Too Tough on the Rats…

John Wayne encountered his share of rats throughout the span of his filmography, and in nearly every one, the rats got what was coming to them.  Without stirring up the wrath of PETA, I would argue that rats should be dispatched with the finality exercised by The Duke.

Rats, by definition are vermin – objectionable animals that are hard to  control.  That sounds like many of the scoundrels who crossed Wayne’s path in the movies.  Yet one movie moment springs to mind when I think of how he handled these rats, and again, I’m drawn to make a comparison with where we are as a society today.

“The rat catcher’s too tough on the rats. Give them rats a fair show they say. We had a good court going around here til them pettifroggin lawyers moved in”

Such are the thoughts of the most celebrated one-eyed peace officer on film.  Rooster Cogburn knew the difference between right and wrong.  I believe he also understood and respected ‘due process.’  But it is also quite clear that Cogburn’s commitment to justice was never compromised because of the sometimes questionable means in which it had to be dispensed.  In the end, the guilty paid, usually with their lives.  But rest assured, justice was served.

It seems we’ve continued our downward spiral into being too easy on the rats while binding the hands of the rat catchers.  Plea bargains, 3rd, 4th and 5th chances and a legal system where a mere technicality can allow murderers, rapists and thieves go free.  I heartily believe in innocent until proven guilty, and due process for all Americans, but I get very upset when I see people who are getting off with sentences that are laughable.

A recent example is a young adult from my area who was alleged to have hit and killed another person with a car while intoxicated.  To make matters worse, the driver fled and failed to render aid.  Witness testimony all showed this person was intoxicated, yet the verdict comes back as negligent manslaughter instead of intoxicated manslaughter and there was no further mention of the failing to render aid piece, thanks to the “prettifoggin lawyers.”  To me that is simply wrong.

I don’t suggest we return to the days of frontier justice, but it seems our legal system is so concerned with protecting the guilty that in the end justice is served with neither the guilty or the innocent victims.  Where money buys power and influence today, we can look back at a time when the law actually stood up to those types rather than caved in.  Look at some of Wayne’s other movies like “Rio Bravo” and “Cahill: U.S. Marshal.”  In “Rio” Sheriff John Chance stands up to the wealthy Nathan Burdett and risks his own life to carry out justice when brother Joe is held for the murder of another towns person in the saloon.  In “Cahill” he stops at nothing, even putting his own sons at risk, to ensure the guilty pay and innocent men accused of murder are set free.

I know we still have officers who espouse such integrity and values.  But we so often hear otherwise in the news today.  I would be very interested to hear others thoughts on matters like this.  Have we tied the hands of the rat catchers and have the pettifroggin lawyers ruined out courts?  I think of the Casey Anthony, O.J. Simpson, and others who have thumbed their nose and laughed walking out of the courtroom.  Please share your thoughts below.



  1. Alfred Somerville says:

    You are 100% DEAD ON-there is too much “law” and not enough “justice” today. The reason? From the Congress through state governors and legislators, the “pettifoggin’ lawyers” are running the country!

  2. tommy says:

    I’m from the other side of the pond, England, and John Wayne to me was the man who set the standards by which we should live. But as in your country the murderers and rapist’s and phedo’s walk free laughing just as they do here. We need a ROOSTER to give e’m what they are due.

  3. James says:

    My father was so much like rooster & cahill it wasn’t funny. I love my father, i love john wayne!

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