- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bumper stickers sure are getting out of control. I got to thinking about them during a recent visit to Washington, D.C. Driving along the passing lane on the George Washington Parkway, I was slowed by a car in front of me.

It was a 1989 Subaru station wagon with faded paint. The driver was driving well below the speed limit. He was oblivious to the law (slow cars right lane, fast cars left lane), and oblivious to the cars stacking up behind him.

Then I noticed his bumper sticker: “Kerry/Edwards 2004.”

I’ve been seeing a number of cars still sporting Kerry/Edwards stickers. So I read with great interest a recent piece in The Washington Post. A fair number of people are keeping their 2004 election bumper stickers as a form of protest.

Kerry folks are angry that George W. Bush won the election, and their 2004 stickers voice their sentiment loud and clear. Some folks still sport Bush bumper stickers, too, to voice the opposite sentiment.

And already we’re beginning to see stickers related to the 2008 election. The Irregular Times Web site is promoting a host of new bumper stickers to “incite a little subversion among friends and family.” Some recommendations:

“Barbara Boxer: President 2008.”

“Nancy Pelosi for President 2008.”

“Dean for ‘08 America.”

Such Irregular Times’ slogans are mild compared to the vitriol common to this month’s best-selling bumper stickers:

“No one died when Clinton lied.”

“Somewhere in Texas, a village idiot is missing.”

“Bush played guitar, now New Orleans drowned.”

Provocative bumper stickers aren’t solely the province of the left. I contacted CafePress.com, a company that allows customers to create and sell their own bumper stickers. They said right-leaning groups, such as RightWingStuff.com, produce an equal number of provocative stickers:

“Liberalism: the haunting fear that someone somewhere can help himself.”

“My child doesn’t get self esteem from a bumper sticker.”

“Animals: it’s what’s for dinner.”

It’s no secret there is a stark political division in America these days and the political dialogue has gotten nasty and even, at times, irrational. So it makes sense our divisiveness and anger would make its way to the back of our cars.

Since the first bumper sticker was created by a silk screener in Kansas City in 1931, Americans have used them to voice a variety of opinions.

During the Vietnam War, bumper stickers were as loud and divisive as today. One popular slogan was “One, two, three, four. We don’t want your [expletive] war.”

And I remember, as a youth, heated rhetoric when low-cost imports became more popular in America and steel mills began shutting down. One bumper sticker summed up the sentiment well: “Hungry? Eat Your Datsun.”

I admit, I prefer more mild and humorous bumper stickers, the kind that suggest we’re having fun and getting along:

Commit random acts of kindness and senseless beauty.”

“Boyfriend wanted. Training provided.”

“Taxation WITH representation isn’t so hot either.”

“24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence?”

“My wife ran off with my best friend. I sure do miss him.”

I fear it may be a while before we return to such levity. It’s hard to be cheerful during a war, and when there are sharp divisions over hundreds of other important issues about the future.

The best I can hope for is one day in 2009, I’ll roar along the passing lane on the George Washington Parkway. I’ll be slowed by an old hybrid vehicle with faded paint. The driver, lost in his own reality, will be oblivious to the cars stacking up behind him.

His bumper sticker will read: “Hillary Clinton 2008.”

TOM PURCELL

www.TomPurcell.com

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