In early 1961 a new president, John F. Kennedy, was told by military leaders and civilian officials that the Kingdom of Laos - of no conceivable strategic importance to the U.S. - required the presence of American troops and perhaps even tactical nuclear weapons. Why? Because if Laos fell, Asia would go red from Thailand to Indonesia.
Men and women in my lifetime have died fighting for the right to vote: people like James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were murdered while registering black voters in Mississippi in 1964, and Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1965 during the Selma march for voting rights.
This is part of the involuntary bargain we make with the world just by being alive. We get to experiences the splendor of nature, the beauty of art, the balm of love and the sheer joy of existence, always with the knowledge that illness, injury, natural disaster, or pure evil can end it in an instant for ourselves or someone we love.
It strikes me as a sound, honest statement for a prospective voter to say: 'Look, I haven't given this election a minute's thought, and it's just not fair for me to cancel out the vote of someone who actually gives a damn.' Indeed, it's not just sound and honest - it's the ethically responsible thing to do.
When an office-holder facing a multi-count indictment says that he has decided to spend more time with his family, the proper response is a horse-laugh. When an accused politician explains that a charge of corruption is 'really' an attack on his or her race, religion, ethnic background or gender, the odds that something felonious happened jumps.