Having been immersed in another culture for so long as a youth, I have never gotten over the culture shock of my return to the U.S. at the age of 14. Seeing Americans as a part foreigner to this day, one of the things I find most perplexing is their disgruntlement with with their politicians and their government. We live in a democracy, however imperfect. We choose the people who represent us. I have lived with people who believed that the general population should not govern itself, that it is too stupid for such responsibility. Perhaps because of this, living as I do as a member of a general population in a democracy, I have always felt that political participation is an imperative and a duty.

I lived many years with a step-father who claimed solid roots with Italian fascism. In my conversations and arguments with him, I came to know the attitudes and manner of totalitarianism. On the other side, with my mom's German siblings, I had a glimpse through the eyes of their memories at the horrible excesses that came to pass at the hands of leaders with absolute power. I was humbled to know that these leaders came into that power with only 35% of the popular vote. Maybe I came to value my vote because I saw what could happen when its lost.

Maybe it is the evolution of my thinking about Vietnam. In 1969, while living in Chevy Chase, one of my best friends at school was a boy whose parents were attached to the Embassy of South Vietnam. Through him, I was in full support for the war. But as time passed and I learned of Vietnam's long fight against foreign invaders, French, Japanese, now American, my thinking shifted. Doubtlessly the fact that my own age was ticking up to draft age affected me also. The 1972 Democratic Convention came to Miami Beach, just a stone's throw from my home in Coral Gables. I watched enthralled night after night as a dark horse silver star recipient WWII bomber pilot came from behind to win the nomination. That November 8, months before I could vote, the pacifist lost in a landslide vote as the electorate re-elected the incumbent. I would have given anything to vote in the '72 election.

 Maybe it is because, as a teenager being first exposed to Plato, I took Socrates' "social contract" to heart. Socrates elects to take the poison because he has spent his life benefiting under the Athenian government. By accepting the benefits society confers, one must necessarily agree to its laws.