Snakes and Rats and Tyranny

I am not one to immediately run to NAZI comparisons when thinking about President Trump. I thought it was crazy when the left started in on NAZI jabs during the George Bush administration. On Saturday I watched Trump’s speech at his rally in Pennsylvania. Yes, I do that. I watched parts of several of his rallies during the campaign. It is good to know what he is saying to his most engaged followers.

During his speech on Saturday, I noticed that several times he reached toward his inside coat pocket. He reached, looked out at the crowd, and then changed his mind. Trump is a showman. He reads crowds like most people read a menu at the drive-thru. Finally, he saw he moment was right and here is what he read:

“On her way to work one morning

Down the path alongside the lake

A tenderhearted woman saw a poor half-frozen snake

His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew

“Oh well,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you”

Now she clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried

“But if I hadn’t brought you in by now you might have died”

Now she stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight 

But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite”

As we realized what he was reading, Sally and I became more and more horrified. Here was Trump’s metaphor for immigrants. The crowd was not just eating it up, as I looked at the people sitting behind him I realized that they knew this poem. They smiling and reciting it along with him. Trump read the lines with relish, growling and sneering for emphasis. In am my viewings of Trump speeches I had never see this part of the act. Evidently, it was a regular part of his stump speech.

Poetry, in this case a lyric, is a direct route to the heart. It is how you take an idea make it stick. The happy crowd members knew the poem by heart and repeated it without thinking. There is not doubt this wasn’t originally Trump’s idea. At some point, someone smarter than him handed him this poem and he immediately saw its power. He knows how to manipulate a mob.

If you went to the movies in Germany in the 30’s and early 40’s you saw newsreels prepared by the Ministry of Propaganda. Some of Joseph Goebbels’ best work. For the first time Goebbels used the technique of morphing faces into vermin. Over and over again. The faces were Jews. The vermin rats. From there, he showed hordes of rats running though homes and streets. The propaganda was, as we know, frighteningly effective.

On Saturday last, that wasn’t a candidate morphing immigrants into snakes, that was the President of the United States. Snakes and rats. What are we becoming?

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