Teach your children well:

A recent column sparked a spate of (ok, seven) emails responding positively to the comment by psychologist Alan Lewis that the attack on America presents, among other things, a “critical learning experience” for our children. “Maybe we need to remind our kids of what America is and what’s worth protecting,” opined Lewis.

His words certainly struck a chord with me. The only thing worse than the atrocity of September 11 would be a failure to respond properly. We are already doing it militarily and diplomatically. The propaganda front is more problematic.But the opportunity to imbue a sense of what it means to be an American in our children mustn’t be missed. And it has nothing to do with jingoism; nor is it the stuff of raw consumerism.

Being an American kid must mean more than parroting patriotic phrases and having a lot of stuff. It must mean more than a birthright entitlement program for the latest and greatest from the worlds of fashion and entertainment. If we as a country fight for individual opportunity and freedom, we win because our cause is just. If we fight for bigger and better stuff, our cause is less noble and our victory less assured.

Being an American kid must mean an understanding that having stuff is a byproduct of a free enterprise system that is highly productive. It’s where opportunity abounds, but success is not guaranteed. Somebody worked hard for that stuff, and America is a country that rewards such efforts. Often handsomely.

Others have bequeathed that to America’s kids through their work ethic. The Latest Generation is fortunate enough to have been born into such a system, but soon it will be their turn to link into that legacy and measure up. Right now it means doing their part to properly equip themselves by taking advantage of their educational opportunities.

Being an American kid must also mean an appreciation of what freedom actually means. It’s not an abstraction; it’s not a buzzword.

Generation Next lives in a democracy. Before too long, these kids will be old enough to vote in their government leaders — because they can. And they must. It’s not a perfect system, just the best one yet. They also live in a land where the rule of law prevails, and a Constitution and a Bill of Rights protect us all. Innocent until proven guilty is legal bedrock. The press is not a government mouthpiece, and the practice of religion is personal and protected. God blesses America, but God is not an American. He also helps those who help themselves.

America’s kids must never forget that where there are rights, there are responsibilities. The other guy has rights too. And as a melting-pot nation, we are tolerant — but not stupid.

Put it this way.

Wave the flag. Please. And wave it on high and proudly — and not just during a crisis, a World Series or an Olympics. But remember that freedom had to be won; that’s how this country started. And once won, continuously affirmed and defended.

In a world where envy and enmity are our enemies, the status quo is no ally of freedom. Affirming and defending will be your responsibility too, because you benefit most from living here.

Now go out and play.

Gunshine State update

Across Florida, as we have seen recently, more people are buying handguns and requesting applications to secretly carry them. Apparently it has nothing to do with crime stats, most of which are down. It has everything to do with an overreaction to terrorism.

The imminent enemy right now is fear. It is the calculated game plan of bioterrorism. No Islamic fanatics are coming to our houses. It’s hardly the modus operandi of despicable, theocratic cowards. But jittery folks with guns are downright scary.

So what does the chairman of Florida’s Senate Select Committee on Public Security and Crisis Management do? If you’re Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville, you start packing heat, as in a Colt .38 caliber handgun. Never know when you might have to shoot a spore.

Thanks for the leadership.

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