View From The Voice: Federal relief efforts have been disastrous


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The words “natural disaster” are enough to conjure up images of flooded streets, crumbled buildings, ruined infrastructure and displaced families in anyone’s head.

Events like these often conjure up the best in human nature. People rush to donate blood, supplies, time and money to relief efforts for those injured and left homeless by tragic happenings.

Given that citizens of all creeds and social standings usually band together to combat the effects of natural disasters, people would expect that the federal government would do the same, spearheading rescue missions and leading food and water drives for the victims. That hasn’t been the case in the era of the Trump administration.

Over the past year, the Western Hemisphere has been rocked by four catastrophic hurricanes. Last fall, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria left Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands devastated and claimed hundreds of lives.

Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from the sheer intensity of the storms that struck one after another in a matter of weeks.

Trump and his team have faced sharp criticism for repeatedly downplaying the severity of the 2017 hurricane season. This was particularly visible in the case of Puerto Rico, which was without electricity for months on end (and reportedly still has areas on the northeast side of the island without power).
Twelve months after the catastrophic storms, the Trump administration had the chance to succeed where it had failed the year before. Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14, bringing torrential rains that flooded cities like Fayetteville and Chapel Hill.

Instead of issuing some solemn words regarding the gravity of the situation and comforting the victims of the disaster with genuine sympathy, President Trump had this to say: “This is a tough hurricane, one of the wettest we’ve ever seen from the standpoint of water.”

He did show a bit more concern than in the past when he handed out meals at a church and surveyed the damage on the streets of rain-soaked neighborhoods.

However, he couldn’t resist asking about the status of Lake Norman, the location of a golf club he owns, and joking about a yacht that had washed up into someone’s yard. “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal,” he told the homeowners.

We at The Voice believe the federal government should treat natural disasters like the earth-shaking emergencies that they are. Understating the damage and death tolls while telling victims to “have a good time” doesn’t comfort survivors. It trivializes their struggle and suggests that the rest of the country turn a blind eye to relief efforts that are so desperately needed.

Tossing paper towel rolls like t-shirts into a crowd of hurricane survivors doesn’t convey a sense of national urgency. It sends the message that the situation can’t be nearly as bad as people are making it sound.

After all, if the President doesn’t seem worried about a storm that’s caused upwards of $38 billion in damage, why should anyone else fret?

But there’s plenty of reason to worry. As global temperatures and sea levels rise, hurricanes are only going to keep getting stronger. With Trump and his allies generally against taking action to slow global warming (some are still skeptical of the whole thing), Marias and Florences could become yearly occurrences in the not-too-distant future.

Rather than take the opportunity to speak up for environmentally-conscious policies, Trump is letting his own boisterous personality get the best of him as he tries to amuse the crowds of victims rather than offer them hope for progressive action against global warming. Much like the Bush administration when Katrina hit in 2005, the federal government’s response has been too slow and lacking in effort to help them save face.

Trump and his allies are coming off as indifferent and patronizing towards the very same people whose electoral votes propelled Trump towards the Oval Office.

Natural disasters are chances for leaders to present themselves as genuine, caring people who have the citizens’ best interests at heart. That’s not the picture Trump and his team are painting of themselves.

-The Voice