After watching a lot of television these past few weeks, it’s apparent that many of us are starting to believe what we’re being told, that “our country and way of life have changed forever.”

Just like that, our little Mayberry has been blown to bits.

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Now, I know something about TV’s Mayberry. My wife is a big fan of the old Andy Griffith show, and rarely a night goes by when Andy and Barney and Gomer don’t stop by our house via satellite.

Mayberry does seem like an idyllic spot, with all of life’s problems neatly compacted into 30-minute blocks of laughs, solutions and Viagra commercials.

There’s crime in Mayberry, but not enough to keep two law-enforcement officers busy. There’s a barber shop where people go to meet their friends and receive free haircuts. (I’ve never seen money change hands anywhere in the town.) Kids in Mayberry still have time to hang out after school (they aren’t overburdened with homework and parentally mandated “educational” activities), and Opie and his pals don’t need an armed guard to make sure they get to the fishing hole and back.

There’s accountability in Mayberry, too. Kids who do something wrong are dressed down by whatever adult happens to be nearby; nobody makes excuses for their actions because it seems like the politically correct thing to do. Adults feel the same pain when they make a mistake. And it’s all done in the spirit of helping a neighbor.

Mayberry’s real strength is that, much like here, not all of its characters are happy all of the time. Not everyone does well in school. Not everyone has a fulfilling job. Not everyone is even funny.

In fact, the place is full of people who aren’t always sure where they’re going, don’t really know if they want to get there, and aren’t even sure they’re safe in what must be the safest environment ever conceived.

But Mayberry’s residents always pull together in the end. They always have one another’s best interests at heart. They always go out of their way, even when they don’t really want to, to make life a little better for their neighbor.

That’s Mayberry’s real strength. And as we’re finding out every day now, perhaps that has been the real strength of this country all along.

I’m not so sure our lives have changed forever. I think we’re just learning things about ourselves and our neighbors that have been right in front of us.

We just hadn’t taken the time to appreciate what we have. Until now.