With the notable exception of my parents, I grew up around people who displayed these prejudices openly. My schools, in Cambridge and in Oxford, were interesting places: beautiful, old, sometimes unkind, and often eccentric. They were also hotbeds of upper-middle-class condescension and — at least when it came to America — conventional wisdom. And yet, for whatever reason, none of the reflexive anti-American bias of my peers ever much resonated with me — even when it was justified with what I believed to be legitimate criticism. At six, at ten, at thirteen, at fifteen . . . I just never bought into the disdain. I would think, “Well that’s not true.”
In one form or another, I suppose, I have been in love with the United States for as long as I have been in love with anything at all. As a small child, I watched in awe as the Space Shuttle took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. I had a stencil of Apollo 11 on my lunchbox and a photograph of the Grand Canyon on my bedroom wall. We took regular family holidays to California and Arizona to see a couple of retired sisters, both of whom I called “Grandma” even though they were not blood relations. I collected postcards featuring skyscrapers.