Bumper Sticker Wars

“Check this out,” my friend Mickey said as he pointed to the car in front of us. It had a bumper sticker that read, “Honk if you love Jesus.”

Mickey honked his horn and the driver rolled down his window and gave us the finger.

“Happens every time,” Mickey said as he laughed.

Colorado Springs is well known as an epicenter of Christian evangelical fervor.

There were a lot of these bumper stickers around town, so I duplicated Mickey’s experiment and usually got the same results. Bumper stickers are like automotive graffiti. They are a way of trying to stand out in a crowd. “Hey, I’m here and this is what I think is important.” We could probably use a new word or phrase for all of this automotive signage instead of bumper stickers. Since bumpers are plastic now and aerodynamically shaped, people put their messages on the windows or directly on the rear of the vehicle instead of bumpers. And of course there are plastic signs like the Christian fish, magnetic ones such as the “support the troops” ribbons, and actual window decals.

A lot of bumper stickers are political. I don’t care too much for those. Especially the generic ones like, “I’m pro (fill in the blank) and I vote.” First of all, I and others are also pro whatever, and I seriously doubt that we all vote the same. Stop speaking for me. You don’t know me like that. Second, do you really think anyone is going to vote based on seeing a candidate’s name on a bumper? “Oh, I didn’t know who our next president should be. But now that I’ve seen Charles Bogle’s name on a Toyota, I’m voting for him!”

Some political stickers are so illogical as to be without meaning. Exhibit A is the classic from the Sixties, “America, Love it or Leave it.” If loving somebody or something precludes criticism, I wish someone would send that memo to my wife. Many political stickers lie outright. “All Muslims are not terrorists but 99% of terrorists are Muslim” is a good example. The majority of terrorist acts in this country are committed by non-Muslims. The only political stickers I do enjoy are the out-of-date ones. Particularly ones that support a candidate who lost. It shows an “I don’t care what the herd thinks” mentality that I tend to admire. The exception is Sarah Palin stickers. That’s just too much crazy to have on your car. I have to get off of the freeway rather than follow you.

There are tons of religious themed stickers. I think most of the religious stickers are either lame or contradictory. “I love my wife” is pretty weak for a religious sentiment. If you don’t love your wife, why are you still with her? And you can’t have something promoting God, the Bible, or Jesus while attaching a giant NRA logo to your window and expect to be taken seriously. It doesn’t take a divinity degree to understand the proper Christian stance towards violence. Jesus was pretty clear in both word and deeds about the “love thy enemies” aspect of his teaching. Waving a gun in one hand with a WWJD bracelet around your wrist is like Donald Trump waving Mother Theresa’s photo. Some things just don’t belong together. Like a Buddhist and a pork chop.

Some of the religious ads are part of the creationism nonsense. First came the Christian fish. Then the Darwin fish with legs sticker started a whole backlash of Christian fish attacking evolution. Truth swallowing Darwin like a python taking down a rabbit. And then more counterfish. My favorite is the skeleton fish with a pirate eye patch, which I actually put on my own car. The idea of special bones reminds me of my Catholic upbringing. Bumper sticker wars can be quite amusing. Besides the Christian fish, Colorado has the native stickers that spawned a lot of green ink. “Colorado Native” (which is a bit snobby) led to “Semi native,” “Transplant,” and my favorite, “Colorado Alien,” I like the double meaning of that one.

The decals I don’t understand are the family decals. They started off as stick figures itemizing (I assume) different members of the family including pets. These decals have become more elaborate and creative lately. I have seen Star Wars, the Flintstones, and aliens for example. It’s a little scary to see a back window completely covered with stick figures. Especially in light of the Duggar family scandal. I know a lesbian couple who advertised their domestic arrangement with two mommies, a girl, three dogs, and a cat on the back of their SUV. When they broke up, the flannel-shirted half of the couple carefully scraped off her rear window one mommy, the little girl, two of the dogs, and the cat. Her decal family now has gaping holes that dust and dirt stick to. Every time I see any these family decals, I am reminded of the WWII planes that had stencils for each bombing run they made or each plane they shot down. Advertising the number of dogs and kids you have seems like either pointless bragging or lording your fertility over childless couples.

I also don’t understand cars with so many stickers on them. It’s like reading a Russian novel. Get your ADD under control people. Pick a cause and commit to it. Almost as bad are stickers that have so much writing on them that you need binoculars to read them. What’s the point? It’s like publishing Hustler magazine in Braille. The whole idea of auto aphorisms is to be short and pithy. The ones I like best are those that are funny or require some thought. The first of these that I experienced was “AuH2O64” (Goldwater ’64). “Visualize whirled peas” is my current favorite. But no matter what ethical, spiritual, or political messages one wishes to express on their car, people need to remember who their audience is: drivers who are stuck behind them in traffic. If you really want to change somebody’s thinking, keep it simple, clever, and funny. The Internet offers plenty of options to express your beliefs in red light ruminations that people will enjoy reading. Otherwise, get in your sailboat with your Corgi and your honor roll student and let me pass.