I’ve written before about the symbolism of the hanging scene in Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove”, which first appeared on TV in 1989. (You’d be the better for having watched it.)
I’ve written at least three (2014, 2016 and 2020) additions to the original write-up of 2011, all with the film clip, shown below, referring to how various kinds of misbehavior can turn ugly should society just up and say it’s tired of the way the government class is arrogating power over people without clear authority to do so.
Today, in light of the growing discord between parents and their schools and school boards over issues such as curricula, and denying parents any say about it, not to mention masking rules for children, which more and more appear to be for the safety and security of teachers and staff than students (who generally are not at risk) often contrary to their own local medical associations…especially in blue states and blue cities…this is an issue about to reach the boiling point.
Hence, a hanging film.
It’s natural law that parents just tend to get very short on word when basic liberties, such as managing the education of their children in circumvented.
But “Lonesome Dove” is 1-2 generations removed from the current parent-student population, virtually no parent under 50 ever having seen it, and certainly none of their children. I doubt most Democrats ever even have heard of it.
Still, as I said, it conveys some simple natural laws.
Let me set this up. Jake Spoon (played by Robert Ulrich, who died of cancer in 2002) was one of the early members 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, well also, a cad, always looking for the easy fix, shirking hard work, and peeping up every skirt he could. In short, 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’s song). (This poem’s worth reading.)
Jake rejoined Gus and Woodrow in time to be a part of their cattle drive north. He left them after stranding a girlfriend along the trail who was carried off into Indian slavery. Then he joined up with a band of killers “just to get across the territory” who proceeded to kill three drovers, steal their horses, then hang and burn two sodbusters just for the thrill of it.
Jake didn’t like this one bit, mind you. Nor did he participate. But you see, neither did he ever do anything about it. Weighing his options of maybe having to shoot his way out of these guys’ sight, then have to wander across part of the prairie alone, he decided to wait it out. At every crossroad where he could’ve chosen a different path, he didn’t.
A common American trait, especially among the rich, Democrats and modern RINO Republicans.
This is where the film clip takes up:
There were several symbolic aspects in that hanging, especially that there was no court of law, no judge, no jury. The operative clause of the dialogue, you see, is
“You ride with outlaws, you MAY die with outlaws IF You cross the line.”
Let that sink in. Since Bill Clinton, many of you have been riding with outlaws for so long it has gotten easy to think of this as the new normal…now in its third generation.
By 2016 city governments and school boards were stacked with the people of rank of most cities…but who would have been children when Lonesome Dove was filmed and this lesson screened. Third graders then will be 40+ today, their 1.9 kids being taught about transgenderism or critical race theory, all in accordance with an outlook on society that suited only its most exclusive and privileged wing. Since 2016 we’ve witnessed the misbehavior of their children from coast to coast, bratlings, I call them, often with the assistance of a party-mix of drugs…
…while their parents control what is taught (CRT) and what is not taught (Americanism, morality) in public schools.
It seems the mask mandates for students has become a line in the sand for citizens.
Of course, big money will procure lawyers to tie many of these issues in court. But as you can see in Canada, and possibly at a play date near you, the American supply system may come to screeching halt, as it already is happening in Ottawa, their prime minister high-tailing to a secret hiding place.
I only want to point out a risk factor….the absence of a judge or a jury in this film? Jake Spoon’s only defense was “I didn’t see no line, Gus…” His face gave away his knowledge he couldn’t talk his way out of what was about to happen. The others didn’t even get that much of an appeal. 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, and that is the absolute inevitability of his fate, and the unbending duty of his friends to carry it out.
The lesson is, don’t ever paint yourself into that kind of corner because this is becoming more and more a possibility. In some places, even a likelihood.
Most of you think this sort of event is a quaint remembrance of a time past. It is quite ordinary actually, only you just never see it on Twitter. It might show up in the local Thunderstorm, the county rag, but the fact that a school board member was hauled away by masked men from a Walmart parking lot, and returned the next day, unharmed, won’t make national news. Or that that school board member resigned the next day. I know of one occasion where this happened a few years ago.
The point of this exercise isn’t to reform, but warn, and to insure that person is hearing footsteps in the dark everywhere he and she goes, and to steer clear of dangerous people with forked tongues telling you it is to your benefit to steal the children of your neighbors.
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 is no crime, much less criminals. You can lean back and snooze, relying on the system, and your pals, to make sure no guilt attaches to you if it ever does come out.
Well, a man ought to do what he thinks best. (John Wayne).
What you need to know is that once you cross the line, everything else is a crap shoot. There are no certainties. When you commit or abet a crime you can never be sure it’s just going to be a smooth march to the police station and a consent decree with the judge. You’ll notice the truckers in Canada have removed the lawyers from the issue.
Of course, no one will hang you, (well, not likely) but you must understand, a native justice is about to rear its head again in America that hasn’t been seen since frontier days, and you will have no way to talk yourself out of the sweet loving arms of frontier justice if you overplay your hand.
Many school boards and teachers are doing just that.
You know who you are, and far too many people in your school district and city know who you are. There are many, many ways they can send you untraceable warnings, and you never knowing whether they intend a painless misdemeanor or something that actually hurts.
I’ve been telling citizens for years what they can do, from kill your rose bushes, to muss up your Gucci purse or business suit, even bloody a nose, or stick a bar of Ivory soap in their mouths. The sort of stuff people don’t forget, and sure as hell don’t want to repeat.
This is not hard, folks.
Comes across like a thinly veiled criminal threat of lynch mob violence against public officials.
Citizens do retain this power (natural law) and it is wise fpr corrupt and criminal politicians to keep that in mind,
When I think of Jake Spoon, I don’t think of education. I think of loose lipped, spineless GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy who stood by & let Trump legitimize fascism for 6 years after, in 2016, he had to be shut up for saying—to whomever wanted to listen—that Trump & Dana Rohrbacher were being paid by Putin. I thought of, Gus McCrae who said that Jake had always been a leaky vessel. A congressman, who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut any better than a teenager in 2016 does not have any business wielding great power in 2022. McCarthy is a leaky vessel and he’s going to sink the GOP. We have had to go through all this crap for the last six years because the GOP put their money on a career fraudster. Now they are allowing loose-lips-McCarthy to make dirty deals with political prostitutes like Marjorie, Taylor, Greene, and Amon-Matt-wanna-see-my-porn Goetz. Now we’re gonna have to spend another two years watching the GOP obstruct and ignore all legitimate legislation. When I think of education, I’m more likely to picture the history of wealthy landowners, industrialists, theocrats and conservatives who keep enough of our youth technically skilled and ignorant of anything that might raise the cost of labor or inspire them to think rationally.
Glad you got that off your chest. Not sure of your bottom line, but I did a piece on the GOP brand and who owns it, in 2013. https://www.vassarbushmills.com/2013/06/19/the-doctrine-of-liberty-the-original-republican-brand-who-owns-it/ I’m a Doctrine of Liberty guy, myself. The answer to every question begins with a unified theory.
It’s obvious you’ve only watched the miniseries, never actually read the book. The limitations of the TV medium required Jake Spoon’s hanging to be dealt with on a superficial level that opened the door for some to interpret Gus and Call’s choice as you have, but the book gives the reader the benefit of Newt’s perspective on the hanging. Newt sees it for what it is, a stubborn adherence to a rigid, dehumanized and violent idea of “justice.” The condemnation of this kind of dehumanized tit-for-tat violence is a central theme of the novel, it’s one of the reasons why July Johnson is a sympathetic character – he knew Jake’s killing of his brother was accidental and wanted to let the matter go, but he suffers and Roscoe, Joe, and Janey die because he allows himself to be goaded into pursuing Jake, but his story arc is allowed to resolve peacefully because he lets go of the idea of vengeance against Jake, against Blue Duck. His settling with Clara in Ogallala, with her and her homestead representing the settling and civilizing of the West, thus putting away the Old West’s rigid code of violence-for-violence, further solidifies McMurtry’s condemnation of the code that Gus and Call represent.
The hanging of Jake is also a pivotal moment for Newt in shedding his idolization of people. This starts during the raid into Mexico, where the book shows Newt questioning the moral justification of the act, and ultimately he completely loses his awe of Call when he finds out Call has refused to acknowledge him as his son, which Clara’s condemnation of also reinforces. Even though Newt had already lost his reverence for Jake due to Jake’s neglect of Lori, he still doesn’t believe that Jake should be hanged, and he questions Call and Gus’s rigid adherence to a “code” over the humanity of sparing a friend who was coerced with the threat of death to ride with outlaws. Clara, again, reinforces this condemnation of “code” over relationship, when she condemns Call for insisting on keeping his promise to bury Gus in Texas but won’t acknowledge his paternity of Newt: “A live son is more important than a dead friend.” McMurtry continually condemns the violent “justice” meted out by Gus and Call, whether Gus’s thrashing of the bartender in Fort Worth, or Call’s brutal beating of the army scout for whipping Newt. Again, Call is bent on vengeance, though he still won’t acknowledge Newt as his son, once again putting “code” before humanity, and even though Newt is the one who was wronged, he is horrified to see that Call is killing the scout and wants him to stop. Newt and Clara are two characters through whom McMurtry wants the reader to see how wrong the dehumanizing brutality of the mythic Old West were, and to lose their hero worship of the archetypal cowboy as epitomized by Gus and Call. Unfortunately, people like you who only watched the movie completely missed the point.
In case you’re thinking this is just my interpretation (though having actually read the book, my interpretation is more valid than yours), don’t just take my word for it. In his preface to the 2000 edition of the novel, Larry McMurtry himself wrote “It’s hard to go wrong if one writes at length about the Old West, still the phantom leg of the American psyche. I thought I had written about a harsh time and some pretty harsh people, but to the public at large, I had produced something nearer to an idealization; instead of a poor man’s Inferno, filled with violence, faithlessness and betrayal, I had actually delivered a kind of Gone With The Wind of the West, a turnabout I’ll be mulling over for a long, long time.” McMurtry was talking about people like you, Vassar Bushmills.
There is emblematic irony in a conservative confidently using a scene from Lonesome Dove as an allegorical criticism and warning to “woke Democrats”, based on a shallow, ill-informed misunderstanding of the source material; not actually bothering to read and think critically about the primary sources behind the ideas you either embrace or reject is so on-brand for conservatives these days. The whole “CRT in schools” canard that you rant about here is a perfect example. I don’t support CRT at all, it’s terrible, sloppy scholarship, but I’ve taken the time to find out what it actually is, to read the scholarship itself, to understand the concept, and so I know full well that there is no danger of this graduate level discourse actually being taught in public schools. Conservatives have simply started slapdash branding any teaching of the racial injustices of the past that makes them uncomfortable with the CRT label, and have started lumping Social-Emotional Learning in with it as well, despite the two being completely unrelated.
In contrast to your fantasy world where evil “woke” Democrat and “RINO” schoolboards run roughshod over the people of their districts until The People rise up against them, my mixed (affluent and mostly white on one side of the freeway, racially and socio-economically diverse on the other side) suburban school district in Texas, in one of the 5 largest cities in the country provides an empirical example of how things are really going. The white affluent half (which I am part of) has always controlled the school board, simply because those are the people who have the wherewithal to stand for positions, and predictably the board has always leaned conservatives, but I feel has always admirably served the needs of all students. During the pandemic we were one of the earliest districts in the state to get students back in the classroom, and dropped masking requirements as soon as state law allowed us to. Yet over the two most recent school board elections (our 7-member board has staggered terms) has seen four long-tenured and generally well-liked members (most if not all of them Republicans) lose to new candidates running on ginned-up hysteria over the CRT boogieman, and discreetly well-funded by national Super PACs.
It’s been interesting to watch what has happened once the people who elected these board members saw them put their anti-“CRT” rhetoric into action once they had a majority on the board. It happened with the first meeting for most of the new members, not a full board meeting, but a workshop last spring. Two of the new board members immediately zeroed in on a local bookstore, trying to get its contract as a vendor for the district canceled because they disagreed with statements the owner made on its social media account, mostly speaking out about recent decisions by other districts to ban books for supposedly being “CRT” and encouraging people to read the books and decide for themselves. The books included Maus, a graphic novel from 1991 by Art Spiegelman that depicts him interviewing his father about his father’s experience as a holocaust survivor, with Jews depicted as mice, and Nazis depicted as cats, and New Kid, a 2020 Newberry Medal winning graphic novel by Jerry Craft that is inspired by his experiences as an African-American kid going to a mostly white private school in the 1970s. The latter book had just recently been banned as “CRT” by another suburban Texas school district.
These two new school members were apparently unaware that the lightly attended workshop was being videoed, or perhaps they simply assumed that no one watched the videos which get posted on the district website, because they certainly seemed taken aback when the very next regular meeting was standing room only with community members there to speak out against the board members’ attack on a bookstore that happens to be a beloved community institution. One woman I know personally, who is pretty conservative (she led a movement that attempted to oppose our zoned elementary school claiming Title I status) had not heard about the bookstore issue and was at the meeting to talk about something else, abandoned the other topic so that she could condemn the board members’ attack on the bookstore after she heard the preceding speakers’ comments. The people of the district, including most of the white, affluent people who unwittingly voted these extremists into office, have now seen the books these people are calling “CRT”, and have grown weary of them monopolizing board time to talk about this red herring at the expense of so many other actually important issues for the district, such as funding, curriculum, and teacher retention. But these board members have no solutions to offer for these issues because they were single-minded about “CRT” when deciding to run for the board. There is an exodus of staff from the district and its impossible to replace them because teachers and librarians don’t want anything to do with a district that now has a reputation for a McCarthyism-like atmosphere where every book on their shelves and every word that comes out of their mouth will be seized upon for “CRT” by some zealot parent who knows they will have a sympathetic ear from the four-member majority. Eyes have been opened across the district, and these one-issue wonders are due to be one-term wonders. The first member of this cabal up for reelection doesn’t even get on the ballot until a year from now, and already the grass-roots effort to unseat him, which would end their majority, has taken off like wildfire.
That was splendid! I hope you plan on using parts of that argument in a class you teach. But our audiences are different. But as a retired trial lawyer I was aiming at a different set of readers; i.e., the common men and women who get trapped into jury duty. Lonesome Dove-the-series would touch many times more the audience and would have gained a different response to that hanging than the sorts who would get thru your argument. You obviously missed the purpose of my piece, or maybe even the whole page. If you don’t mind me asking, what was it that caused you to read that piece in the first place? I write on several subjects, part philosophy, part history, as an analyst, only not for the edification for the already-edified or self-satisfied. And those arguments are found in Natural Law, How Things Work, American Exceptionalism a few others. A common thread.
But I enjoyed reading your objections. I have a friend, David Poff, who is blind, and has published two books that include chapters from my essays. Religious in nature. Unwashed Philosophy, a Uses Guide to our Imperfect Union, and Essential American Wisdom. Both available at Amazon.com