Have you ever been asleep on a plane, only to be rudely awakened by a sudden jolt? One minute, it's smooth flying. The next, BAM! The plane hits some air pocket and falls fast enough to nearly bounce you out of your seat. Within seconds the pilot's authoritative voice is heard gently reassuring you that he's in the process of taking the plane to an altitude of smoother air.
If you're like most people, you feel much better knowing that the plane is no longer on auto-pilot: The sudden jolt has caused the pilot to take full control.
Lately, I've come to think America works the same way. We pretty much ignore small bumps, mentally relaxing in a mode of automatic pilot if the ride is even fairly smooth. But when we're jerked awake by elements that directly threaten us, we know it's time for someone to grab the wheel and guide us safely home.
Five years ago, no one seemed to care much when Saddam Hussein thumbed his nose at our sanctions and no-fly zones. After 9-11, Americans suddenly started insisting that we snuff out those who seek our demise. Today, the vast majority of Americans feel pride for having supported President Bush in his efforts to remove the brutal dictator from power.
America's religious heritage has been under attack for years, and very few seemed to notice or care. But when a judge ruled last year that the words "under God" must be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, the voices of Americans nationwide were heard in a joint cry of opposition. The ruling was since overturned and today the offending judge has become the butt of jokes.
We're sitting bolt upright in our seats on other fronts as well.
A quarter-century after Madelyn Murray O'Hair successfully removed prayer from the public schools, students of faith are fighting back for their constitutional rights to express themselves in the public square. Consider: On the last day before Christmas break last December, students at a high school in Massachusetts went against their principal's orders and handed out candy-canes bearing a note with Christian messages. He ordered in-school suspensions. They refused to accept the punishments, took the principal to court and won. Courts also have ruled recently that Christian groups have the same rights to use school facilities for after-school meetings as do debate teams and drama clubs.
I'm sure that if you stop and think long enough, examples of your own outrage or the outrage in your community over threats to bedrock values will come to mind. Americans, everywhere eventually yell "Enough!" when our sensibilities are insulted, or our values are trashed.