We drove to Pittsburgh last Saturday. As I drove I wondered about a few things. For example, why is I-90 around Buffalo so bumpy? It’s not even bumpy so much as it’s wavy. You feel like you’re on a boat. Also, why do people from Ontario drive so fast? I only see those plates when they pass me on the left. Finally, what is the deal with bumper stickers? This last question came to me when Joy said she’d like one of those Coexist stickers for her car, or maybe the Darwin fish.
I couldn’t help but tell her that seemed like an odd combo to me. I don’t really have any opinion about the Coexist sticker, but even as a sort of atheist-evolution-evangelist I find the Darwin fish problematic. The whole point of that symbol appears to be aggressive. Why co-opt another group’s symbol just to rile them up? I mean, I don’t think the early Christian use of the fish had anything to do with theories of the development of species, did it? Really, from the little I know about Darwin, wouldn’t a bird make more sense?
Anyway, since that conversation I’ve been noticing a lot of bumper stickers. A few days ago I followed a Nissan pickup with anti-Obama bumper stickers. They read “1/20/2013: Change we can look Forward to,” and “Four More: Are You Insane?” (The ‘o’ in “More” was Obama’s campaign symbol). My first thought was that these stickers look pretty silly now. Second, and I suppose because of my own biases about folks who oppose Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, I always think anti-Obama stickers on foreign cars is sort of surprising. I assume a lot of Republican voters are ‘America First’ types, but maybe they’re true Republicans and are actually ‘Global Capital’ first types.
This morning on my drive in I saw another combination of bumper stickers that made me think. It was a little Honda Fit (I think), and its back end was covered with stickers. Two jumped out at me. The first was the “I’m Catholic and I Vote” sticker that I see a lot around here. Very often its paired with a pro-life sticker. I always read that combination to say, “I’m Catholic and I’m a Single-Issue-Voter.” Today, however, the ‘I’m a Catholic voter’ sticker was paired with one warning tailgaters of the dangers of global overpopulation. The thought that went through my head as I passed the remarkably slow driver was, “wait, does this mean he’s pro birth-control?” Any decent survey of American Catholics, of course, will show there isn’t anything particularly novel about being a Catholic who supports or uses birth control, but nonetheless to see the two identities advertised via bumper sticker is relatively rare, I’d guess.
I’ve got no bumper stickers on my car. I’ve got a couple laying around at home that I’ve gotten for free in various ways. My favorite is a Mazda ‘Zoom,Zoom’ decal I got once at a race track when a driver saw my Mazda 2. For me, the answer to my question is that the deal with most of these bumper stickers is that somebody is making money selling whichever sticker to whichever ideologist wants to put it on his or her car. Maybe someday I’ll get around to putting that decal on my little Mazda.