Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Am My Bumper Sticker

Here is something to ponder. We live in a land where we are, to some degree, what we drive, right? Our car defines us much like our clothes do, or our kids, or our job does. Our car is a landing page, so to speak, that invites assumptions and prejudices and perceptions. So why not use it as a place to stake a claim, to proclaim who we are?

Enter bumper stickers. No other country uses bumper stickers as a means of conveying our individual identity like America does. We have opinions and our bumper stickers are going to tell you what they are, whether you want to know or not. (Granted, this blog post may be doing the same thing, but....work with me). Our bumper stickers advise how my kids are doing in school, which politician I hate, whether I believe in evolution or miracles, what I'd rather be doing, and the reason for the season. All well and good, but why do I care that you know that? I mean, you are most likely a stranger on a highway, passing me on the right, without the slightest possibility of responding in any way to what I am professing. (At least my blog posts invite -- encourage! -- comments I will read.) So, what is it with us and bumper stickers?

I lived in France for many years, and nary a bumper sticker would be seen on the vehicles that are all, with few exceptions, so similar in size, shape and color that they do not define anything. In France, people are what they wear, or where they vacation, or which family name they bear. They are NOT what they drive. But even if they were, few would be the bumpers adorned with in-your-face stickers. Too gauche, too out there. Europeans are discreet, private, and masters of dialogue. They relish meaningful exchange and bilateral dissection of issues, even if they never resolve anything. Not to pass judgment on either communication style; it is just a curious thing that reflects on national character.

We Americans want the vehicular universe to glean, from our bumper stickers, that I am the world's best grandma. Or that there are babies aboard (even if there aren't). Or that I would be fishing if I could. We must get some satisfaction from knowing the driver of the shiny Buick behind us has taken that in. In Europe, anything that is shared publicly is usually directed at a faceless political institution, which may explain the many demonstrations that take to the streets on all sorts of socio-political issues. But tell you with words plastered on my Peugeot that I ♡ Normandy? Never.

So. Do you have a bumper sticker on your car?


  1. I voted for Busch and Cheney (are they proud to tell the world how stupid they are?
    My child measures up (how tall is the kid?)
    Caution: Baby on board (is the infant dangerous?)
    Jesus is my copilot (how can I trust that driver?)
    Honk if you love soccer (Silence)
    I love my wife (Is that Tiger Woods in that car?)
    I'd rather be... (Then get off the road)
    If you can read this, you are too close Now, that makes sense.

    Posted by: My-bumper-is-clean

  2. I do. It's the "OM" sign in hindi - and i can NEVER make it to yoga. I used to have one that said "honduras" and the GB sticker (without the european flag, but rather flag of st.george to state that I am ENGLISH, ENGLISH, not the schengen type. hahaha). But when I put that sticker on my car I was actually making it to yoga and now I just look at it and think - wish I could make it. Am I fooling my fellow drivers? That reminds me, I need to get in touch with my chakras. Great post.

  3. Ah, so here is another reason for bumper stickers: motivation. You are not speaking to other drivers but to yourself. Get to yoga!