American culture is steeped in the mythology of the open road. In our collective imagination, the road represents freedom, escape, friendship, romance, and above all, the possibility for a better life. But our shared dream of the open road comes to a halt in the mundane reality of the traffic stop—a judicially authorized policing procedure in which an officer may pull over a vehicle if she has cause to believe the driver has committed even the most minor traffic violation. I examine the cultural texts—books, movies, songs—celebrating the open road and juxtapose them against those documenting the traffic stop. The traffic stop, I conclude, interrupts the open road narrative closely associated with the American dream. Those stopped most frequently—in particular, racial minorities—are consequently denied full participation in an abiding national fantasy.
January 2015, Vol. 67, No. 1
Reid Kress Weisbord, Trust Term Extension