Friday, July 31, 2009

Does your car SAY something about you?

"Hope>Fear: Barack Obama 2008"
"How's that Hope & Change Working Out For You?"
"the child being aborted has no-choice"
"Driver carries only $20 worth of ammunition"
"Drive a Hybrid...I need the gas!"
"Nothing dumber than driving a Hummer."
"Stop, Drop, Roll will not work in Hell!"
"Have you hugged an Atheist today?"
(These phrases were all found on

Aren't bumper stickers entertaining? When I'm stuck at a red light behind someone whose vehicle is covered in bumper stickers, I love having something to do other than just breathing exhaust fumes.

My car is bumper sticker-free though. Honestly, the biggest reason I've never used bumper stickers is because I don't want to ruin my paint job. But in reading this post from Call Me Cate recently, I realized I have another reason for not using bumper stickers...specifically stickers that address emotional issues like politics, religion, abortion, etc.

In "real life" I think most of us can have friends who have opposite views from us on these issues. We can sense whether that person is respectful of us and our views, whether they are trying to force their views on us or not, etc. I know I'm always happy when I can have a respectful friendship with someone even though we disagree--it makes me feel like I'm NOT living in a bubble full of only people like me.

The problem with bumper stickers about such emotionally-charged issues is that there is very little nuance in a bumper sticker. Fellow drivers are being invited to make judgment calls. "That car must have someone in it who holds wonderfully high moral standards, and that one must contain a non-showering tree-hugger atheist." Or, "That car must have a closed-minded religious fanatic in it; that other driver is a sensitive, reasonable conservationist." (And that's two very different people, looking at the same two cars!)

Emotionally-charged bumper stickers invite those who agree with us to feel connected to us...and they invite those with opposite views to sneer in disgust. I've never heard of someone reading ten words on a bumper sticker and saying, "Oh, you're right! I think I'll alter my view on (religion, abortion, politics, gay marriage, etc.)!"

So I'd prefer that I tell people what I believe (when it's appropriate, and in a respectful way) instead of letting my car do the talking for me.


Angela said...

I have bumper stickers on my windows. I proclaim myself to be a Parrothead (dancing parrot), Apple fan (Apple logo), and Star Trek fan (Enterprise sticker). I stay away from anything too political. Although, I did have a Kirk/Spock 08 sticker during the campaign. They're building a safer Federation.

Kara said...

We only have some alumni stickers on our car (and they won't be replaced when this car gets traded in, but we bought the car when we were just out of college). Not only do I find political bumper stickers off-putting (whether I agree with the general view or not), but I can't imagine what good comes of proclaiming your views to the world in such a succinct and (usually) combative way.

Anna said...

when I was a teenager I was a proclaimed vegetarian (hard to believe I know), so I had a "don't eat animals eat people" sticker on my car and I actually got someone who left a nasty note on my windshield for it!

Shannon said...

I have vinyl stick figures of my family. The only thing that tells people is, "He likes to golf. She likes to read. They have a curly haired girl and two cats, one of which is fat." I agree in the fact that I do enjoy reading the bumper stickers, but I do not choose to air my dirty laundry that way. Sometimes I actually feel embarrassed for the driver because they can be so offensive. I'm dreading the day J is learning to read and asks what one of the more offensive ones mean... Happy Friday!

Lindsay @ Makely said...

Given my background, I will put a political bumper stiker on my windwow, but always of the "Obamma 2008" variety. I never put anything with a snarky slogan or anything.

I'm so glad you posted this. In fact, some of these bumper stickers make me want to jump out of the car and strangle people. I had a lady at the grocery store being really judgy to me because I bought Zack a bag of M&Ms (that he had earned through chores and good behavior), and when I saw the car she was driving, I almost rammed her.

Sorry for the rant!

silver star said...

I'm also guilty of making first impressions based on bumper stickers. Back in the day, I was known to flip off drivers for their choice in bumper stickers. I have more restraint now days.

Call Me Cate said...

My car has no bumper stickers, no vanity plates, no identifying remarks. The way I drive, the last thing I need is to cut someone off and then have them slash my tires in a parking lot when they recognize my car.

Joe had a campaign sticker on his car during the election. He also has an alumni sticker and one of those circle stickers for Ireland. But he drives a Prius and sometimes that's enough to make people angry.

Barga said...

You know, I once saw a sticker that said "chose life, your mother did". I thought it was a good sticker, until I realized that the logic was the exact same as "Beget with your father, your mother did". That shot it in the foot

(tried to find a word that was acceptable)

Barga said...

As for my car, I have 5 bumper stickers:
-Support Gamers ribbon
-Students for Strickland
-NOAA Marine Student sticker
-"come to the dark side, we have cookies" (mother keeps trying to take that one)
-A Jesus fish that says N'Chips in it.

That is it, nothing really too political (save the one) and everything is funny and fun.

I used to have a darwin fish, but somebody took it

However, I see nothing wrong with having your views on your car. It is no different then debating them with friends, which is perfectly healthy. Hell, most of the cowriters on my site are friends and have different views. As long as you don't get personal, tis cool

Anonymous said...

I admit to having some stickers on my car. It came with a few, which we removed, but we did keep the one in the corner that says "God". Just that, nothing else on the sticker. It states it plain and simple, and doesn't actually tell people my religion other than it's one that believes in God.

I also have two vinyl stickers, one from the NSTA (National Science Teachers Assoc.), the other from the Sierra Club (a conservation organization).

The political one we have is just a campaign sticker with just names on it.

I see nothin wrong with bumper stickers as long as the users realize children could be reading them. I've seen some pretty nasty ones that are just offensive.

Anonymous said...

I agree totally, Beth. If I'm going to express such important opinions to someone, I'd rather do it in a conversation. I have to admit, that I sometimes hope I'll have an opportunity to see the person in the car in front of me, after I've read their bumper opinions. The one that always sticks in my mind is the normal-looking young guy in a pick-up who had a bumper sticker that said "Jesus hates me." I can't imagine the thought process that went into wanting to express that opinion to fellow drivers!

beckiwithani said...

Good post! I like Angela's type of bumper stickers. We don't particularly want to ruin our paint job, like you -- but we did have a Patriots football-helmet-shaped magnet on our car till someone stole it. Magnets are safer to the paint, but prime bait to passers-by with no impulse control...

2cats said...

I too have my bumper stickers in the window. Just resting between the wondow frame.
Mine say:
Legalize cigarette smoking.


2 differetn windows.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog very much. I have read, understand & appreciate all the comments. I can also tell you that the only reason my son is alive is because his birthmother was en route to her abortion appointment and got stuck in traffic behind a white minivan with a "Choose life, your mother did" bumper sticker. She was late for the appointment & changed her mind.

I know the odds are great against any of us changing our well-thought out stances, but I try to read bumper stickers to enjoy what the flip side of the coin might look like in a snapshot. Keep writing!