Und du hast mit dem Brandenburger Tor recht – ist uns der Terror in Europa einfach näher oder haben wir uns an den Terror in der Welt schon gewöhnt? Wo ist der Unterschied ob juge Menschen in Europa oder in Syrien, Afghanistan sterben müssen?
    Es gibt keinen……..sie alle haben das Recht auf ein Leben in Würde und in Respekt ohne Angst vor Terror!

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    • Dass man sich den Terror natürlich besser in seinem Ausmaß vorstellen kann, wenn er in einem vergleichbaren Land stattfindet, ist schon irgendwie nachvollziehbar. Aber diese Abstumpfung gegenüber dem Leid, das im Grunde durch genau dieselben Methoden in weiter entfernten, uns fremderen Ländern stattfindet, ist einfach erschreckend. 22 Opfer in Manchester bestimmen 24 Stunden lang die Nachrichtenlage. Die Anschläge mit 68 Kinder unter den Opfern in Syrien dagegen sind nur eine Fußnote. Angesichts solch ungleicher Reaktionen zweifle ich schon manchmal an unserer Menschlichkeit, unserem Mitgefühl und unseren Prioritäten. Aber Antworten auf die ganzen Probleme unseres Planeten habe ich auch nicht. Im Endeffekt bleibt das Gefühl der Hilflosigkeit. Und das hasse ich wirklich.

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      • Es gibt keine Antworten, das ganze Chaos wird von der Psyche der so unterschiedlichen Menschen auf unserem Planeten verursacht.
        Wir können für uns nur versuchen die Welt mit anderen Augen zu sehen, nicht zu gewichten, keinen Unterschied zu machen und jeden Menschen so zu nehmen und zu sehen wie er uns begegnet.
        So in unserem kleinen teil der Welt 🙂

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  12. Congratulations to your son on his graduation. I am grateful for your blog especially in times like these. Humor and imagination renew us for confronting the challenges the world is facing. There are plenty of places the “real world” can load negativity into our lives. You and your fans have responded generously many causes mentioned in your blog. It has a serious side as well as a lighthearted one. Thank you for all your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thank you Kathy – that’s nice of you to say. And let me just hasten to add that I wasn’t fishing for compliments with my deliberations…

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  13. I have just come here to say what Kathy has just said but she puts it much better than I could. Your blog is so often a little haven from the outside world for me – an illustration of the better side of human nature, with its wit, kindness, generosity and the sense of community it creates from your posts and all the clever and intelligent comments.

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  14. This attack absolutely devastated me, I constantly wonder what can I do and the only answer I can come to is spread love. Love conquers hate and nothing can take that belief and hope away from me💞

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