America loves a beautiful romance, and we seem particularly inclined toward tragic ones. “Titanic” wasn’t a mega-smash because of the CGI or the historically accurate costumes. It’s the star-crossed chemistry between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio that keeps us coming back to rewatch it.

Which is why I think that when all is said and done, the enduring image of the Jamal Khashoggi tragedy will be his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, waiting outside the gates of Istanbul’s Saudi Arabian consulate for him to come back from a simple errand. Waiting and waiting.

Have you seen the pictures of him? Round face, square glasses, salt-and-pepper goatee that’s mostly salt. A smart, funny teddy bear of a guy. Current Turkish and American intelligence suggests a 15-man hit team was flown in from Saudi Arabia to dispatch him. Fifteen men? For one paunchy, middle-aged journalist with an Apple watch? Was he secretly a ninja or something?

The line from the federal government seems to be shaping up to be “well, he wasn’t an American citizen.”

I call bull. He was a green card holder. A permanent resident. He lived in Virginia. Anyone belonging to an Abrahamic religion would do well to remember the concept of “sacred hospitality.” The concept goes back thousands of years, through hundreds of cultures. It’s the focus of several laws and stories in the Bible. When a stranger comes under your roof, it is your sacred duty to protect him. We have failed to protect Jamal Khashoggi. “He wasn’t a citizen.” Would you be more upset if his name were James Curtis?

Yes, the kidnapping happened in Turkey, but there is a reason that “with great power comes great responsibility” is one of the most widely quoted superhero mottoes of all time. It is because it is true. America is a great power – the greatest. Jamal Khashoggi was ours to protect. We failed. Now he is ours to seek justice for. We must not fail. America is bigger and stronger in every way than Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and can put pressure on murderous regimes that no other nation on Earth can match.

Why do we put up with this kind of thing from the Saudi government? Is it because we buy billions in oil from them every year? If we took a sliver of a percentage of that money and put it into renewable energy in America, we would never be beholden to foreign oil – from any country – again. You’d think anyone describing themselves as “patriotic” would be for energy independence.

Or is it because the Saudis buy billions in weapons from us? The president cited $110 billion in arms sales. That number is inaccurate, as our trade and arms deals with Saudi Arabia are complicated and varied, but it does present a numerical starting point.

Is a single human life worth $110 billion? My dad was a bearded, glasses-wearing teddy bear of a man, and I would give up all the gold and all the oil in all the world’s deserts to have him back. I suspect Hatice Cengiz feels the same way about her fiancé.

Should we even be selling weaponry to a kingdom that is using it to perpetrate human rights atrocities in Yemen? (Rhetorical question – of course we shouldn’t. War profiteering is immoral. Thanks, Catholic school!)

Fifteen out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Would we as America let any other country get away with that?

To be very clear: I am not talking about Saudi Arabia’s 30 million citizens, who, presumably, are just as horrified by dismemberment as people anywhere else in the world. I’m referring to the monarchy, particularly the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Perhaps the hip, 33-year-old prince has forgotten that he is not a character in “Game of Thrones.”

This is 2018 – dismemberment should mean consequences.

Maine’s congressional delegation should immediately begin to pressure the federal government to act; they can start by signing on to House Concurrent Resolution 138. Maine businesses should cease doing business with Saudi money. Rewarding bad behavior will do nothing to change the bad behavior; that’s just common sense.

Saudi Arabia isn’t going to reform itself into anything resembling a democracy with basic human rights if it thinks it can get away with being a murder-happy absolute monarchy. We shouldn’t let them get away with it.

The romance between Jamal Khashoggi and Hatice Cengiz has already ended in a tragedy. Allowing those responsible to go unpunished would be another tragedy altogether – one that America would be responsible for.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial


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