Among the Intellectualoids

The Politics of the Carpool Lane

Honk if you think those parents are guilty.

By 1.17.14

Send to Kindle

My son takes a bus to school, but my daughter does not, and the carpool lane where she and I pass several minutes every weekday morning creeping past traffic cones to whichever teacher has Door Duty at the school entrance can be aggravating. Other parents tend to drive carefully, and we’re all pretty good about making allowances for children who disembark slowly, hefting backpacks that look big enough to hide their siblings. Aggravation, when it happens, is usually triggered by the decals on other vehicles.

Its Euro-socialist pedigree notwithstanding, my 15-year-old Volvo is not one of those cars adorned with a “Coexist” bumper sticker. Like fellow Spectator contributor R.J. Moeller, I do not see the point of mixing secular and religious iconography in head-scratching (not to say “dumbass”) ways. Even so — and despite an antipathy for almost every political program our president stands for — I made peace with both the “Coexist” sticker and with the false sunrise of the Obama logo two elections ago. One of them is incoherent, and the other does not seem so grandiose if you think of the stylized sun as a grow light in close-up. The red, white, and blue in its proper context means “this is your country,” but the red, white, and blue in Obama for America’s agricultural tattoo means “This is your country run by the Choom Gang.”

It may not be fair to subject bumper stickers to the same level of scrutiny that longer arguments get, but thinking has to start somewhere. Six years into the most deliberately divisive administration in American history (Both Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln had more humility), I’m beginning to think that the only effective strategy for conservatives must be Churchillian: We shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds; we shall fight in the fields and in the streets — and it is only by doing so that we can give peace a chance, beset as peace currently is by state-sponsored envy and intolerance.

Yesterday morning’s carpool reverie ended when I noticed that the minivan in front of me had bumper stickers at odds with each other: “Wag more, bark less” one said. Amen to that, I thought, but not to the sticker next to it: “The president is not a foreign-born socialist giving away free health care. That would be Jesus.”

Well isn’t that special. Barack Obama is doing the Lord’s work — and not just inadvertently, but by design. Quotation marks do not exist anymore, straw men are xenophobes, “subsidized” now means “without cost,” and every stinking jot and tittle of the Affordable Care Act advances the Kingdom of God, complete with contraception and abortion. Glad you cleared all that up, Mr. Genius Sticker Maker. Somebody ought to tell Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor. As rhetoric goes, your handiwork is a bad amalgam of Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Lord of the Rings (“Badges? We ain’t got no badges!”), but failure to cite evidence for an invidious comparison does not often fool me. The Elvish blade of my education glowed blue near that bumper sticker, as my high school debate coach had known it would.

Consider that sticker as a cultural artifact, and what an artifact like that says about its fans. Some people, bless their hearts, slept through lessons about “separation of powers” in American government. After that, they missed a flotilla of well-documented problems with “liberation theology” and how its “social justice or bust” ethos always ends badly for the already powerless. It’s Low Information Voting, writ large. Now some of the same people aim to improve on Peter’s answer to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” as recorded in Mark 8:29 and Luke 9:20. Lucky for the rest of us that Peter said nothing about Jesus being a Socialist, and his answer to that all-important question about Christ’s identity was ratified by God.

Shall we box Jesus into political categories, passing up the Messiah for a kinder, gentler Che Guevara? No thank you. I know there’s precedent for that kind of thing (In the Palm Sunday liturgy of the Catholic Church, the whole congregation shouts for Pontius Pilate to release Barabbas rather than Jesus in observance of the first-century Roman custom at Passover, but that’s a scriptural exercise meant to stimulate soul-searching, not — one hopes — a paraphrase of any recent Democratic Voter Guide).

The carpool line might not do much for my blood pressure this year.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Patrick O'Hannigan is a writer in North Carolina.