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Honk If You…Whatever

Jan
23
2008

As a rule, I try not to foist my opinion on other people, though I will admit to feeling very strongly about what does and does not constitute a baked bean. But, other than that, I figure no one is ever going to agree with me totally on every issue, so live and let live, ya know? (Though they will, of course, have to admit that a baked bean requires maple syrup, brown sugar and, under no circumstances, green peppers.)
As strongly as I feel about the whole bean thing, I don’t state my position as to the superiority of maple baked beans slow-cooked in a low oven in a bona fide bean pot on a bumper sticker.
I’m not quite sure I grasp the intent of bumper stickers. They seemed to be designed to either enrage or form some sort of solidarity – yet with no manifestation of engagement. Oh, the sign may say “Honk if you love possums,” but just try and follow through and see what the reaction will be.
I’ll admit there are some that serve a useful purpose. Who hasn’t uttered a silent “Amen!” to the bumper sticker “Hang Up and Drive” or “Contemplate Using Your Turn Signal?”
But, other than that, what is the purpose of stating your political, cultural or social position to total strangers you will probably never meet again? I mean, I’ve never learned anything from a bumper sticker. It’s not like I read “The Bill of Rights is not a suggestion” and was suddenly enlightened to controversy.
Those “honor student” bumper stickers are most annoying because I’m not quite sure who they’re for. Since we’re talking honor student here, the kid probably doesn’t need the ego boost of seeing it on their parents’ car. So I have to believe that it’s either for the parents to feel a sort of vicarious triumph or other kids and their parents to feel like total failures. Worse are the answers to the “honor student” bumper sticker: “My kid can beat up your honor student.” Were there no other causes you felt more strongly about than what’s on the rear of someone else’s car?
Of course the most popular statements on bumper stickers – and the nastiest – are political in nature. Political bumper stickers strike me as rather cowardly, though. You’re basically making an inflammatory statement and then running away. I mean, “I’m right, you’re an idiot if you think I’m wrong, and nannee, nannee, boo-boo, try to catch me!” Besides, if your political ideology fits on a bumper sticker, you are perhaps over-simplifying the issue.
I’ve noticed the younger someone is, the more bumper stickers on their car. This works on several levels, first as a sort of classified ad in the personals section; second, to tick off as many blue-haired ladies driving Buicks and blonde blunt cut soccer moms driving SUVs as possible; and, finally, to cover the rusted out spots so the car passes inspection.
I guess older people don’t feel the need to post their mindset on a bumper sticker. The only messages I see on the cars of older people are usually religious in nature, a kind of finger wag for the heathen world, a righteous one-upmanship: “They are commandments, not suggestions! God.” Imagine, speaking for God – on a bumper sticker. (Which is why I get a guilty chuckle from: “Jesus is coming – look busy!”)
By far, the most dangerous bumper stickers are the ones that go on and on and on in tiny little print. I suppose they’re designed to be read over a cup of coffee when the car is parked somewhere, but you know there is some gene pool mutant who is going to try to read it on the Capitol Beltway during rush hour in sleet.
I suppose the bumper sticker is an extension of the puzzling American habit of using our vehicle to reflect who we are to people we don’t know, in which case I guess it’s better that my car remain blank. I don’t know what it means that I drive a green Outback but I wouldn’t want to contradict myself with the wrong message on the fender. Were I to put a bumper sticker on my car, which I won’t, it would have to be of the inane variety: a bumper sticker that says “Bumper Sticker” or maybe a single question mark. otherwise I’d have to find a bumper sticker about baked beans.
Or I can save some money – I hear Fred Thompson bumper stickers are going cheap.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 9:15 AM | Permalink

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