Henry Louis Gates, as I remarked a while back, has started emailing everyone in sight a series of "surprising facts' about African-Americans," heaven knows why. So it occurred to me maybe from time to time I should publish my own list of surprising or little known facts. Today's little known fact [little known only to the handful of Americans who do not regularly read the Bible] is the real meaning of the phrase "mark of Cain." As the expression is used in common discourse, it usually refers to some sort of mark of evil, a sign that a person is bad. But that is almost exactly the opposite of the original meaning, which, as all of you surely know, can be found in Genesis 3:12-15.
After Cain slays his brother, Abel, God drives him from his home and curses him, saying "a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. [3:12] And Cain said unto the Lord, my punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from thy face shall I be hid; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.  And the Lord said unto him, Therefore, whoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him." 
So the mark of Cain is actually an early version of one of those suburban signs that say "these premises protected by Vanguard Home Security System." "Vengeance is mine," as the Lord sayeth elsewhere. [Romans 12:19]
What on earth made me think of this? you may wonder. Well, Susie had a bad time last night with her broken shoulder, and I got up to help her, rearrange her blankets in the reclining chair in which he is forced to sleep, and make her some breakfast. Before making her coffee, I turned on the TV, and as it would happen, it was on a channel that was screening James Dean's famous movie, East of Eden. What is the very next verse of Genesis? "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden."