12/05/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Today I Became An American

I am voting for the first time in my life. I am 41 years old.

I have never before engaged in the democratic process, not because no candidate has ever managed to inspire me, though that is quite the case, but because I have spent most of my adult life as a member of a religious group that prohibits such political engagement in an attempt to emulate early Christians (and their leader) in their well-documented avoidance of politics. (This may be hard for some to digest, but for those who truly believe that the "kingship" of the messiah is nigh, it isn't that big a leap to refrain from supporting "temporary human leaders".)

Well, those days are over for me, thankfully, and my emergence as a real citizen coincides well with the emergence of a truly inspiring candidate. Back in 2000, when I was trying to be "politically neutral", I secretly liked John McCain. I didn't change; he did. No need to tell that story again. Obama, while not perfect, represents everything I secretly loved about my country. No need to tell that story either.

It's hard to capture the excitement I felt from the moment I awoke this morning (at 5:00 am), knowing that this would be the first time in my life that I accepted my small but sacred role in deciding the direction of my country. I don't know quite how to capture it in words, so here are the photos:

Today I Became An American

I voted because for the first time in my adult life...I am proud of my country.
That's right, I said it. I'm not sure what Michelle Obama meant, but I know what I mean.

I'm proud of my country because Barack Obama, the most impressive candidate I have seen in my life, was actually on the ballot despite being of African descent. Racial equality has always been part of the American ideal, but not always part of the American reality. The history of The United States of America shows that this has always been a land of opportunity for people from all other parts of the world - unless they were from a part of the world that is near the equator. I'm proud to be part of a nation that is in the process of transcending the embarrassing mental illness we call politely call racism.

We're not there yet. I'm not proud of the fact that such a large segment of the population rejected Obama solely on the basis of race, and I'm not proud of any who may have supported him solely on the basis of race. I'm proud of the millions of people who voted (either way) and did not allow race to be a determining factor in choosing the leader of our country. These are the real "real Americans" - the ones who have internalized the concept of E pluribus unum.

And I am proud to be one of them.