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Iranian ironies

Juxtaposed on an inside page of the Boston globe this week were two items at first sight quite unrelated -- unless it was that each had a connection with academic life. One gave a list of this year's choice of Rhodes scholars, all of them Americans in their undergraduate years of colleges across the length and breadth of the US. The other was an account of the acquittal in Denver of an undergraduate student who had been charged with murder.

But for anybody studying the two items closely, there was something beyond the undergraduate theme that they had in common --moment when the US hostages in Iran are being haggled over so ruthlessly and cynical. In each item was an Iranian name.

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Among this year's 32 Rhodes scholars is the American son of a distinguished Iranian-born academic on the faculty of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. The young man acquitted of the murder charge in Colorado is an Iranian citizen. The tragedy in which he was involved was the outcome of harassment of him by local teenagers when emotions were high just after the seizure of the hostages a year ago.

His lawyer said the acquittal showed the trial jury's "capacity to set aside the vicissitudes of politics and prejudice." So too, was the Rhodes scholarship jury's selection of R. Jahan Ramazani to be among the 32 young Americans going to Oxford for two years.

Are not both instances reminders of the generosity and justice that are part of the fabric of the US, traduced so often by fanaticism in Iran these days as "the great Satan"! The Ramazani family in Charlottesville must be well aware that in the last resort American society takes its cue from the powerful assertion of the founder of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson: I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

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