As is expected during a political rally, Donald Trump’s speech last Tuesday night at Everett’s Xfinity Arena drew raucous supporters eager to cheer and applaud, waiting for lines to be delivered where they could respond with chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” or — whenever Hillary Clinton’s name was mentioned — calls to “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
But one quieter moment was memorable, too, as Trump, after earlier discussing the dangers of admitting Syrian refugees and the crimes committed by illegal immigrants, teased the crowd and coyly asked if he should read the lyrics of a R&B song from the late ’60s, called “The Snake.”
“The Snake,” as performed by Al Wilson, is an Aesop’s fable, retold by Chicago singer, songwriter and social activist Oscar Brown Jr. in 1963.
The fable and the song tell of a “kind-hearted woman” who finds a snake, half-frozen, along her path. The snake begs to taken in; the woman obliges and saves him from death. But instead of thanking her, the woman is shocked when the snake returns her good deed with a poisonous and mortal bite.
The crowd quieted for Trump during his dramatic reading, but laughed with satisfaction at the final verse: “Oh, shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin. “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”
Trump smiled, waiting for the fable’s message to sink in.
Trump has performed his dramatic reading of the song at other rallies since early in his campaign, asking afterward if everybody gets it, as a March commentary in the Chicago Tribune noted.
They got it in Everett, cheering when Trump warned “we have people coming into our country that can’t be properly vetted.”
They roared when the Republican candidate promised to secure the border to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs that are “pouring in.”
During the Everett rally, Trump warned of dire times ahead for America.
“We know bad things are going to happen,” he told the crowd of more than 9,000 in the arena. “It’s only a question of when.”
And calling himself an “agent of change,” Trump promised that he can fix it.
It’s the job of political challengers to identify problems and propose solutions, but Trump is playing to fears and overstating the threat, particularly when it comes to offering asylum to Syrians, especially women and children, who are fleeing the murderous regimes of both the Syrian government and ISIS.
The Obama administration just recently met its goal of accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, according to The New York Times. Between 2011 and 2015, only 2,000 were admitted. Canada, for comparison, has resettled more than 30,000 Syrians during that same period.
And, contrary to Trump’s contention, they are being properly vetted. Another New York Times story points to a process that routinely takes about two years for a Syrian refugee to complete, with as many as 20 steps and procedures before a refugee is even allowed into a U.S. airport.
The process begins with registration and interviews by United Nations workers prior to their referral, an interview with the State Department, three rounds of background checks and three fingerprint screenings, reviews by Immigration and Homeland Security, screening for disease, a cultural orientation class and more security checks.
And who can now tell where Trump stands on issues of immigration and border security?
Trump, during the Everett rally made no mention of his proposed “big, beautiful wall,” even when many in the crowd urged him on with a brief chant of “Build the wall!” And, a day later, after he flew to Mexico City to talk with President Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump told reporters that the wall and his promise that Mexico would pay for it weren’t discussed. Maybe not discussed, but Peña Nieto claimed that he started the meeting by making it clear Mexico would not pay.
But after taking a cooperative stance with Mexico’s president, Trump flew to Phoenix, Arizona, where, before another boisterous crowd, the wall was back as was Trump’s tough, if unspecific, talk about deporting some 11 million undocumented immigrants.
From which event — Everett, Mexico City or Phoenix — are we to take our understanding of Trump’s policy?
The problem with fables is that they often are open to interpretation.
“Oh, shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin. “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”