By David Swanson
I got pulled over for speeding in Texas yesterday and the officer looked like the kind of guy who dreamed about using his taser. So when he asked for my license and registration, I slowly got them out and handed them over.
“Do you know why I stopped you?” he asked.
I replied, “I think I do, sir, but I think you may be looking backward a little bit.” Officer Rigveda (that was his name) looked behind him and then looked confused.
I tried to explain: “What I mean is, this is a time for reflection, not retribution. I know you don’t want to hurt the morale of speeders and put the nation in danger.”
“Step out of the car please.”
I stepped out of the car, but I said roughly this: “I was just joking. Obama wants to prosecute prison guards for torture, but when it comes to the paper pushers who told them to do the torturing, he says ‘this is a time to look forward, not backward.'” I used my best Barack Obama imitation, which is not saying much. I looked the man in the eye and tried to judge him, but all he said was:
“Place your hands on the roof of the car.”
I didn’t like how this was going, but I put my hands on the roof of the rented Chevrolet and said: “In my left front pocket you will find a memo drafted by my attorney which finds the speed I was traveling not to constitute a violation of the law. The memo is sealed but is potentially subject to release through a freedom of information act request, although — again — I don’t really think you want to put our nation in danger. Do you?”
As Officer Rigveda searched me and administered a breathalyzer, I tried to explain the situation more clearly, since he just didn’t say enough to reveal whether I was getting through to him. Mostly he gave one-sentence orders or asked questions.
“Where were you coming from and going to?” he grunted.
I said “Are you asking me that to be friendly or to investigate a crime, because if it’s to investigate a crime then I don’t recall.”
He gave me a long look and finally said “I’m asking you to be friendly.”
So, I said, “Well I’m late to get from the airport to a bookstore where I’m supposed to be signing copies of a book I wrote.”
He asked what the book was called and I told him “Daybreak,” and he seemed to think about it, somehow pleased by it, as if he’d caught me in something.
“Can you show me a copy of the book?”
I got one out of the car and showed it to him. He looked it over and quickly gave it back to me with a snort.
“You are a plagiarizer,” he declared. Rigveda marched back to his police cruiser and pulled out a book, came over and handed it to me. The cover said: “Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality” by Friedrich Nietzsche.
Now it was my turn to look confused.
When I was able to think straight, I said “There cannot be more than one police officer in Texas who reads Nietzsche. Is Saul Alinsky in your backseat? Shouldn’t I get a break just for having such astoundingly bad luck?”
He looked as me as if to say that he didn’t think I constituted good luck from his point of view either. Then he cleared his throat and said:
“Beggars ought to be abolished: for one is vexed at giving to them and vexed at not giving to them.”
Jesus Christ! He not only carried Nietzsche around in his taser mobile, but was quoting him at me.
Luckily, although I wasn’t a plagiarist, I had named my book after another I liked. So I said: “Subjection to morality can be slavish or vain or self-interested or resigned or gloomily enthusiastic or an act of despair, like subjection to a prince: in itself it is nothing moral.”
Rig smiled, pulled out his taser, and said “I have no idea how I am acting! I have no idea how I ought to act! You are right, but be sure of this: you will be acted upon! at every moment! Mankind has in all ages confused the active and the passive: it is their everlasting grammatical blunder.” He put his taser away and laughed for a half a second.
“One overlooks many moral weaknesses in a man,” I told him, “employing in this a coarse sieve, provided he is a constant adherent of the most rigorous theory of morality! On the other hand, the lives of free-spirited moralists have always been put under the microscope: the rationale for this procedure is that a blunder in life is the surest argument against an unwanted insight.”
And there I had stumped Officer Overman good. He stopped and walked around as I stood and sweated in the sun. But in a minute he came back with a big grin and said: “A man who says a lot and says it quickly sinks extraordinarily low in our estimation after even the briefest acquaintanceship and even if he talks sense — not merely to the degree that he is burdensome to us but much lower than that. For we divine to how many men he has already been a burden, and add to the ill-humor he creates the contempt in which we suppose he is generally held.”
I dropped to the ground and writhed in pain. Then I suddenly stopped and looked at him and said, rather loudly “Ah none of you knows the feeling the man who has been tortured has after the torture is over and he is carried back to his cell and his secret is with him! — he is still clinging to it with his teeth. What do you know of the rejoicing of human pride!”
“You’re not drunk,” he replied, putting his breathalyzer away. “Just demented. I’ll escort you to the book store.”
We got in our separate cars, and he pulled his into the road beside mine and then screamed through his loudspeaker at a nearly deadly volume before flipping on his lights and siren:
“The higher we soar, the smaller we seem to those who cannot fly!”
David Swanson is the author of the new book “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when the 50-city tour will be in your town: http://davidswanson.org/book