I occasionally travel from north central Pennsylvania, a mostly rural, generally conservative, area to Amherst, Massachusetts, home of generally liberal colleges like Amherst and Smith. It’s an adventure in dueling bumper stickers.
In Amherst, I’m told to “coexist” with my neighbors, to “enlighten up,” to seek “peace.” I’m told to go organic and to support my local farmers. Perhaps my favorite Amherst bumper sticker was the one that told me, “I’m already against the next war.”
Just today in Pennsylvania, I was taught different lessons by different stickers. I was told to seek “peace thru superior firepower.” I was encouraged to join the NRA (National Rifle Association, of course) and to “stand and fight.” I was reminded that “All gave some — some gave all,” with the image of a soldier kneeling next to the grave of a comrade in arms. “Don’t tread on me,” the slogan of tea partiers, is a common t-shirt and flag.
I suppose these are visible reminders of red versus blue America. The America of “freedom isn’t free,” that we need to be tough and strong and assertive to defend ourselves against evil-doers, versus the America of harmony and accord to be achieved through greater understanding and tolerance.
The conservatives always seem to have the funnier stickers. My all-time favorite (seen many years ago in Colorado) is “Ted Kennedy’s Car Has Killed More People Than My Gun.”
Perhaps there’s a lesson in this. Always suspect slogans, especially those that fit on a bumper sticker. And not only conservative ones. Let’s not forget the vapid “hope” and “change” of the Obama campaign, words that were so malleable and fuzzy that they basically meant nothing. Or they meant what you wanted them to mean, which is almost the same thing.
Maybe a friend of mine is right when he expresses a wish that Americans would just shut up and stop airing their political and social views on their cars and trucks.
It is something that is peculiarly American. Can we imagine a German citizen with a sticker on his BMW that says “Peace thru superior firepower,” with a Stuka dive bomber featured? Yet Americans think little of having such a sticker featuring the image of a B-52 Stratofortress.
Lessons? I don’t know. I catch the humor in some of these stickers, but some of them really make me wonder.
America is a bellicose land: even our bumper stickers are at war with each other!