It took me a long time to feel comfortable calling myself a journalist.
I knew around the beginning of high school that I’d probably end up somewhere in the media. Writing was my passion and I wanted to change the world with it. Young and inexperienced, I soaked up every piece of media and every life story I could. I was enamored.
That’s why the death of Jamal Khashoggi hit home for me. The Saudi journalist and Washington Post correspondent entered a Turkish consulate in 2018 and never came out. While his fiancee waited for him to return, Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered.
As a young journalist growing more and more used to her title, I was chilled. I was also reminded that the best combatant of silence is speech. When I got my voice at the Daily Nebraskan, I used it.
My article on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was the first one I felt truly confident about. I condemned the desire to please tyrants over the need to seek justice. I acknowledged the anti-media sentiment circulating today and its dire consequences on journalists worldwide. I called out former President Donald Trump on his failure to uphold American principles and defend the very democracy he claimed to protect.
Now, President Joe Biden also deserves my disappointment.
The Biden administration’s failure to penalize the Saudi government despite confirming their implicit hand in Khasshogi’s death does not just taint the image of his presidency or his party. Both sides of the political aisle have now proven their unwillingness to seek justice in the face of tyranny.
With this dismissal, the Khashoggi incident is no longer a matter of parties. It’s a matter of power, and why those who wield it refuse to do so for the sake of decency.
Khashoggi’s murder has been a long-spanning event since the Washington Post first reported on the journalist’s disappearance in October 2018. However, the following years have brought clarity to the situation as the United Nations confirmed the Saudi government’s role in his death. This country was killing people who used their voices against it.
I didn’t expect any condolences from former President Trump. His criticism of the Washington Post aside, Trump never seemed to give journalists much — if any — benefit. We were enemies. We were shameful. We deserved the disrespect, spat by the mouthful.
A month after Khashoggi’s murder, Trump released that he would be “standing with Saudi Arabia.” In other words, inaction. Such a statement was a heavy hit for journalists, including young, timid ones like myself. But I expected it.
The still young, still timid version of my current self did not expect the same inaction from President Joe Biden.
On the campaign trail, Biden called Saudi Arabia a “pariah.” He promised to hold them accountable. In late February, his administration released an extensive report naming Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
But Biden would also choose inaction. All his new power, all the responsibility to hold true on his promises, and he decided to waste it. And it’s not the first time. Within the first few months of the Biden administration, promises have begun to drip through the cracks. New restrictions reduce the availability of stimulus checks. In late February, Biden reopened Trump era migrant facilities on the US-Mexico border, swatting down critical cries of “kids in cages.” Anymore, the stream of broken promises threatens to waterfall, eroding any trust Biden had with the American people.
Much of the discourse I’ve seen over this issue — especially in conservative pushback — is deciding who to blame. Do we point fingers at the ignorant Biden administration? Do we cackle at the Democrats stupid enough to vote for him?
This is not the first “I told you so” moment in politics, and it will not be the last. But just because finger-pointing at your neighbors and family is convenient doesn’t mean it’s right.
Maybe our blame should point upward. In the past three years, both Democrat and Republican presidents have refused to honor our nation’s integrity as a beacon of justice in the world. We are not absentminded bystanders. We do not see injustice and shrug. That is not our culture, so why are our leaders cowards?
I know that politics is a game. I know that despite how open-minded and unbiased we think we are, we are wrong. Even the people who shout “don’t be a pawn” into crowds want you to be their pawn. Most of them succeed.
In today’s world, it’s easy for the common person to feign accountability by blaming the other side — left and right, liberal and conservative. But if we look at the powers above us, haven’t both sides failed?
Instead, let’s look at the amount of power we’re giving to the people who represent us, especially on a national level. Let’s be more conscientious of the axis in political ideology that nobody talks about — the scale between authoritarianism and anarchy.
President Biden makes massive decisions as president, but should he? For example, Biden’s administration recently authorized retaliatory airstrikes in Syria, something that should constitutionally pass through Congress first, as only Congress can officially declare acts of war.
But this isn’t new. This isn’t inherently Biden’s fault — it’s a structural flaw exploited for decades. Possible overreaching in military action happened during the Trump and Obama administrations too, as well as presidents before them. It’s streamlined and succinct. But is it right to consolidate power in such a way?
Maybe it’s time we considered a shrink in the abilities of the president. The Khashoggi case proves to us that the presidential failures to protect justice and integrity are not a party issue. They’re a power issue, and should be addressed as one.
This is not a matter of your republican father or your libertarian auto mechanic. This is the fact that there are people above us who will not cooperate unless we demand it, empowered by the strength of our tandem voices.
I am a young journalist. I feel satisfied with using the phrase, unafraid of the perception it tints me with. More than anything, I feel empowered to call myself a journalist.
Because I am a journalist, I am the enemy of all murderous tyrants, all Diet Coke-toting cowards and all leaders who double back on promises made.
We journalists are like weeds.
Cut one down, and you inspire so many more to speak.
Emma Krab is a sophomore English and journalism major. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.