While watching the events of a disputed election in Iran unfold, I am reminded of an earlier time in our recent American history where there was much unrest and turmoil. Young men were burning their draft cards while women were burning their bras. Protestors took to the streets of Washington, D.C. demonstrating against the Vietnam War, civil injustice and the corrupt "establishment". Sometimes these protests turned violent as police used tear gas, hoses, and dogs on the marchers. College students were killed by the National Guard on the campus of Kent State in Ohio.
A popular American President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. The Reverend Martin Luther King, the most influential civil rights leader of all time was shot, sparking riots in most US major cities. The slain President's brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was killed after winning the California Democratic primary. I'm speaking of the 1960s.
Seeing all the blogs on the Huffington Post made me realize that Americans of all political persuasions care deeply about this issue of oppression in Iran. Maybe many of them remember that similar time in our country's past. Maybe they have read or heard about Iran being a threat to the US (axis of evil, nuclear ambitions, President Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel rants etc.) and they are worried about our best interests. Others just sympathize with what they see as a violation of a basic human right to vote.
Following the media coverage of the protests in Iran, I can't help but recall the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Illinois when Mayor Richard J. Daley sent his goons out to disrupt the mostly peaceful young demonstrators. As they were being clubbed and arrested, they chanted, "the whole world is watching."
That timeless phrase has never been more appropriate than now in Iran. Even while the current Islamic regime is clamping down on the media and expelling foreign journalists, "the whole world is watching" via cell phones, Twitter, and the Internet. The technological revolution is helping to fuel a new Iranian revolution.
When we see the video of a 26-year-old woman (Neda) being shot, our hearts go out to the Iranian people. "The whole world is watching." It is not surprising that a young female would become the symbol of resistance in Iran, where women are struggling for human rights.
Being gay, I am also reminded this week of the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots that took place in a New York City Greenwich Village gay bar. This event, where homosexual men fought the police trying to arrest them, marks a watershed moment for the beginning of the gay rights movement in America.
How does this relate to Iran? In a trip last year to Columbia University in New York, President Ahmadinejad was asked about gay rights and he responded by saying there are no gays in Iran. Right. I guess that is the only country in the world where there are no gay people. It is clear that Iran is way behind the western world on this issue. "The whole world is watching."
Recalling that tumultuous period of the '60s in US history makes the election of our first African American President (Barack Obama) all the more remarkable. With more females than ever in the Senate and House and gay marriage being approved by several states, women and gays have also "come a long way, baby."
While we are still evolving as a nation and have a lot of work to do concerning our economy, climate change, health care, energy, and foreign relations, we have "come a long way" with issues of human rights and justice. Without interfering in another country's struggles, we can still be an example of change and hope. "The whole world is watching."