It was nothing short of cruel irony that I happened to be on a guided tour of the United States Military Academy at West Point on the very day The New York Times editorialized for the United States to unconditionally surrender in Iraq. It was this past Sunday.
The editorial, "The Road Home," opened with this: "It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit."
We live in an era where irony rules, the truth is illusory, paradox pervades and the 90-second difference between reality and perception continues to become "curiouser and curiouser."
To witness the impressive grandeur of West Point and the omnipresent homage to past graduates who have fought for our way of life and the freedoms we have come to take for granted - just days after the 4th of July - and then to read the New York Times, just 90 seconds after leaving the post, was mind boggling.
It was equally poignant to read a personal note posted on the "Winds of Change" web page the next day by political commentator Marc Danziger (who writes under the nom de plume, "Armed Liberal") that his oldest son, a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, has decided to join the Army.
For those who are not familiar with Mr. Danziger, he describes himself as "a liberal Democrat - pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, pro-progressive taxation, pro-equal rights, pro-environmental regulation, pro-public schools - who supported and supports the war in Iraq. As I tell my liberal friends, 'Did I miss the part where it was progressive not to fight medieval religious fascists?' "
Adding to the context of touring West Point is the recent revelation by Jon Scott, the anchor of "FOX News Live" weekdays at 12 P.M. that his son joined the West Point class of 2011 on "Reception Day" July 2. "Reception Day" is a euphemism for the time when families arrive at West Point to say goodbye to their son or daughter as they begin six weeks of cadet basic training known as "Beast Barracks."
Mr. Scott he wrote of his family sitting in "one of the largest auditoriums on the East Coast, listening to a lieutenant colonel issue a few quick instructions on the events of the day. "when the presentation is turned over to "a friendly-faced, third-year-Cadet named Riley." At that point she announces, "You have 90 seconds to say goodbye."
The "90 seconds" is just as illustrative of the dynamics in our country at present as it was for the family of Mr. Scott in the wee hours of that Monday morning.
In those 90 seconds the life of the Scott family changed forever as their son joined the other 1,309 members of our country's elite young men and women in a storied tradition that goes back to when the academy was founded in 1802.
Meanwhile, the public approval rating of President George W. Bush is well documented as being low. But how many know that the approval rating of Congress, at 14 percent, is the lowest since the previous historic low, 18 percent, in the 1991 to 1994 time frame, which just so happens to be the last time the Democrats had control of Congress?
Why? Because of the incredible 90-second divide between the illusions the Democrats promised before the election and the reality of what they have been able to deliver.
And the divide between what is real and what the mainstream media is telling us continues to grow into a canyon. Getting back to Mr. Danziger, he wryly notes in his commentary of "The Road Home" - written the same day he wrote about his son beginning a military career:
"One of the main arguments supporting the claim that we should leave now is the obvious and real collapse of public support for the war - a collapse that is shocking, just shocking, given the years of media spin on the war - media spin that bloggers have been pointing out continually. There's something to say about the media and antiwar left beating on public opinion for four years, and then using that collapse of public opinion as an argument for their position."
As the longest presidential campaign in history continues to "whine" its way forward, it takes only 90 seconds to read the latest campaign piece - disguised as a news article - for someone like New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, and then fact check her latest, otherwise, unchallenged sound bite.
For example, she not only voted for the war in Iraq, but she took that opportunity to share remarks from the Senate floor that there was a link between al Qaeda and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, it takes only 90 seconds to access information found in the two current books out on her, by authors who could hardly, in anyone's wildest imaginations, be described as "conservative," that demonstrates her fleeting grasp with "truth telling" about her past - or the present, for that matter.
In "The Road Ahead," the New York Times says, (as Turkey is massing 140,000 troops on its border with Iraq and Hamas has taken over the Gaza Strip to Israel's south), that the conversation about unilaterally surrendering in Iraq "must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave."
Hopefully sooner than later, the 90-second gap between reality and perception, and cause and effect will vanish or the great experiment in democracy supported by the likes of West Point graduates and the names associated with the 4th of July - and taken advantage by the New York Times - will be the reality that is illusory.
With any luck we won't have to find out - in less than 90 seconds - that you don't know what you've got until it's gone.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org