Mar. 4, 2002: Has it been just six months since our world was turned upside down?

Was it only this past September when a bunch of madmen – not brave men, madmen – destroyed so many innocent people and forever changed the lives of the rest of us? I kept asking myself those questions last week as I listened to the students and faculty at my grandsons’ school present a stirring tribute to America. The assembled experienced soaring highs as we heard patriotic songs and mind-numbing lows as we saw pictures of airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center. A lot of tears were shed that evening.

Our country has been on an emotional roller coaster since Sept. 11. We have been reminded that the vast majority of us are good people who genuinely care about others in a generally uncaring world. Yet we have witnessed firsthand the evil of which some are capable and are amazed that people like that even exist in the 21st century.

Just when we think it can’t get any worse, a group of Muslim extremists – who else? – captures a Wall Street Journal reporter and cuts off his head. What kind of people are these, we wonder, and why aren’t Arabs expressing universal condemnation at such barbaric acts? Instead, they seem to prefer to complain about racial profiling. Arabs could help their case immeasurably if we heard a little more righteous indignation from them. Most of us haven’t forgotten the deafening silence from the Arab world after the attacks. They would be wise to remember President Bush’s admonition – you are either with us or you are against us.

Six months ago, focusing on all that is wrong with us was quite the fashion. The thought police discouraged us from openly expressing love of country. That silliness stopped with the airliner attacks. We have jumped the politically-correct fence, and the special-interest groups are going to have a heck of a time herding us back in. We have found our voice. Flag waving is in. Self-flagellation is out. How long this will continue, I don’t know. I hope it is a long time.

So far, we seem to approve of how the president is conducting the war. We like him calling North Korea and Iraq and Iran “an axis of evil” because that is what they are. We knew the French would be critical of our president for telling the truth, and they didn’t disappoint us. We start to get angry and then we remember their government threw down their guns and quit when they saw the first German tank coming over the hill in World War II. Who cares what the French think?

We abide the hand wringing of the International Red Cross and assorted do-gooders over the “treatment” of the Taliban thugs in Guantanamo Bay and the face time the television networks give them for posturing. We wonder if these groups understand that a lot of individuals won’t send them a dime in the future because their priorities are not our priorities. We also wonder why the networks don’t spend equal time showing the squalid conditions our soldiers are enduring in Afghanistan.

We ignore the self-important journalists who harrumph over the audacity of the U.S. government to fight a war without their meddling. We are a peaceful people, but most of the rest of the world is too dense to understand that we have been pushed as far as we will go. We are going to have to kick some more tail before the word gets around. If the media don’t approve of that, let them go hold hands with the French.

The past six months have been difficult and the scary thing is that the years to follow could be even tougher. We have no way of knowing what will happen, but this much is certain: We can’t go back and change the events of Sept. 11 any more than we can predict the future. What we can do is to accept each day as a blessed gift and live it to the best of our abilities. And we must never, ever let one day go by without remembering the searing image of those airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center. To forget would be the ultimate insult to the people who died that day and encouragement to the thugs who wish us further harm.

Don’t let the bad guys think they won.