Signs of the times

I can’t keep up.

“We hear you’ve been asking curious questions,” U.S. Park Police officer Michael Ramirez said as he and fellow officer Karl Spilde approached me from behind a blossomless cherry tree. “Why are you doing that?”

Both officers carried 9mm semiautomatic pistols, Mace and batons. Perhaps because I had just left the Jefferson Memorial, where I’d read a few lines about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “all men are created equal,” I felt bold enough to pose a question of my own: “Why are you asking me that?”

What I really wanted to know was why my questions about the box had made me suspect. Or was it that an African American — whom someone may have mistaken for a Middle Easterner — was asking them?

The only way to get to the bottom of this, I thought, was to ask more questions.

“Let me see your ID,” Spilde said.

“Why?” I asked.

Wrong response.

“Call for backup,” Spilde eventually told Ramirez as he seized my notebook and pen and began to search me. Was I being arrested, I asked before turning over my driver’s license.

Eight officers responded to the call for backup. One told me that, legally, I was not being arrested, just subject to “investigative detention.”