The Nation's Pulse

Bumper-Sticker Profiling

When the car ahead looks like Michael Moore vomited on its bumper.

By 1.22.07

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Add a sticker and the bumper of a vehicle transforms itself into the driver's very own billboard.

One moving billboard I've seen lately is puzzling: "Let Peace Begin With Me." I suppose that's a fine sentiment, but it makes me worry. Was the driver planning on jumping out, wrenching me from behind the wheel, and pounding me? It's comforting to know, however, he's going to suppress those violent urges and let peace begin with him. Or does this mean if he thinks non-violent, tolerant thoughts that Islamic terrorists will reciprocate and, in a gesture of goodwill, sharpen the knife before slitting his son's throat?

As I transverse the roads of the Cornhusker state I'll run into (figuratively, that is) bumpers boasting that the driver is a member of "Nebraskans for Peace," as if the rest of the state is bloodthirsty and always looking for a good dust-up. Watch out, Iowa. To get a good idea of the group's politics, let's say if Ward Churchill decided that, in addition to being an Indian, he was also a Nebraskan, this is the group he'd join.

I've been tempted to print off a bunch of stickers that say, "Nebraskans for War." As the Good Book has it, there's a time for peace, and there's a time for war. Next stop: Cafepress.com.

I still see Kerry-Edwards stickers. I could make some snide comment that the drivers should get over it and break out the razor blades -- for their bumpers, not their wrists. Perhaps they could clean off the Gore-Lieberman ones below while they're at it. But, no, in the spirit of charity and kindness, those stickers are fine. Better the rear end of a car than the White House.

Back in the 1990s I'd see bumpers declaiming, "Don't Blame Me I Voted for Bush," as in Bush the elder. I concurred with the sentiment, but I upped the ante. I picked up a "Don't Blame Me I Voted for Jefferson Davis" sticker. This one stayed on my fridge (these were my pre-marriage days in college, for the record) as my wit could have been misunderstood and I'd have ended up tracked by some lefty outfit as a possible member of a militia.

In fact, I'm not much of a bumper sticker sort of fellow. I hold to Newman's Law that the number of stickers beyond one or maybe two is inversely proportional to the driver's sanity. I've noticed lefty drivers, especially those stuck among us Bush-voting, Bible-thumping, gun-toting Red Staters, feel the need to let us know that they're here. And to inform us of their presence, it appears they've had Michael Moore vomit all over the rear end of their cars.

In the sea of stickers, there's the typical Bush-is-a-moron stuff ("Fight Mad Cowboy Disease" with a picture of the president, for instance). Occasionally those classic "A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle" stickers show up. These nicely telegraph the emptiness of the driver's dance card, and I hear they're big sellers at the Society for the Preservation of Stereotypes, Lesbian Division. Don't forget, according to another rolling billboard, "Hate is Not a Family Value."

How could I almost forget this howler? "Against Abortion? Don't Have One." Against slavery? Don't own one. Against murder? Don't commit one. The possibilities are endless.

The last time the rear end of my car sported a sticker was 1994. It trumpeted Jan Stoney, who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Bob Kerrey, the dashing Kennedyesque war hero who lost a leg, gained a Senate seat, and these days is Nebraska's primary export to New York City. Thankfully, the country wasn't so taken in by his charms and the presidential ambitions of a man who combines the humility of Joe Biden, the unscripted eloquence of George W. Bush, and the enthusiasm of Joe Lieberman were dashed.

Of course not all stickers are political. Some are simply tacky. Figures of males relieving themselves upon something. Others declaring that stuff (use your imagination, gentle reader) happens.

What I've long wondered is if folks who plaster "Bad Cop No Donut" on their cars get stopped more often. I know that if I were an officer, and there was a legitimate reason, it would make my day to pull over that particular rolling billboard. Call it bumper-sticker profiling.

R. Andrew Newman is a freelance journalist in western Nebraska.

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R. Andrew Newman is a freelance journalist in western Nebraska.