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Brooksville Common should make everyone feel welcome

A large display of the Ten Commandments awaits visitors to the Brooksville Common on S Broad Street.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

A large display of the Ten Commandments awaits visitors to the Brooksville Common on S Broad Street.

Pulling into downtown Brooksville from the south, visitors will now see an impressive new brick courtyard on the right side of S Broad Street.

They will notice, farthest from the road, a sturdy, graceful pavilion with a copper-hued metal roof. They may be able to observe, even at a passing glance, that the lighter-colored pavement forms a cross.

Scattered throughout the space are inviting benches. Separating these from First United Methodist Church of Brooksville to the south is a line of live oaks, which eventually will shade this open space.

To the north are ground-hugging shrubs, designed to allow an open view of the mural of the Brooksville Raid — or, actually, the re-enactment of the raid because the ragtag squad of old men and boys who fought in the real thing wouldn't have made for such inspiring art.

The entire setup will no doubt make a big impression on those visitors. And along with a few newly renovated buildings and the much-improved Hernando Park — where are those conspiracy theorists now, I wonder, the ones who a few years ago claimed the park was on the verge of destruction? — it's a sign that Brooksville residents are actually starting to give a darn about their downtown.

What will visitors find if they get out their cars and ask a few questions and poke around the courtyard, the Brooksville Common, which was scheduled for dedication Thursday morning?

That the people who contributed more than $200,000 to build and maintain this project — most of them members of the Methodist church — have generously opened it up to anyone willing to clean up after themselves.

You want to get married, or throw a block party, or just find a peaceful spot to stop with your paper bag lunch? You are welcome.

But something else you'll notice, if you take time to look closer: Unless you are a Christian with a literal interpretation of the Bible, that invitation might not feel so open.

Impossible to miss as you enter the common, or even as you walk alongside it, is a large rock platform supporting two faux-stone tablets displaying the Ten Commandments, just as Moses might have found them.

It's a good reminder to those who have forgotten the commandments, said Gary Wilson, a longtime Brooksville physician who has been one of the driving forces behind the common. Also, he said, "Historically, our judicial system is based on the Ten Commandments."

Most legal scholars would tell you otherwise, that our system is based mostly on English common law and that the Ten Commandments should not be represented as having wide influence on secular law. Furthermore, if you are not religious, or are a member of the many faiths that do not recognize any version of the commandments, you will likely find this display as welcome as a conversation with one of the Hare Krishnas that used to accost people at airports.

There is also a Living Tree sculpture, more abstract but with a message as solidly Christian as the tablets.

The limbs represent people's reach to heaven, Wilson said, while the flowing water signifies "blood flowing from the wounds on Jesus's side." The red color of the canopy over a prayer corner was likewise chosen to represent Christ's blood, which is not a message a lot of us want to hear when we pull a sandwich out of our lunch bag.

Don't come, you might say, and fair enough. It's church property, of course, which means the members have the right to use it as they please. And it would be surprising if it didn't include religious themes, and it's hard to imagine anyone being offended by the quietly contemplative, nearly universal ones expressed on the plaques under the trees, the ones dedicated to learning and compassion and, yes, even prayer.

But if you call it a common, and say that we are all welcome, then we should all be made to feel that way.

Brooksville Common should make everyone feel welcome 04/29/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 5:27pm]
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