Mike, me and Mom in D.C. twenty years ago. Boy, I wish I were still that tan!

I think one of the things about living in Taiwan and becoming increasingly aware of my family’s history over the last eighty years or so is that I am now incredibly thankful I was born when and where I was.

Because I have family members who either lived in or had their lives profoundly (and often tragically) affected by totalitarian or authoritarian governments, I get really irritated when I hear people moan about how “fascist” the U.S. government is. I’ve written on this blog before that I am very wary of any political ideology that I think is too extreme, even if some of its tenets echo my own beliefs — and calling the U.S. government “fascist” is pretty damn extreme in my opinion. For one thing, fascism has a very specific meaning. And for all of its many faults, the U.S. government is not fascist. You know how you can tell? Because you can call it fascist, in public no less, and not be summarily executed!

I don’t want to start writing about my family’s history on this blog, but suffice to say anyone who has relatives who were in China between the 1930s and 1960s has heard their share of unspeakably sad stories. I think the emotional consequences sometimes continue to reverberate for generations. I’m not trying to make it sound like I’ve suffered — I haven’t. But I think that one of the reasons I feel incredibly uncomfortable about making judgments about people based on their cultural background, ethnicity, political leanings, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or economic class is because I know what happens when people insist on dehumanizing others.

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent. The point of this post is that I’m grateful I’m American. This puts me in mind of that Tom Petty song, “American Girl.” I know that it’s about some chick who had her heart broken, but every time I hear the lyrics “well she was an American girl / raised on promises / She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there / was a little more to life / somewhere else / After all it was a great big world / with lots of places to run to…” it makes me smile a little on the inside.