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United States and Iran: Two-way Street on Trust

I love this country. And I know I won the world lottery by being born in the United States of America. It is the big reason why I've been involved in politics ever since I was a teenager watching the Watergate hearings on summer vacation.

I also have tremendous pride that my older brother served in the U.S. Coast Guard for more than 20 years, my younger brother served in the Marines in Panama and Kuwait, and my oldest son served the United States Army in Iraq.

I believe in this country and our great capacity for good.

And I also know that we are not perfect and our past is filled with many actions that none of us are proud of. This includes slavery and the violation of the civil rights of blacks and Latinos, and how we've treated women, Native Americans and the Japanese during World War II.

Does eyeing the faults or imperfections of our country make me love and believe in it less? Absolutely not.

Actually, when we see the imperfections in another and still love them through it all and still believe in them, we demonstrate real love and a deep bond.

It is better to see another clearly and in truth, warts and all, than to build some myth that comes quickly crashing down when reality sets in.

Since we are all imperfect, our capacity to love another with all his or her blemishes and humanness, allows us to love and accept our imperfect selves more. When we expect another to be perfect, we actually build up walls to intimacy with them and in ourselves. And the same is true for my country.

Let's reflect on that as we discuss the agreement just put together between Iran and the United States. I will leave it to others to discuss the fine policy detail and nuances of the multi-page document. Iran has done many despicable things over the years and has provided resources and weapons to many terrorists around the world. And for all that it should be condemned and any trust of Iran should be slow and verifiable. But Iran as a country also has trust issues with us.

Trust needs to be a two-way street, in life and in the world at large. And we come to the table in negotiations with Iran with our own actions that have not been trustworthy.

The United States in the 1950s helped overthrow a legitimate authority in Iran through clandestine means. For decades, we supported and helped prop up a brutal dictator (the Shah of Iran) despite outcries from many around the world. We sold arms to Iraq in the 1980s in its war against Iran, helping it kill thousands of Iranians. And we accidentally shot down an Iranian commercial airliner killing nearly 300 innocent civilians, including 60 children.

I say all this not to say the United States is just as bad as Iran, but it is best to see the reality of our own actions as we take steps forward to build trust between our two countries.

Many have quickly criticized this agreement by saying we can't trust Iran, and my guess is too many Iranians are saying the same thing about America because of our past. And I know our important ally Israel finds much at fault in these negotiations and calls this a big mistake. Let's pause, though, and remember our friends aren't always right, and our opponents aren't always wrong.

Time will obviously tell if this agreement really will cause Iran to become part of a trustworthy group of nations and act accordingly. But as a step forward in building a relationship based in trust, maybe we should see if this might open a window where we each see the other clearly and begin to let go of the judgment we hold over the others' past actions. Iran doesn't need to be perfect to act more responsibly on the world stage, and neither do we.

I have faith that I will continue to love my country, as I hope I can love individuals, through the imperfections and mistakes. I don't need someone, or my country, to be perfect or to do all the right things. I just want imperfect people in my life who arise every day to try to do better themselves and have compassion for the imperfections of others and who accept the mystery of life. And as the founders of our awesome country wrote a few centuries ago, in that we can build a more perfect union as a country and in our own lives.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent.

This post first appeared on ABC News.