Nine years and ten days ago from the day of this publication I was sifting through the rubble of the Pentagon. As an emergency manager for FEMA I would spend the next five weeks or so between the Pentagon, Ground Zero and the National Emergency Operations Center in downtown DC.  The experience, as it was for many Americans, was life changing.

I saw the best of America. People banded together as friends, neighbors and countrymen to help one another. Petty disputes and prejudices’ were put away, and we all prayed, each according to his or her own understanding of God, for those lost in the attack and their suffering families.
I was proud (and not for the first time) to be an American. And, I was proud of the political system that supports and breeds such a resilient and independent people.

Since that time, every year on September 11th, I reflect on the state of our nation. Where are we now? Does freedom still ring, or did the terrorists win?

For this issue I would like to share some of those random thoughts. Agree or disagree, but hopefully these ideas will encourage you to think deeply on the state of our nation and what it means to us, our children and the generations of Americans yet to come.

Random Thoughts:

Sorry, but burning books is simply un-American. Especially religious books that many consider sacred in a country founded on religious freedom. Pastor Jones’s planned stunt, and the copycat stunts that followed, were, as Sarah Palin put it,  an “unnecessary provocation.” I hope Jones is back in Florida now from his trip to New York City. The Gainesville residents must have missed their village idiot. Besides NYC has already has Mayor Bloomberg.

With that said, Muslims who would attack Americans and kill innocents over this event are also idiots… just more dangerous. It seems they are more than willing to prove that the things Jones was saying about their religion might be true. Besides, Americans are getting tired of walking on pins and needles so as to not offend Muslims, while Muslims burn Bibles, stomp on American flags and burn our leaders in effigy with nary a word from the so called peace loving moderate Muslim community. They don’t seem too worried about our feelings.

That Muslims can walk the streets of America generally without fear of reprisal due to their religion is a tribute to our culture and a lot more than the Muslim countries can say about Christians.

While I’m on the subject, Opposing the Mosque at Ground Zero is not bigotry. Just like the burning of Qurans, this stunt is specifically designed as a slap in the face of America. Being offended by this brazen act is not bigotry but a normal sane reaction to another unnecessary provocation.

Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally was a unique and unapologetically patriotic, faith based event that was less protest than it was a celebration of the traditional values and principles that have always produced the best this nation has to offer. Add those hundreds of thousands who attended the event to the Tea Party protests across the country, and you have a grass roots message that only a political fool would ignore.

As Obama might put it, “let me be perfectly clear,” these movements are about conservative principles of government – not political parties.  Republicans will make a big mistake if they believe that they can keep the support of this huge ground swell – based simply on party affiliation. The only reason they are beating the Democrats right now is because historically they lean more toward the conservative right than the Democrats. Let that demographic change, and watch what happens. (Democrats, you may want to be listening to this).

In the same light, Democrats are making a big mistake by underestimating, and trying to demonize these grassroots groups. For every one of these good folks that attend a rally – there are hundreds more who support their point of view. And they are only getting bolder as they see the traditional silent majority speaking up and they realize they are not alone in believing that freedom, self reliance and limited government power the engine of innovation and human progress.

I am truly enjoying the way so many Democrats are now running away from the far left’s socialist agenda. If they want the support of mainstream America this is the right move.

The success of these patriotic rallies and the kind letters and emails I get in support of this column, have convinced me that Americans aren’t quite ready to quietly slip into a European style socialism. We remain instead, the last and best hope for freedom for much of the world today.

My heart soared as the Children’s Choir sang “The Star Spangled Banner” during the memorial at Ground Zero this past Saturday. These words, so beautifully echoed in the voices of our children, and from the same spot where just a few years ago rescuers choked on the dust and rubble of American dreams, asks again the century old question, one so vital to a world vastly different from the one that existed on 9-10. “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, O’re the land of the free and the home of the brave.” I believe it does, and will continue to do so as long as good people continue to gather – and remember.

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