I ran away from America. In my late teens, I decided I didn’t want to be hemmed in by the place where I grew up. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision; through education, work, marriage, a child and a collection of foreign passports, I more or less made myself European, and for the next three decades I lived the expat life. But I was always, at heart, American — as a reporter working in war zones, when I spoke to refugees, when I traveled through broken post-conflict countries.
And so last year I returned home — just in time to see people here and abroad running away from America.
When I arrived in London on a crowded Air India flight nearly 30 years ago, Britain was in tumult. There were strikes and anti-American protests; Margaret Thatcher was unpopular, and Ronald Reagan was in power.
For the first time, I saw what America represented to the world: greed. My English cousins batted me down at dinner parties about America’s global bullying and mocked its “have a nice day” optimism. When I went to an interview for my first job — as a junior editor on a daily newspaper — the recruiter told me I did not have the proper skills.