Reasonable to press Iran on human rights, but we ought to look at our own country

Kerry Kennedy and Gloria Steinem’s Oct. 29 op-ed, “Stand with Iran’s women activists,” was well stated in its advocacy and concern over abuses of women’s human rights in Iran. More than 15 years ago, Azar Nafisi, in “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” illustrated the lack of equality for women under the restrictive regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We have known of this problem for decades. In spite of this, we will always need to negotiate with this nation on an array of complicated international issues.

Republicans and Democrats alike have always interacted with the full range of international nation states. All these nations, including the United States, have deep flaws in their histories and the ongoing representation of what they claim as their national morality. Although it is reasonable and high-minded to say that we must “stand with human rights defenders,” we would be wise to recognize our own deep limitations as a nation in this regard.

Doing what is morally right is not the simple action some suggest. In our nation, some proclaim that women’s rights are human rights. Others proclaim that fetal rights are human rights. My morals and your morals and our neighbors’ morals do not necessarily define some concept of “American morals.”


Although many suggest we work to bring the Islamic Republic of Iran into a better pathway in human rights, it might be more productive to work as a nation to address our own failings in making progress on a number of currently debated human rights issues. As we see daily, the divisions in our country make this no easy task. However, we clearly have work to do here at home.

Walter McClennen