The New York Times is reporting that a pastor in my hometown of Gainesville, Florida is planning to “commemorate” 11 September 2001 by publicly burning the Qur’an. The photograph that accompanies the story showed the pastor, Terry Jones, standing in a field of grass behind signs that read “Islam is of the devil.”
The tall pines of my childhood tower behind him and I was shocked to see those two images together. From my apartment in Tel Aviv, I searched the edges of the photo for something else familiar, something that would soothe me.
Where is my hometown? I thought. This is not the Gainesville I grew up in.
Gainesville is quintessential America. It’s swimming pools and popsicles. It’s kids scooting about on bikes on lazy summer days. It’s Norman Rockwell America.
It’s also Tom Petty’s hometown, the place that gave rise to his famous song “American Girl”. If I’ve had a bit too much to drink and I sing along, I find a southern accent I never knew I had. And if a Jewish girl can discover a southern accent for herself in Gainesville, anyone can find a home there. Right?