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My vote is for sale
_"I, Paul Thevarajoo, hereby declare on oath that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen..." In the few seconds it took to utter that sentence, I gave up decades of patriotism to the country of Malaysia. In the few minutes following that, I became a citizen of the United States of America._It was an uncanny and almost surreal feeling when I placed my hand over my heart for the very first time for the singing of the national anthem of the United States of America. I had taken an oath to "bear arms ... perform noncombatant service : perform work of national importance" for the United States of America. After decades of identifying myself with another nation, I could be asked to fight against that nation within a day of becoming a citizen of this country. That was incomprehensible. Like many immigrants, legal and illegal, it was a dream of mine to become a citizen of this great country, but I never took the time or effort to find out what it meant to become a citizen. I didn't know what it was going to cost me and what I had to give up until I uttered the Oath of Allegiance. The allure and the potential gain of what this country could give me overshadowed what the cost and my responsibilities were. Unfortunately, even most Americans don't understand what it means to be a citizen. Since they are born with that right, they don't have to take an oath detailing the requirements of their citizenship. They don't have to give up something that they had loved and given their allegiance to. It was an eye-opening event for my family and me as I went through the naturalization process. It helped my kids understand what it means for them to have been born in this great country and what it could cost them.It's been a year now since I became a citizen, but I have to admit I don't feel all that "American." Not that I despise or dislike or am ungrateful, but when you've spent half your life as a citizen of another country, it's hard to "let go." I've been able enjoy the benefits of this country like any other American. Becoming a citizen didn't change my life at all. I still feel a little awkward when I put my hand over my heart during the rendition of the national anthem. Watching the Olympics, I find myself looking more fervently for the results of the athletes of my country. I mean my "ex-country." Everything was status quo until recently when I got my voter registration card in the mail.Before I became a citizen, I had access to all the right of an American except the right to vote. That one single right was not available no matter how long I had lived here. That one right made me a "spectator" and not a "participant" of this country. I was not able to voice my opinions or make a difference in the way this country is run. I stood alone among my family and friends when it came to exercising this right. All that is changed now. Now I can vote. I might even consider running for local government down the road; the fact is that I can do that now. I can help shape this country's future.I have this feeling that when I cast my vote I will finally feel that I belong. I will finally be able to feel proud to put my hand over my heart. I think it will complete my becoming an American citizen.I'm excited to be a part of the upcoming election. Unlike many people, I don't have any political party alliance, any historical or family baggage that will influence the way I vote. My vote is for sale. It's going to be sold to the influences, persuasion of ideas and philosophy of the candidates. It will be bought by the conversations and exchange of opinions that I have with people. My vote is for sale to the candidate who best sells me on his master plan. In the following weeks I'm going to write in this column my thought process, my concerns, my opinions and eventually whom I am going to vote for. Feel free to buy my vote with your opinions so that I can cast a vote for the best candidate for my country. Yes, I said my country.