Voices of the Masses

I’m fascinated by bumper stickers. Maybe this started when I got my first car, and over the 3 years that followed I made the butt-end of it a work of art by a slowly rotating array of stickers for various punk, ska, and emo bands.Rude Mobile One of my favorite things was to examine other cars with stickers, to see what bands they advertised on their fiberglass and chrome. Maybe it was just my mind-set at the time, but back around 1998-2001, most of the stickers I saw were primarily for bands. But now, the primary purpose of bumper stickers seems to be to express a political or social point of view. This may not be so much of a shift in the main use of bumper stickers, but more of a shift in both my geographic location and what I watch for when I see them. I’m someone that’s easily rattled, so for the longest time I’d see a sticker that expressed a view very different from my own, and it would anger, dishearten, and frustrate me. Recently I’ve been able to get past this. The reason is maturity, but not just maturity in a sense that I can be more secure in what I know I believe and what I now I’ve experienced, but in a sense that it finally dawned on me thatRude Mobile they do absolutely nothing. “Duh,” right? Don’t be so hasty to laugh at me, now, because I guarantee you that many people think that they are changing the world by expressing a mass-produced opinion via vinyl adhered to their cars. Let’s go through some of my “favorite” stickers and discuss how pointless they are. You’ll find that most of these are religious or theological in nature, and that’s because those are the ones that still stand out to me the most.

Born Okay the First Time: The message is obvious, “I have no interest in being a Christian. Ever.” But what inspires such a statement? I seriously doubt that these people have to swim through swarms of tract-carrying evangelicals every day on their way to work. If they do have some annoying Christian regularly screaming in their ear about getting “born again,” then they have my sympathy, to be sure, but those situations should be, and no doubt are, handled in person and not by passively putting a sticker on one’s car. So I see this one and I imagine a small child standing alone, screaming about how he doesn’t want to eat his carrots, but no one is even offering carrots to him. No one’s really even talking to him or paying him any mind. And it’s likely he isn’t even completely sure what a carrot is.

God is Just Pretend: This one nearly bruised me pretty bad one morning. There’s nothing like a closed-off statement like this to shake up someone going through a time of faith-testing. But it’s really just something like a bully would say on a playground to pick on a kid or try to start a fight. “Hey, those shoes are ugly!” Okay. Fine. We now know what you think. I disagree. To run off on a slight tangent: I think some people who don’t believe in God may further justify their belief by observing that “God” does not react when they say such things. But let us realize that when people react to such empty statements about themselves, they are doing so because their pride got smashed, which is only possible because they are insecure. You can’t smash God’s “pride.” He’s not insecure. I can’t imagine that it would be possible for an omnipotent being to be insecure. Anyway, moving on . . .

Jesus was a Liberal: Ah, my personal favorite. I laughed out loud when I saw this one on a car in front of me on 50th Street, just West of I-5. As if to be “liberal” is the point in and of itself. 21st Century America is amazing, really. We’ve so polarized our political stances, drawn the line so thick, that it’s not about the individual issues anymore. This side takes this clump, that side takes that clump, and then we argue about it. The Conservatives took Christianity, but then people started noticing things about the life of Jesus and the things he taught. “Oh, my gosh! Conservatives claim Jesus, but he was actually a Liberal in his culture! That means that Liberals are right!” *SMACK* Has anyone stopped to think that about the fact that today’s Liberals are tomorrow’s Conservatives? Actually, that might make a good bumper sticker.

Endless This War / Mission Nothing Accomplished: The thing about these stickers is not at all their message. It’s the fact that they aren’t clever. They’re not even remotely interesting. I find myself getting angry about them and I stop to think, “Wait a second . . . I would also like the war to end! Why does their sticker upset me so?” It’s because they could be out-clevered by a 2nd grader.

Free Tibet: I’ve been seeing these since I graduated high school. That was nearly 10 years ago. I don’t follow this stuff, so please forgive my ignorance. Is Tibet still not free? Who has Tibet? Why is it bad for the people who have Tibet to have Tibet? Does Brad Pitt have a “Free Tibet” sticker on any of his cars? Of course, anyone who will put this sticker on their car is likely to know the answers to these questions. I wouldn’t put a sticker of a band on my car if I didn’t know anything about them. But this strikes me as the biggest of all pointless causes. Not that I think Tibet shouldn’t be free or whatever, but I doubt that the people who sport these things are even remotely actively involved in the Tibetan freedom fight. Maybe the proceeds from the sticker purchase go to those that would use it for said cause, but if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be better for the sticker to read “I support the fight for Tibet’s freedom”? Or maybe something similar? Because instead you have a protest chant being said in the most dismissive of ways to a bunch of people who don’t have anything to do with what’s going on. And I think of how even more pointless it is if and when two “Free Tibet” people see each other’s cars and subsequently buddy up. But I saw the beginning of Batman Begins; those Tibetans seem like quality folk. So maybe they like the idea that a few people secondarily use the support of their freedom fight to find a few new friends.

COEXIST: If I were to spoof this sticker, it would read “CLUELESS.” But I think the reference might be lost if I didn’t use all the religious symbols as letters, and if I did that, it may appear as if I were saying that the followers of the religions that were represented by the various symbols were clueless. And that is not what I would mean. I would mean that the people who sport this sticker make it blatantly obvious that they think that a religion’s purpose is to teach us to be nice to each other. They think that all religions pretty much say the same thing. Well I’m a Christian and I can tell you that Christianity’s purpose is not to make everyone happy and make Earth a peaceful place. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” (Matthew 10:34 NIV). I’m sure there are people who see this sticker as a statement that people shouldn’t fight over their religions, and I whole-heartedly agree with that. But as I’ve just stated, I’m sure not everyone’s definition is that simple. It is so minimal in its expression, though, that it can likely be a very touchy thing to not agree with. If anyone expresses dissent on any of these little paragraphs, it’ll most likely be about this one.

Protect the Sanctimony of Marriage: I’ve seen this on only one car, and that car is owned by some person that I do not know but works in my office building. I had to look up “sanctimony” after I saw it, and it is defined as “pretended, affected, or hypocritical religious devotion, righteousness, etc.” (Thank you, Dictionary.com. The internet is awesome). With the divorce rate the way it is, and with the way marriage is portrayed in media and other popular culture, it seems to make sense that people really don’t see marriage as anything worth protecting. Actually . . . I can’t really discuss how this one is pointless, outside of the fact that it’s just an opinion on a sticker. While I definitely don’t agree, I can certainly understand where it comes from. Moving on . . .

Tolerance is the Virtue of a Man without Convictions: I’ve focused so much on ones that stem from liberal points of view, it’s high time I talk about this sparkling gem of unconditional love that I saw on what else but an SUV in the parking lot of Red Mill on Phinney Ridge. What better way to get people to respect your point of view than to tell them that their points of view are worthless? Does this gas-guzzler actually think that he’s doing anyone any good? In the process of letting us know where he’s coming from, he has given those with opposing points of view fodder to throw back at him. Good work. Go celebrate at a tractor pull. (okay, okay. Braden actually likes tractor pulls a bit, but that’s not really the point, is it?)

Not My President / Re-elect Gore 2004 / Kerry & Edwards 2004: It’s obvious why I categorize all these together, but now as I’m getting to it I think I’ll split them up, because there’s some specific things about each one that need to be addressed. What they have in common will be implied.

Not My President: I haven’t seen this one in a while, but I did see one that said “Not My Governor” a couple weeks ago. First, let me address this one directly. “Yes, he is.” Or in the case of the Governor one, which was, of course, seen in the state of Washington, “Yes, she is.” When you vote for the candidate running for a particular office, you’re not picking a personal politician. You’re adding your voice to the collection, and the loudest voice decides who will be everyone’s President or governor. Like it or not, Al Gore lost. Which brings me to my next one . . .

Re-elect Gore 2004: This one doesn’t work because Al Gore did not win the Presidential Election of 2000. Too bad, so sad. Oh, sure, he won the popular vote, but think back to the government class you took your senior year of high school: the President of the United States is not elected by popular vote. Should he be? I don’t see why not. After all, the Electoral College was put in place because “commoners” were not to be trusted to determine such an important office on their own. But regardless of that, that’s how the election of 2000 was decided. Both Bush and Gore stepped into it knowing full well that what was important was the Electoral College. That’s why neither one of them campaigned in North Dakota. And then there’s the whole Supreme Court thing. Well someone had to put an end to it. Gore got his re-counts. Several of them. He didn’t get the numbers he needed. He lost Florida. Later on they found out that if Al had re-counted the whole state, and not his hand-picked precincts, he would have won. Well that’s his stupid fault for being greedy. The Supreme Court did not elect George W. Bush. I don’t care how much you hate him. Georgie-porgie won because after several re-counts, the numbers were still in his favor. By displaying this sticker, it puts you on a level with a spoiled child. And another thing, that was almost 4 years ago! Which brings me to my next one . . .

Kerry & Edwards 2004: What a profound statement. “I do not like George W. Bush, therefore I will continue to show my support for the Johns.” So pretty much you stand with the other nearly-70% of the nation saying that you don’t like our President, but are doing it in a way that is on par with the guy who wore his leisure suit well into the 80’s.

One last thing. Did you know that when referring to the President of the United States, the “P” in “President” is supposed to be capitalized? Did you know that people started lower-casing the “p” because of that whole “The Supreme Court elected Bush” thing? That’s fine in opinion papers and such. After all, we are allowed to protest things in America. But they do it in official articles in newspapers and magazines now. There should be a line.

It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.: Okay, this one’s way too long. I’m driving. Please don’t tempt me to take my eyes off of the road to read your stupid paragraph. And are you really sure that it will be a “great day”? I doubt it. Yeah, better-funded schools would be awesome, but the thought of a defense system that’s struggling for funds is a little scary.

Well-behaved Women Rarely Make History: Oo-hoo-hoo! I could get in trouble over this one, so let’s dive right in! There are two immediate problems with this statement. First, it makes you want to believe something that isn’t necessarily true. Take a quick survey of important women in history, then determine how many “misbehaved.” After that, take a moment to evaluate what that misbehavior was about, then determine whether or not that is a person that needs to be remembered in fondness or in infamy. Then follow all the same steps again, except take a survey of a few important men in history. You may find making history via breaking rules is not gender-dependent. The second problem is that it implies that “to make history” is in an of itself a goal, much like the “Jesus was a Liberal” sticker implies that being liberal is the point. Well, you know, Hitler made history. . . . maybe that was an easy shot to take. Sorry. I know what the good interpretation of this is, “Women, don’t let society’s expectations of you keep you from making a difference.” Great. Good. Wonderful. But that’s not what it is really saying. It’s saying, “Don’t tell me to have modesty, decency, or tact, because . . . ” If a man asks a woman for decency and she spits out something to the effect of this sticker, the problem is not chauvinism.

Wow. I’ve seen this one once or twice. Everyone, join me in saying, “W T F?” What does this mean? “I support gay cats”? “I am a gay cat”? Maybe, “I’m gay and I have a cat”? Well, if it is that one, do we really need to combine these messages? Is it wrong to have your rainbow sticker, and then have another sticker that says, “I love my tabby?” Maybe we’re going for efficiency. It is the information age, and we’ve got to get as much across as possible as quickly as possible. If the meaning of this is to say, “I’m a lesbian and I have cats,” I don’t think it’s conveying it very well. That’s a pretty huge conclusion to come to after seeing such an odd sticker.

Jesus Fish

I used to feel a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie when I’d see these on people’s cars. Now I get annoyed. Especially when they cut me off. I don’t think you should hide the fact that you’re a Christian, but I don’t think that one of these is the way to show it. I know I don’t want people to base their opinion of Jesus on how I drive. Especially on my way home from work. And yes, Jesus and I are working on that.

Ugh. Much like the one above, there was a time when I wanted to hi-five drivers with this on their car. I once mentioned to a roommate that I wanted to get one. Oddly enough, I am now thankful that he was such an argumentative prick. I was coming into a place of better understanding my faith at the time, and beginning to realize that living a Christian life wasn’t about debating and arguing with people any chance I got. I don’t think he agreed. When I mentioned my plans to get one, he tried to get me to feel like a fool by pointing out that having such an item on my vehicle would, in a sense, be arguing and debating. He was right. I never got one. Make no mistake that I don’t buy into evolution at all, but I know now that people who have these things don’t stir up discussion, they just get laughed at.

Darwin Fish

This one’s so charming. And clever. Taking a secondary symbol of a religion and tacking a “pro-science” message into it (I once saw it referred to as “pro-science,” which is funny because that indirectly implies that to not believe in evolution is “anti-science”). But have we stopped to think about this? I’m no expert on the various understandings of evolution, but I’m pretty sure that the idea of fish sprouting legs at some point in history was dropped a long time ago. So does displaying a now-abandoned aspect of a scientific theory to represent said scientific theory strike anyone else as sadly ironic? There’s also a lot of stories as to the full origin of what is now referred to as “The Jesus Fish,” but none of them have anything to do with the Creationism/Evolution debate. I’m also pretty sure that the “Darwin Fish” came before the “Truth Fish,” so it’s not a reaction to the statement made above. Perhaps, in response to people having Jesus Fish on their car to say “I am a Christian,” people wanted a similar way to say with their car, “I am not.” But believing in evolution doesn’t determine Christian or not, as I know Christians whose faith I would never question that also believe in evolution, so that can’t be it. Maybe it’s for those Christians: Jesus plus Darwin. I doubt it.

Oh, yes. What better one to end on? It’s hilarious to me that these things are still popular and being produced 10 years after the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes was discontinued. I don’t know how many people know this, but Bill Watterson, the creator of the strip, was very adamant about not letting his characters be turned into merchandise. He felt it compromised the integrity of the strip. So these things are technically copyright infringement. That makes it even funnier when you have the alternate ones like Calvin praying at a cross. I wonder why Watterson has never made a stink about it. Maybe that speaks to his character as a person. Another thing is that if you knew the strip at all, you know that Calvin was mischievous, but he didn’t go around peeing on things. Not once did this happen. Calvin’s mischief was intelligent, not primal. What inspired this to begin with? I know the first one was him peeing on the Ford logo. I don’t think the strip ever dealt with the integrity, or lack thereof, of certain American-made cars. So it seems someone just picked Calvin and made him pee on stuff. Seems as if it could have just as easily been Snoopy or Garfield or Andy Capp. Eh, I don’t have anything else on that.

I’m proud to report that I just spend a large chunk of my work day writing this. Mostly on breaks, mind you. Mostly.

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One response to “Voices of the Masses

  1. Pingback: 100th Post: An “I hope you know what you’re doing” Retrospective . . . « I hope you know what you're doing . . .

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