A Bumper Sticker Collage

A collage of bumper stickers in Great Barrington, Mass.
A collage of bumper stickers in Great Barrington, Mass.  Photo by the author.

A sequel to our recent article, Dueling Bumper Stickers

I remember making collages in grade school; they were always good fun.  I came across this collage of bumper stickers yesterday at the Gypsy Joint Cafe in Great Barrington, Mass.  (They make scrumptious sandwiches and salads, by the way.)

It’s a representative sample of sentiments that are common to progressive places.  (But note the “Don’t mess with Texas,” which is representative of, well, Texans.)

It’s hard to argue with “Teach Peace” or “Peace Is Patriotic.”  “Folk the War” is pretty straightforward.  And I do like the idea of living the life that I love.  And I hope that the more I know, the less I need.

Now I need to find a similar collage of conservative stickers.  Will those stickers be as idealistic, as upbeat, as focused on sustainable food and education and music and peace?

I’m betting not.

W.J. Astore

Dueling Bumper Stickers

Coexist_by_Chima1B52SuperiorFirepower

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!

W.J. Astore