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Lonesome Dove explained

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By See-Dubya  •  June 27, 2008 06:58 AM

I loves me some Lonesome Dove, though it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it or read it. It’s a great American story, and whether or not it’s “literature” I think it’s worth thinking about a little bit.*

What got me thinking about Lonesome Dove was this post by Pupster at Innocent Bystanders. He was curious about Gus McCrae’s odd sign that decorated his Hat Creek Cattle Company.

That Latin bit is, like “Vero Possumus”, a bit of a linguistic oddity. Gus explains it’s there simply because it’s a “motto”, and it just means whatever it means. The gruff, practical Captain Call is unimpressed, thinking the phrase must mean something, and for all he knows it invites people to rob them.

Does it actually mean anything, though? Yes. Pupster tracked it down and found it to be a corruption of Juvenal.

This means something like “a grape changes color [i.e., ripens] when it sees [another] grape”

Or another source that suggests it means something more like “one bad apple spoils the bunch”.

Pupster was hoping for something “a little more insightful”. But I think that’s a key to the whole story.

Among several interesting characters, one of the most central is the story of Newt (Ricky Schroeder in the miniseries). He grows up not knowing who his dad was but he has fixated on the flashy, irresponsible Jake Spoon as a role model. Part of his maturation through the movie is becoming less like Jake and more like Gus and (spoiler) his real father, Captain Call. Those are the grapes that ripen Newt.

But another story, one that leads to many of the story’s tragic events, is the tale of Jake Spoon himself. Robert Urich played Jake in the miniseries, and I always thought he was miscast; he was cold and citified. It should have been Tom Selleck, someone charismatic and charming you really wanted to like, only to discover gradually through his carelessness and neglect what an empty soul Jake Spoon really had.

(Hang on, I’m going somewhere political with this, I promise.)

Spoon adapts easily to whoever his companions may be, and he falls in at one point with some sadistic horse thieves led by Dan Suggs, who enjoy shooting settlers and burning their bodies. Jake doesn’t shoot anyone but is complicit in the bodies’ desecration. Perhaps he does so out of fear that Suggs and his men will kill him if he doesn’t–but Jake isn’t in any hurry to escape them, or fight them. It’s easier for him just to continue riding with them.

Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit.

Until one day, he’s called to account. Suggs, his brothers, and Jake Spoon are all captured by Gus and Call and Newt, who promptly decide to hang them all for burning the farmers and murdering three horse traders as well. Jake tries to fast-talk his way out of the necktie party, explaining that he doesn’t share in Suggs’ guilt:

JAKE SPOON: Oh, you don’t need to tie me up, Newt. Hell, I didn’t kill anybody. I just fell in with these boys to get through the Territory. Hell, I was gonna leave ‘em first chance I got!
GUS McCRAE: I wish you’d taken that chance a little earlier, Jake. A man who’ll go along with five killings is takin’ his leave a little slow.

There are more protests from the gang and from Jake, and then his old friend Gus explains:

GUS McCRAE: You know how it works, Jake. You ride with an outlaw, you die with an outlaw. I’m sorry you crossed the line.
JAKE SPOON: I didn’t see no line, Gus. I was just tryin’ to get through the Territory without getting scalped.

It doesn’t save poor Jake. They all knew he should have had the judgment to extricate himself from his bad companions long before his reckoning arrived.

See where I’m going with this now?

To get through the rough Territory of Chicago politics, Barack Obama fell in with bad companions–among them Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, and especially the unrepentant domestic terrorist duo of William Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn, who launched his career and donated $200 to his campaign.

Like Jake Spoon did, Barack Obama got very comfortable with his companions. And if he had good judgment, he should have seen the line they were crossing. Even if he never participated in their worst excesses, he sat mutely in the pew in the face of them for years.

Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit.

Am I wrong? Let me ask you a question.

Dohrn and Ayres held a fundraiser for Barack Obama to get him started in Illinois politics. And in 2001, they contributed $200 of their own money to Obama’s re-election campaign.

So: Obama has taken money from unrepentant terrorists.

Has Obama ever given them that money back?

It sounds to me like a man that would hold on to a terrorist’s money for seven years is takin’ his leave a little slow.

*Yeah, I tend to overanalyze things now and then.

____________

{Post by See-Dub}

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