Old-fashioned, flag-waving patriotism isn't dead in America after all.

The evidence flutters proudly in the breeze across the land. Old Glory appears in many forms, flying from homes, lawns, on buildings, coat lapels, cars, trucks, motorcycles and bikes.Forty thousand patriots turned out recently on the West Coast to form their own giant flag "constructed" of people. Thousands more did the same at Virginia Beach on the East Coast.

Others demonstrate in the streets. Flagmakers work around the clock to keep up with demand.

Pop singer Whitney Houston sang "The Star Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl with such beauty and inspiration that the recording is being released as a single - a probable first for a solo performance of the venerable Francis Scott Key national anthem.

Polls show Americans supporting the war in the Persian Gulf by about a 3-to-1 margin, and President Bush by up to 80 percent.

The reaction to the war has surprised many Americans who have seen nothing like this since World War II.

How could we have expected this outpouring of nationalism after the bitter division of the Vietnam War?

In the decades of disillusion following the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam and Watergate, we thought patriotism was dead, if not buried. Viewed it as a casualty of our blase, wiseguy cynicism and boredom with old, simple values.

How wrong we were!

Patriotism was alive, well and full of vigor, itching for a cause big enough to release it from bondage.

Americans have always loved noble causes, whether it was to fight taxation without representation, gain manifest destiny or join the war to end wars. Obviously, they feel that fighting against a savage, monstrous aggressor is that kind of cause.

They must also recognize the essential need to eliminate this major threat to the world's peace and economic well-being. And they must also remember the disastrous war that followed the world's failure to stop Adolf Hitler in 1938.

No doubt buoyed by the support from home, the all-volunteer American army in Saudi Arabia is said to have the highest morale.

The huge outburst of support for the gulf war has been a blow to the anti-war protest movement, which sought to repeat its Vietnam War success. The movement appears to have lost support.

The peace movement has been weakened by its failure to offer an alternative to the war, except to stop it. It has also been criticized by its Jewish members for Israel-bashing and alleged anti-Semitism within the movement.

Perhaps a major part of the problem is the character of Iraqi boss Saddam Hussein. Saddam's record is one of ruthlessness, murder and torture and killing his own countrymen with poison gas. Compared with Saddam, Ho Chi Minh was a Sunday school teacher.

How does one defend such a person, especially an aggressor? And who'd want to?

Meanwhile, of course, the war's popularity with the majority of Americans can vanish with the rapidity of an Iraqi bridge dissolving under attack by American smart bombs.

We're told repeatedly these days that this depends on the length of the war and how heavy the casualties are. That's probably right. We can only hope for a swift resolution and small losses.

But for now we should be grateful for the splendid efficiency of the coalition army and air force with its high-tech arsenal. Our casualties have so far been amazingly light.

And we can rejoice in the fact that Americans have not lost either their spirit or their patriotism.