The rally marking President Donald Trump's 100th day in office turned into a bit of a poetry slam Saturday when he recited a ballad he often used on the campaign trail as a metaphor for what might happen to the United States if the country welcomes large numbers of Syrian refugees. This time, however, Trump used "The Snake," written in 1963 by the activist singer-songwriter Oscar Brown Jr. and recorded in 1968 by soul musician Al Wilson, to bolster support for his efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.
Given that Trump has been using "The Snake" to fire up his base since January 2016, it seems safe to say he views the ballad as a perfect metaphor for keeping certain people out of the country. The song tells the story of a woman who is bitten by a snake she tries to help.
President Trump dedicated his reading of "The Snake" on Saturday to ICE and Border Patrol agents as well as Secretary of Homeland Security Gen. John Kelly "for doing such an incredible job." Trump said he thought the poem spoke to what he felt was happening with America's borders "and people coming in" to the country. "We're going to have problem," Trump said. "We have to very, very carefully vet. We have to be smart. We have to be vigilant."
Here's how Trump recited "The Snake" at his rally in Harrisburg on Saturday:
On her way to work one morning down the path along the lake a tender hearted woman saw a poor, half frozen snake. His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew. "Poor thing," she cried, "I'll take you in, and I'll take care of you."
Trump interrupted the reading to add "the border," and then continued.
"Take me in oh, tender woman. Take me in, for heaven's sake. Take me in, oh tender woman," sighed the vicious snake. She wrapped him up all cozy in a comforter of silk, and laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk. She hurried home from work that night and as soon as she arrived, she found that pretty snake she'd taken in had been revived.
"Take me in oh, tender woman. Take me in, for heaven's sake. Take me in, oh tender woman," sighed the vicious snake. She clutched him to her bosom. "You're so beautiful," she cried. "But if I hadn't brought you in by now, oh, heavens, you would have died." She stroked his pretty skin again and kissed him and held him tight. But instead of saying "Thank you," that snake gave her a vicious bite!
"Take me in, oh tender woman, take me in for heaven's sake. Take me in, oh tender woman," sighed the vicious snake. "I have saved you," cried the woman. "And you've bitten me, heaven's 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."
But while Trump may feel the ballad is the perfect means for bolstering support for his proposed immigration and border control policies, the families of both Brown, the ballad's original author, and Wilson, the first musician to record the song, aren't sure they'd agree with how the president uses the song.
In March 2016, the Chicago Tribune reported Brown's family wanted Trump to stop using "The Snake" at rallies, saying they felt the social activist would have been on the "polar opposite side" of Trump had he still been alive. In September, Business Insider reported Wilson's family and close friends were not sure the soul singer would have completely agreed with how Trump was using the song. But the feelings of Brown and Wilson's families doesn't seem to have deterred Trump from continuing to use "The Snake" as part of his argument for keeping certain people out of the United States.
"We will build a wall as sure as you are standing there tonight," Trump told supporters in Harrisburg on Saturday. "We'll build a wall, don't even worry about it."