A marvelous if unnoticed thing is happening under our noses that deserves a round of long-repressed applause.
I'm not talking about the lovefest among diverse peoples or even our renewal of vows between America and her citizenry. Frankly, I'm exhausted by all the good feelings and wouldn't mind a little episodic road rage for variety.
What's got me feeling all warm and tingly all over is the sudden eviction of bull-oney from our midst. Political correctness has been sent scurrying back under its silk-taffeta tuffet, there to pout and pen long, mournful journal entries, while the rest of America enjoys a shot of Truth. Make it a bottle; I'll buy.
Airplanes flying into buildings and killing thousands have a way of putting things into proper perspective. We see with sudden clarity what matters and what before was only clutter in the hearts and minds of an overfed populace. Political correctness - the art of camouflaging truth to protect the psyches of the silly - is, after all, a luxury of full stomachs.
We've heard a thousand times that life in America will never be the same again, and to an extent this is true. High school students now can locate Afghanistan on a map, and almost everyone knows what Cipro is. The meaning of life is suddenly clear: staying alive.
On a deeper level, however, we're the same no-nonsense, practical, gung-ho folks Americans always have been. We're simply rediscovering our truer selves, thanks, without appreciation, to Mr. Halloween Face, bin Laden. Truth, justice and freedom do not exist in a vacuum, we're reminded, but require protection and sacrifice. Heroes aren't movie stars with Universal Gym bodies, but real people with real jobs who sometimes die in the call to service.
Suddenly Donald Rumsfeld is America's main heartthrob. "I'm in love with him," says one breathless friend. "I love the way he handles the media," says another. There isn't a fireman in America who can't find a date. Rudy Giuliani, once considered too rough-edged for modern sensibilities, is now Mayor of America.
Hardly anyone is confused about gender anymore. It's men we're sending into the alien landscapes of Afghanistan, and we're praying they're tough and strong and mean. There's no confusion about leadership either. It's George W. Bush and his battle-savvy Cabinet we're grateful for, and we pray they're tough, strong and mean enough, too.
This new understanding has been demonstrated in myriad ways, most recently a few nights ago during the Concert for New York City. The Madison Square Garden concert, organized to raise money for victims of the terrorist attacks, featured some of pop music's and Hollywood's biggest stars: Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Billy Crystal, Jim Carey and - surprise! - Hillary Clinton.
Huh? Who invited her, the crowd seemed to say. Sen. Clinton could barely be heard during her 20-second gig, as firemen and police officers booed and jeered the former first lady. Translate for yourselves what it means when America's largest heroes, urban warriors who gave all for nothing, hurl invectives at their state's senator.
Could it be that they remember when she rolled her eyes and looked bored, barely bothering to clap her hands, during Bush's address to the Congress a few days after the Sept. 11 attacks?
Could it be that they noticed her dissing the guy who came to them at Ground Zero and drew cheers when he picked up the bullhorn and said, "I hear you!" Public relations Rule No 1, Senator: Always assume the camera is on you.
In another time, Hillary might have gotten away with her bad manners, but not this time. It was in another time that she managed to get elected in a state not her own, but not next time. America is fed up with hypocrisy and deceit and frozen-smile rhetoric; the junior senator from New York showed her true colors on live television while all America watched. As the rebel yell goes, they ain't fergettin.'
Not that one rudeness necessarily deserves another, but things are different in America now, you might have heard. Truth is back in vogue, and those who practice deception and speak in rhetorical tongues won't be tolerated long. America's once-slumbering electorate is awake and ready, a fact one can't help but applaud.