As the death toll from the worst fires in Hawaiian history continues to rise by the day, citizens of the island are left wondering why President Joe Biden has been less than effortless in displaying much-needed empathy during this horrific tragedy.
The sheer intensity of the Maui blazes and the death toll of 96 only increases in magnitude as firefighters struggle to contain the raging inferno. Especially during a time when the link between climate change and natural disasters is so firmly established, questions have surfaced regarding the lack of moral leadership from President Biden, a man who prides himself on his empathy and strong moral foundations.
The White House’s response? A simple “no comment”.
This is especially strange when considering the prominence with which the media has painted Biden as the “grandfatherly” leader whose “empathy defines him” as a leader. Biden’s ability to emote and connect remains second to none. And yet, during arguably one of the most difficult times Hawaii has ever faced, President Biden’s response to the fires has been nothing but a simple, “no comment”.
There are some who are naturally skeptical towards the current administration and argue that Biden’s inability to acknowledge the immense suffering and loss is a sign of calculated detachment towards those whose lives have been rocked by the onslaught of the fires; and the proposed incentive packages to not only rebuild but also help affected families grieve, remain absent.
It becomes difficult to deny the stark differences in response towards even the slightest of mishaps when viewed politically. The public demonization of former president George W. Bush for failing to respond in an effective manner to Hurricane Katrina is still fresh in our memories. The same case of Texas senator Ted Cruz, who was heavily criticized for choosing to go to Mexico during a statewide winter storm, also resurfaced.
And while politicians serving in elected office justifiably come with expectations for displays of camaraderie and empathy at times of distress, it appears that the hegemony is working towards a two-tier system, where politicians belonging to the Democratic Party get away easily with a simple “no comment” for the same crime that Republican politicians were and still, are being barraged for.
The brutal reality is that although the current administration wants us to think of them as empathetic, willing, and able to go out of their comfort zone to show support and love during difficult times, the focus of the current White House appears to be less about lending support and more about consolidating morals and emotions into unadulterated politics. To many, this feels like the greatest tragedy of them all.