CULTIVATING LIBERALISM
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Life on 200 Words a Day
Sign of the Cross
It’s an odd gesture any way you look at it, the sign of the cross. The right hand goes from touching the forehead — not with a gee-whiz I-shoulda-had-a-V8 slap or a close-fisted punch of mimicked Catholic self-loathing, but with a flirty graze of fingertips — to somewhere around the navel to the left shoulder to, finally, the right shoulder. The touch-and-go succession approximates an itchy night in the tropics, an obsessive compulsion to chase after the compass’ cardinal points, a signal to the runner on first base to attempt a steal but also to throw off decoy signals of his own first, preferably by grazing the crotch so as to insult decoders on the opposing team. Mostly though it’s every practicing Catholic’s expression of public and private piousness, an instant no-fault recall of Christ’s crucifixion, a package deal of announcements in body language’s most famous acronym—SOS, Mayday, and there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go (fill in the blanks). As a religious signal involving self-touching, it has, to my limited knowledge of religious choreography, no equal. What do the Shintoists do? What, for that matter, would Jesus do? But has it a use? Imagine the Vatican ’s royalties if the sign of the cross were proprietary, like Microsoft’s operating system. God’s DOS, suddenly lucrative. Have the proceeds fight hunger, disease, vanity, alternate job training for pedophile priests. What better way to put your money where your faith is?

—L.D. Amabed Jr

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