The difference between politics in the USA and in Europe is often as small (or big) as one three letter word: God. In Sunday's debate on health care Rep. Dale Kildee (D - Michigan) mentioned the afterlife. "I'm not going to jeopardize my eternal salvation", he said, assuring listeners that federal money would not be used to pay for abortions and that he could vote for the bill. To many Europeans such words, especially in the context of a parliamentary debate, sound bizarre. Is this because most European countries have clear rules for the separation of church and state? Or is it because the secularization of the Old World has reached a point where people dare not even think along religious lines? Take Austria, a country rooted in Catholicism: In left leaning circles atheism is defended with a vehemence reminiscent of the fundamentalism of the Christian right in the United States. It will be interesting to see if and how things change over the next decades, as Muslim men and - hopefully - women enter politics.
What do we know about simplicity? Figs from our tree. Figs. The taste of summer, the taste of home; my immigrant home. Our backyard tree is heavy with fruit. In the mornings I go out to pick what is ripe; figs for breakfast, a treat straight from the tree; flesh and seeds, refreshing and sweet, grainy resistance and softness at the same time. Figs, the color of their skin, purple with blotches of green or white stripes where they have cracked. The reds and browns inside bring up memories: a summer spent in Normandy, France, with my parents, my brother, and my maternal grandmother. Life was about food in its basic, original form, about mussels and figs and cheese; it was about the ocean and its tides, gigantic but predictable, and about history. We visited Bayeux to see the tapestry which tells the story of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings; we spent a day or a half at Arromanches, saw a documentary on D-Day and the landing of the allied forces on the b