Earth-shattering events usually shatter certain long-held beliefs as well. The Stoic gives in to emotional outbursts, the Epicurean gives up rich food and wine, the misanthrope begins to love his neighbor.
Ever since the suicide bombers smashed into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, certain leopards have lost their spots, zebras their stripes, lions their roar. Consider ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. Faster than you can say "Yellow Submarine," he's thrown away mindless peace-loving.
"Normally you're a pacifist and you don't want any kind of war at all," he explains. "But occasionally something so atrocious happens that there's got to be some kind of response. After the New York attack, my attitude was like, 'screw you, man, just screw you.'"
He has written lyrics with more elegant phrasing, but he expresses bluntly what many pacifists are saying.
You could tune in to the rhetoric of the Greens in Germany. Not only have they reacted against their pacifist roots in sympathetic support for the American effort in Afghanistan, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of sending German soldiers to join the fight.
You could call it "the greening of patriotism."
"We are and remain an antiwar party," says Claudia Roth, a top leader of the Greens. "But I think that under certain circumstances it must be possible to engage militarily in order to stop violence." (Will the Greens start driving American-made SUVs to help our economy?)
With more than a touch of irony, the New York Times displays a dispatch from the Green Party convention on a page with a story under the headline: "German Wolves Are Back." The Society for the Protection of Wolves is elated that wolf packs have returned to the Fatherland. Despite the lesson in "Little Red Riding Hood" to the contrary, we learn that wolves are actually shy creatures who are dependent on the kindness of hunters.
In a world where Paul McCartney is militant, Greens support the army and wolves are shy, we probably shouldn't be surprised that certain journalists have put on coats of different colors.
"What we've seen at times over the past nine weeks is the American press transformed," writes Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard. Dan Rather closes his CBS Evening News program with images celebrating God and country. Geraldo Rivera, who manned the last line of defense for Bill Clinton against the Monica Lewinsky scandal, is making a show of going off to cover the war in Afghanistan, or whatever showbiz personalities do at a war, for the Fox News Channel. "I am changed," he says, discarding his dove's feathers for those of a hawk. "I want to see our GIs make them pay for what they did to us."
Fashion magazines are not undergoing such radical transformations, but they're draping their models in front of the Stars and Stripes and wrapping them in red, white and blue silk. Even GQ, the magazine for consuming bachelors, adds sentiment to patriotism with an article called "America the Beautiful, Really."
Naturally, the Hollywood stars want to get into the act. Karl Rove, the president's political guru, went to meet with movie and television executives, writers, directors and stars in Beverly Hills to see what they could contribute to the war effort. What at first sounded more like "Mr. Rove goes to Hollywood" than "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" didn't turn out quite that way.
"The new Hollywood" recognizes the Taliban as a real enemy. The Islamist hatred of music and feminine beauty makes the Rev. Donald Wildmon, American critic of excessive sex and violence in the movies, come off like Busby Berkeley. International politics makes strange bedfellows (and Hollywood knows about bedfellows).
It's tempting to write this off as Hollywood merely seizing opportunity when the public mood is "United We Stand," but sending hit movies to the front, touring with the USO, or making an occasional public service message can be real contributions. Whether there's a director in Hollywood who can make a war movie that rallies the support of the home front like William Wyler's World War II classic "Mrs. Miniver," or an actor who can satirize bin Laden as Charlie Chaplin sent up Hitler in "The Great Dictator," depends on artistic talent, not government wants and needs.
A public service announcement to arouse patriotism with wit might take its cue from W.C. Fields, playing a lush of a lover wooing the damsel with sweet talk about the "special bonds" between them. When the lady asks, "What kinds of bonds?" he grabs her hand, looks into the camera with a mischievous grin and with bourbon-soaked voice replies: "Your U.S. War Bonds and Savings Bonds."