Monday, September 27
Like the old saying, “ Things always look brighter in the morning,” and it is true. I had a good breakfast at McDonald's (an oxymoron?) and several older people came over to talk having seen my cart parked outside. Again, they gave me some advice and wished me well.
On the way from Hastings I passed a radio station and the news director, Tyson Havranek, came outside and asked if I would be willing to come into the station to be interviewed. I readily agreed and before you know it, there I was sitting with a microphone in front of me while he asked some general questions about my trip and purpose. This was my first time in a studio with knobs, dials, and microphones and it was an enjoyable experience. Fifteen minutes later I was on my way and feeling uplifted.
The rest of the day was pretty mundane - walking and trying to cover some distance since I had left late (seems like a regular occurrence when I stay in a motel) and had spent some time with the interview.
Later in the day as I was just about to start looking for a place to camp I heard a car pull in behind me. I looked in the mirror and saw it was a Clay County sheriff's car. He turned on his flashers and honked his horn for me to stop. He got out and asked for my identification so he could run it through the computer. I told him that I had done nothing wrong, that I was bothering no one, and that he had no legitimate reason for his actions asking him, “Do I look like a terrorist or something? He replied, “I don’t know. What does a terrorist look like?” I pointed out my cart, the flags, the Liberty Bell sign, and said, “Yes, that’s me! I’m a terrorist!” Officer Madison (that was his name) said that they had had plenty of people come through “his” county who were wanted by the law and for all he knew I was one of them. I felt that I was trapped in a "Smokey and the Bandit" or "The Dukes of Hazard" movie and had a hard time believing it was really happening.
The situation had started off confrontational and only got worse. A red-headed civil libertarian verses a Nebraska county sheriff officer. I will respectfully draw a curtain on the rest of our interaction.
I wish the reader to know that I do not support disrespect toward the police and I am not making light of the situation. Yet, the confrontation brings to light some serious questions. Had I done something that warranted his investigation of me I would have readily complied but I had done nothing wrong which he freely admitted. I was simply walking across the United States and traveling through “his” county which is the term he used. Some of you will say, “What’s the big deal - just comply with an officer that is trying to keep society safe.” I reply, “It’s the principle of the matter.” No matter how you feel - it generates a great discussion.
By the way, he said that now that he had “checked me out” and I came out clean he would radio the police ahead and tell them not to bother me.
Note: Even though I have been stopped by 11 previous officers, Officer Madison is the first to insist on a computer run to check me out. All the others had simply asked me how I was doing or what was I doing in curiosity.
I wish to add that I would not have complied with his request except that the Supreme Court has recently ruled that a citizen must identify himself when an officer of the law asks. It used to be that a law violation must first occur but this is no longer true. Therefore, I complied.