Monday, January 06, 2003

Movable Type

While driving home today, I saw an SUV with two huge stickers in its back window, both in huge Gothic type. The one on the left read, "Holy Spirit Fueled," and the other read, "Powered by Jesus." I couldn't help wondering what kind of mileage they were getting, and whether they were using 87, 89, or 93 octane Jesus. And then I wondered if there might be a more spiritual interpretation, like a modern-day version of the Hanukkah story: while driving home from Vegas a few years ago, they realized they had only enough gasoline left for one more mile, and yet that gasoline miraculously allowed the car to travel the eight miles down the interstate to the nearest gas station.

Seriously, though, I'm curious as to the motivation behind these and most other bumper stickers. Are there people whose political and religious viewpoints are influenced by the messages they see plastered on strangers' vehicles? I'm reminded of an article in The Onion's _Our Dumb Century_ from 1973: "Bumper Sticker Industry Applauds Roe v. Wade Decision." The final paragraph of the article pretty much says it all: "The historic ruling means bumper-sticker creators will dictate the terms of America's abortion dialogue in the coming years. Said [Bumper-Sticker Manufacturers of America President Karl] Steinholz, 'This debate has now moved out of the courts and onto the bumpers of cars, where it belongs.'"

I suspect, as my sister suggested to me, that no one really thinks they'll change anyone's mind with a bumper sticker, and therefore most bumper stickers are just expressions of belief - commonly, the belief that "I'm better than you." Still, there are some bumper stickers I do enjoy, typically ones designed for the entertainment (as opposed to moral and political education) of other drivers. Many of these make fun of other bumper stickers, "Jeez if you love Honkus" being the classic. "Nuke the whales" was funny once, but is now tired. That's the problem, of course; the humor may be gone, but the bumper sticker lingers on.

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