The bad news is: Saudi Arabia is America’s closest ally in the Middle East!
Also, the bad news for the poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh in particular is that the Saudi court that tossed out his sentence of beheading has replaced it with a sentence of eight years in prison and 800 lashes.
The bad news is that Saudi Arabia, America’s closest Middle Eastern ally and the top destination for U.S. weapons sales, is planning to whip a man 800 times—periodically, as he sits in a prison—for the crime of “apostasy” because they object to the “blasphemy” found in his book of poetry. Fayadh is also being ordered to publicly denounce his own work, which is something I imagine most of us would do in order to avoid being beheaded, but which would bother us greatly, at the same time, although probably not as much as the 800 lashes would bother us.
The good news is that the government of a nation that respects human rights to a greater degree could theoretically have more influence over the government of a nation that respects human rights to a lesser degree by being their ally than by being their enemy.
The bad news is that after more than three decades as America’s closest ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia still treats women like third-class citizens and imprisons those who criticize government authorities and publicly executes nonviolent drug criminals and, with the strong backing of our government, run an authoritarian state that, among many other offenses, plans to whip a man 800 times for writing poetry.
The good news is that U.S. defense contractors have taken in a healthy chunk of change from this dictatorship, which probably helps your retirement portfolio in the long run, assuming you live longer than the average Saudi dissident poet.
The pen has yet to be proven mightier than the sword.