Right now I am in the south of France, in a tiny farming village of about 600 people. There are fields of sunflowers, grapevines, plums and cherry trees. Aside from the farmers, there are magpies, swallows and red-tailed squirrels who have made their homes in the trees that dot the village, and bats in the cemetery not far from where I’m currently staying.
Next door to where I live is a haggard woman who reminds me very much of George W. Bush. She is elderly, obese, and has ten demented children (all right, I exaggerate–but at least three or four show signs of mental deficiencies). You can smell her armpits a mile away, which tells you more than anything else, that she is in dire need of a bath.
All that has probably little to do with George W. Bush, except for one other characteristic which my neighbour and the American do share in common. In my neighbour’s garden is a large cross. You know, the kind you see along the roads which trace the pilgrimage walks of devoted Catholic saints. When the sun sets, she turns on the spotlight on her cross, and people passing by feel good and think that here lives a godly woman.
First impressions are very difficult to change, and the truth of the matter is, my smelly neighbour has got to be the meanest witch on this side of the universe, but I won’t get into a petty accounting of her ways here. Unfortunately, those who come to my house to pass the time of day refute whatever I have to say about her–as if they know my cross-bearing neighbour better than I do, me who lives next door to her all summer.
Remember the story of the wolf dressed to look like somebody’s grandmother? Grandmothers are very difficult to think of as someone bad. And this is the same thing. Religious symbols have very strong connotations. When God is manipulated to look as if He’s on the side of the “good,” it is almost impossible to re-orient the average mind to consider that something is amiss somewhere–unless you have a neighbour like I do.