What happens when lawmen go corrupt? When those charged with enforcing the laws go astray and join the other side in corruption? I’ve written on this subject before, using Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove”, which first appeared as a TV mini-series in 1989. And it’s a cautionary tale for the political classes…and especially those charged with enforcing our laws.
This originally was directed towards Democrats, and then later toward establishment Republicans, dawned on me that many members in Congress may never have seen this film, or read the book, and may never even have heard of it. It was almost 30 years ago. So, let me set this up.
In the tale, Jake Spoon was one of the early heroes of the Texas Rangers, having ridden with Captains Gus McCrea (Robert Duvall) and Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) since before the Civil War. A good lawman and cowboy, personable as all get-out, Jake was also, well, a cad, always looking for the easy fix, shirking hard work, and peeping up every skirt he could find. In other words, Jake was a lot like Bill Clinton, with a “screw ‘em where you find ‘em, leave ‘em where they lay” sort of attitude about women, a “Taker” (from the Kris Kristofferson song).
Jake left the Rangers years before the story opens, then rejoined McCrea and Call in time to be part of a cattle drive north. He took along a prostitute, quickly got bored of her, then stranded her in camp, where she was kidnapped, carried off into Indian slavery, while Jake was in town playing cards. Needing a way to “just to get across the territory” he joined up with a band of criminals who proceeded to kill three drovers, steal their horses, then hanged and burned two sodbusters just for the thrill of it.
Jake didn’t like this at all, mind you. Nor did he participate. But you see, neither did he do anything about it. He just stood by and watched, in typical Democrat fashion. Weighing his options of maybe having to shoot his way out to get away from this mob, then have to wander across the prairie alone, he decided to wait their carnage it out. At every crossroad where he could’ve chosen a different path, he didn’t.
Does this sound like the young politician just starting out in office….fell in with a real low-down, dirty-leg bunch, can barely look himself in the mirror, but hey, good pay, easy work, great perks, just no face-saving way out that wouldn’t jeopardize all that.
Well as you know if you’ve watched it, Jake was captured by his old pards, Captains Call and McCoy, and I’ll cut to the chase. They proceeded to hang him right alongside the killers, no if’s, but’s or maybe’s.
There were several symbolic aspects in that hanging, but I want to raise only one here. The operative clause of their dialogue before the hanging, you see, was…
“You ride with outlaws, you die with outlaws, Jake. You crossed the line.” (Capt McCrea)
Let that sink in.
Many Democrats and now Republicans, are riding with outlaws. Now, I know, many of you will first say, “Well, yeah, so prove it.” My answer to you is, no, another type of justice is abroad in the land.
That may be the part some Democrats and Republicans don’t understand about the bad moon that’s rising. Did you see a judge or a jury in this film? Jake Spoon’s only defense was “I didn’t see no line, Gus…” His face then gave away his knowledge he couldn’t talk his way out of what was about to happen. So in the end, Jake chose to die with dignity, which made everyone tear up. But his attempt at last-minute nobility belied the far, far greater lesson here, which is the absolute inevitability of his fate, and the unbending duty of his friends to carry it out no matter their old friendship.
Most Democrats think that this sort of thing is a quaint remembrance of a time long past. Just understand, you can act as if you don’t know anything about the criminals you’re running with. You can parse the language all you want to show there was no crime. You can lean back and snooze, relying on the system, and your pals, to make sure no guilt attaches to you if the crimes finally do reveal themselves as they have with Obamacare. You can wait til the last minute, assuming there will always be that one last chance to escape. But there may not be the sort of judge and jury you think you can out fox.
So, a man ought to do what he thinks best. (John Wayne)
What you need to know is that once you crossed that line, everything else is a crap shoot. There are no longer any certainties. When you commit or abet a crime you can never be sure it’s just going to be a smooth march to the courthouse; arraignment, bail, trial, community service, etc.
People are really pissed off out here, and now many more are Democrat constituents than when I first wrote this in 2011. The Trump election proves this.
And have you noticed how quiet they are? That’s always a bad sign. It gets really scary when the drums stop beating.
A native justice is about to rear its head again in America and you will have no say-so if you get caught in the sweet loving arms of 21st Century frontier justice.
Be sure, then go ahead. (David Crockett)
Publications: Famous Common People I Have Known and Other Essays