I admit, bumper stickers ruin my commute. There is something about them that bristle me to the core, driving me ranting mad in my truck. I roll my eyes at the moronic stick figure family collage which descends to include pets all garbed in the standard Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Zombie motif. Bumper stickers inspire a combustible rage inside me that is completely irrational.
I try to laugh and shrug off this neurotic quirk of mine; this anger is so out of character for me. I have a fuse so long my backbone is questioned from time to time. I don’t have strong feelings about whether the driver of the car in front of me is a dog lover, Dodge lover, “13.1” half-marathon runner, or YETI cooler owner. You do you. Live your life. It’s the ridiculous superficiality of bumper stickers that sends me over the edge. I mean, has your life really been so impacted on the cold efficiency of a YETI that you are now marketing the brand everywhere you go? Are you telling the world your cooler has turned into a lifestyle?
I can’t comprehend the desire to advertise these small inconsequential elements of our lives. “I (heart) labradoodles.” Really? Someone honestly spent the time to decide this is how the world should see them, shopped, bought, and adhered this sticker in the perfect place on the back of their car just so. Why? What is the desired reaction? Is someone supposed to be behind you in traffic and say “Oh, how interesting I heart labradoodles too!” or, “That person is really enthusiastic about the breed of their pet. They must really know a lot about dogs to forsake all other breeds.” Why should I care what kind of dogs the blue Volvo driver likes?
Before anyone says it’s about personal identity and the greater attempt to individualize from the masses, I must argue. If it was personal, it wouldn’t be on the back of the vehicle where they never see it. It’s designed for other drivers to read and acknowledge, for better or worse. As for individualization, these are literally prefabricated, cookie-cutter labels that companies mass-marketed for them to hang on their identity.
Then of course there is “Salt Life.” You know who you are, you Floyd and Bartow County beach bums. Are you really living the salt life 300 miles from the nearest ocean? I’m happy that these individuals had fun on vacation. I hope they reconnected with a part of themselves that had been lost in the daily grind back home.
Perhaps even they vowed to keep that laid-back attitude they discovered at the beach close to their heart but living in the Appalachian Mountains, “Salt Life” is more likely a mention of dietary habits and an inclination toward high blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s hard to comply with the delusion that a bumper sticker equates to oceanside living. Do you blame me for the seething urge I have to scream?
If I look back in time, I can pinpoint the exact moment I developed this gut-filling hatred for bumper stickers. Years ago, when I first moved to Rome, I was stopped behind a minivan waiting for the red light to turn green. This minivan had a huge yellow and black caution sticker that read, “WARNING! In case of Rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned.” It struck a chord, and something snapped! Having grown up in Salt Lake City, Utah, an area that is predominantly Mormon and notoriously self-righteous, I was well accustomed to the notion that heaven is for club members only.
What irritated me about this bumper sticker was the implication that I would be there—during this Rapture—thinking Why isn’t this van moving? Instead of being called to heavenly glory alongside them, I’d be sitting like some accursed goat waiting for the end of existence. I was so disappointed; I moved across the country and was faced with the same elitist zealotism I hoped to leave back in Utah.
These days, the rise of bumper stickers in the political arena is pushing me to snap. Look, there is no way any of our elected officials will make everyone happy. It’s a statistical fact that I voted for another candidate than many others on the road; regardless, the hate speech needs to stop. I’m not suggesting any infringement on the 1st amendment, but not everything that can be said should be. The political ultimatums—left and right—are hard to reconcile to my ideals that our democracy is a light in the world. It’s tempting to shelve this idealism and become a pragmatist, but I can’t bear to lose faith in the value of the republic and the founding principle that the majority rules.
I fight the urge to mutter profanities at messages of hate and violence toward people holding office pasted on the back of someone’s vehicle. Do people realize their bold words are the realities for authoritarian nations around the world? We would be so lucky if the bumper stickers kept to the clever subtly of “Let’s Go Brandon!” Unfortunately, many of the bumper stickers are much more brash and incendiary. What these stickers are saying is: those who oppose your politics or ideology should be persecuted.
Who made you so important? The line of socially responsible behavior is dissipating as emboldened trolls stroke their egos with vulgar and controversial language, and we are being expected to brush it off as joking. “Ha-ha, political retaliation and social persecution is fun! #Putinprinciples101.”
I know my reaction to bumper stickers is a bit over the top, but so is the self-obsessed culture we live in. Me, me, me: look at me. Hear me out. Pay attention to how interesting/unique/important I am. In our narcissist (stick family bumper sticker) society we exalt ourselves; sharing our ideas, shouting our opinions, and deluding ourselves that our homogenous social bubbles confirm our perspectives and make us right.
I’m bored of the one-sided prattle. Where is the discourse? If someone is dead set on putting a sticker on their car, make it be a revival of the eighties classic, “Honk if you’re horny.” Crude? Perhaps. However, one can’t argue it’s genuine. It says, “Let’s have a conversation.” It says, “Enough about me, how are you feeling today?”