It was a choreographed scene starring the US president and First Lady that was meant to convey the restorative spirit of the festive season.
Last week, Joe and Jill Biden emerged from behind a black curtain like giddy celebrities and took their red seats before a large Christmas tree brimming with decorations and gifts at the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC.
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Their excited audience included a gaggle of young patients and their parents anxious to see the commander-in-chief and his wife who would read aloud the popular poem, The Night Before Christmas.
“Thanks for letting us come to see you,” President Biden said.
Indeed, every First Lady beginning with Bess Truman – 75 years ago – has made the annual pilgrimage to the children’s hospital “to spread holiday cheer”. In 2022, Biden became the first sitting president to tag along.
A frail-looking but animated Biden winked, waved and smiled as the First Lady read from the picture book, holding it aloft.
When the First Lady finished, Biden thanked the hospital staff. “It’s special, special what you do.”
He had this parting advice: “Where there is life, there is hope.”
With that, Biden urged the children to return after they had recovered to offer support to other kids spending the holidays in hospital rather than at home.
A hospital official applauded the Bidens for “continuing this annual tradition…[that] brings so much joy to all the children, the families and our staff”.
“God bless you all,” Biden said.
Their performance lasted less than 10 minutes.
However brief, it was designed in part, I suppose, to burnish “Uncle Joe’s” credentials as a kind guy who is all too familiar with the worry, heartache and searing pain of caring for ill children or losing them to a sudden, violent act with awful consequences.
But watching the Bidens stage this perfunctory ritual – with television cameras in tow of course – only deepened my contempt for a decrepit president who considers the welfare and lives of some children more valuable than others.
Instead of using his powers and influence to try to stop the maiming and killing of thousands of Palestinian children, Biden has, in odious effect, encouraged the maiming and killing of thousands of Palestinian children.
In occupied Palestine, Biden is not a harbinger of “joy”, but the co-architect of the dystopian carnage engulfing a shattered people and their shattered land.
This complicit president, who is fulsome party to a systematic campaign to snuff out life and hope in Gaza and the West Bank, had the near-sickening audacity to share what amounts to a cheap bit of greeting-card-like philosophy that “where there is life, there is hope”.
Biden compounded this obscenity by visiting a hospital to praise doctors and nurses tending to the sick while America’s proxy, Israel, has ruthlessly gone about occupying, ransacking and destroying hospitals throughout Gaza and forcibly disappearing and killing Palestinian doctors and nurses.
What they did and how they did it – to borrow a phrase – was special, too.
That Biden and his handlers were blind to this blatant and ugly juxtaposition is a measure of how disposable and forgettable the promising lives and horrific deaths of Palestinians are in their misanthropic geopolitical calculus.
The litany of halting images of the dirt-caked faces of Palestinian children calling out for their lost mamas and babas or small, limp bodies wrapped in white shrouds apparently did not dissuade Biden from playing his part in an agreeable photo op that, given the lethal times and bleak context, stings of indecency.
The Bidens’ token appearance and all that it revealed about the president’s signature nature has served as the exclamation point to a brewing realisation that, like a hurricane, has gathered strength and momentum in me since early October.
I have been such a fool.
I have written columns – that I wish I could erase – praising Biden as a literate, if not honourable, alternative to the mayhem and madness embodied by an illiterate, dishonourable charlatan named Donald Trump.
I have written other columns – that I also wish I could erase – extolling the wisdom of enlightened Americans who, I was confident, would choose Biden over Trump again this coming November and spare a fretting world four more years of Trumpian madness and mayhem.
Enlightened Americans exist. There just aren’t enough of them.
I chided other, much wiser columnists, who wrote that beyond the rhetorical edges, both Biden and Trump were elected to protect the interests – at home and abroad – of the oligarchs they serve under the risible guise of a phantom “democracy” addicted to war and plunder for profit.
On this defining score, Biden has proven to be every bit as useful and reliable a marionette as his predecessor. Trump’s offish manners and profanity offend the delicate sensibilities of the liberal and progressive cognoscenti, not his loyalty to the disfiguring status quo.
I could not care less who prevails in the upcoming presidential campaign. I will not worry a whit about America’s “future” because if even the recent past is any litmus, history’s most efficient killing machine is bound to cause more death, pain and suffering across the globe – whoever is president.
This coming year I will enjoy the entertaining spectacle of a country slipping deeper into fanaticism and dissonance while much of it, predictably, turns to muppets with megaphones, such as Joe Rogan and Bill Maher, for a way out of (or into) the impending abyss.
Speaking of muppets, a note to the swarm of nitwits who will, no doubt, caution me to be “careful what I wish for”.
How much worse can it get? A genocide is being perpetrated against millions of innocent Palestinians while dear, old Uncle Joe twiddles his knotty thumbs. Rather than get incensed about that, you’ll get miffed at me for writing this “outrageous” column.
Finally, I think it would be fitting if Trump returned to the White House.
Then, all of the daffy guff about America being a nation founded on a sacrosanct constitution, the rule of law and a shining city on a hill that the rest of us should emulate will be extinguished emphatically.
What a moment it will be when Americans – well, 66 percent of eligible voters – make it official on November 5, 2024: electing a career criminal to lead a criminal regime.
So, happy jaundiced new year, everyone!
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.