Well, Senator Kerry has nominated his running mate and now it's really going to get fast and furious. I admit to admiring our British cousins who truncate their elections to only a few weeks, rather than a couple of years. Pity we can't pull that off and then devote the remainder of the time (and money) to public works or building a better BLT.
I've run into a couple of instances recently where the word "Patriot" has been slung around, mostly used to indicate that the other person isn't patriotic because they are questioning something or other our government is doing. Some government types have gone so far as to say that if you question Washington, you're helping the terrorists. Interesting idea. Absolutely detrimental to the ideal of an open society, but interesting nonetheless. Being a student of history, I do believe I read similar comments during the 1940's in such 'free' states as Germany and Russia. Something to think about.
I think the best quote on the subject comes from the venerable Edward R. Murrow:
"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it. ."
Or to paraphrase another individual -- it is better for the government to fear its people than the people to fear their government.
Do your research on the candidates and vote. Who you vote for is on your conscience but staying home and ignoring the issue doesn't work. Not anymore.
Just like anything else, a democracy needs light, air and nourishment. If allowed to starve, it will turn into your worst nightmare.