“I’ve learned so much”

In Larry McMurtry’s great Western novel Lonesome Dove, for much of the novel the point of view changes between the main story (a group of Texas cattlemen leading their herds north for selling) and a secondary plot in which we follow the nasty adventures of Dan Suggs and his brothers, who are a murderous trio of guys, killing and robbing their way across the prairie. About two-thirds of the way through the book, our lawful cattlemen meet Suggs and his brothers, and they manage to subdue them quickly and make ready to hang them from the nearest tree. But to their surprise, they find that a friend of theirs, a guy named Jake, has fallen in with the Suggs crew.

Jake is not a bad guy, but he’s something of a ne’er-do-well who makes his living lurching from town to town, gambling and drinking and whoring and doing it all some more. It’s been a while since I read the book, so I don’t remember how it is that he falls in with Suggs and his brothers, but he does, and McMurtry captures his disquiet well as he witnesses murder and crime after murder and crime.

But when our heroes, William Call and Augustus McCray, defeat Suggs and company and get them all tied up in order to mete out cowboy justice, this brief conversation transpires:

Call went over to Jake. Deets [one of their companions] seemed hesitant to tie him, but Call nodded and covered Jake with his rifle while Deets tied his hands. As he was doing it Pea Eye and Newt [two more of their companions] came over the hill with the horses.

“Call, he don’t need to tie me,” Jake said. “I ain’t done nothing. I just fell in with these boys to get through the Territory. I was aiming to leave them the first chance I got.”

Call saw that Jake was so drunk he could barely sit up.

“You should have made your chance a little sooner, Jake,” Augustus said. “A man that will go along with six killings is making his escape a little slow.”

I’ve been thinking about that passage ever since our President made a video, aimed at his fans, regarding his experience with COVID-19 and his intention to leave the hospital later today. After having spent the last bunch of months spreading all manner of misinformation about the pandemic that is gripping the world, decided to record a video for his fans last night, in which he said, among other things, that he’s “learned so much” about the disease.

He’s “learned so much”.

Imagine that. This many months after the pandemic began, this many months after lock-downs and scenes of horror in New York City, this many months after case spikes and the death rate never going down to zero, this many months of America just existing with this damned thing, arguing over masks and “mah rights”…now our President has “learned so much”.

The time to learn so much would have been the beginning, sir. The time to learn so much would have been in the very beginning, when you would have learned so much from the pandemic team the previous administration left in place, had you not dismissed it.

You should have made your chance a little sooner, Mr. President. A man that will go along with two hundred thousand deaths is “learning so much” a little slow.

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