Trump's snake story reveals the nature of his presidency
In the daily hubub of politics it’s easy to lose perspective. We’re buried in stimulus 24/7, and to paraphrase TS Eliot, much knowledge is lost in all this information.
As defenders of Donald Trump’s travel ban throw up all manner of chaff to fog the air – ‘it’s not a Muslim ban,’ ‘Obama did it too,’ etc. – we shouldn’t forget the rather salient fact that Trump ran for president in 2016 as a racist.
By way of illustration, take the story he told at campaign rallies about the old woman and the snake. Based on Aesop’s fable about the farmer and the viper, Trump’s version comes from a song by soul singer Al Wilson:
It describes ‘a tender-hearted woman’ who sees ‘a poor, half-frozen snake’ which begs her to take him in. The woman takes pity on the snake, takes him home, and ‘laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk’.
But when she embraces the wretched creature, ‘instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite’. The tale concludes:
‘I saved you,’ cried that woman
‘And you’ve bit me even, why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die.’
‘Oh shut up, silly woman,’ said the reptile with a grin
‘You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.’
At this point, Trump’s audience, having been somewhat confused by this spectacle, erupts into a great moan of thankful cheers and applause.
This was not a one off. Searches for ‘Donald Trump’ and ‘snake’ on YouTube call up at least half a dozen occasions when he told this story at rallies across the United States.
Sometimes he let the text stand, and allowed his followers to draw their own conclusions. Sometimes he moved from innuendo to nearly spelling it out, in case they missed his point.
The video above is taken from a speech in Vienna, Ohio. In a rendition from Cedar Falls, Iowa, Trump follows the story by saying ‘Does that makes sense to anybody? Does that make any sense?’ He prefaced that version by saying, in reference to migration: ‘Is this a Trojan horse? I doubt it, but it could very well be.’
At a rally in Fort Myers, Florida (of all places), Trump began by saying:
“I heard it and I thought, boy, that’s exactly what’s going on here. The snake – because people are coming across our border, people are coming in and brought into our country. We’re gonna make potentially the Trojan horse look like something that’s very unimportant by comparison.
And we don’t want to be the ones that in 200 years from now they’re reading about, allowing something else into our country, with a different name than the Trojan horse but had the same impact.”
After the story, he adds: ‘It’s amazing. Gonna happen, unless we get very, very, very smart.’
The message is clear. As in the tale of the scorpion and the frog, murder and betrayal are in the snake’s nature. He can’t help it. But shame on us for being foolish enough to welcome a creature in need. Our compassion will be our undoing.
The racism at work here (and if it’s nature we’re talking about, he can’t be said to mean only people with terrorist links) is entirely consistent with a presidental campaign packed with innuendo about crime in the ‘inner cities’, Mexican rapists, and Muslims knowing more than they say about terrorist attacks.
(One could add the constant suggestion that the sitting president had a secret Islamist agenda, and might not really be American.)
The fag-packet policies that followed – building a wall, a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ – were designed to appease the fearful and the desperate, whom Trump worked so hard to stir up in the first place.
We can argue about the details of the travel ban day and night. But don’t lose sight of what’s really going on here. The evidence is all in the public record. And people should realise the real snake in the grass is slithering round the Oval Office.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.