In the process of defending the seemingly-ubiquitous “Coexist” bumper sticker, Dave contemplates the sticker and its sartorial cousin the T-shirt as cultural phenomena:
Some display simple messages that are seem to be designed to simply express an opinion (the “I Vote By the Book” and yellow equal sign stickers come to mind) and some seem to be designed to be antagonistic (like the old “Impeach Clinton and her Husband Too” sticker). I have a friend that used to have a sticker on her car that said “annoy a leftist.” Now she is a super nice and intelligent person and a staunch conservative (more so fiscally speaking than socially). Well one day she was starting a new job and got berated by some guy for being a “knuckle dragger” (among other things). He didn’t know her from Adam but made the assumption based on the sticker on her car. That sticker is one that I would call antagonistic. Sure it is funny but it is also meant to get under peoples skins more than express an opinion (at least that is my assumption since I don’t know what the person who made it was thinking). Sometime I wonder if these antagonistic stickers and t-shirts do more harm than good. They spread divisive messages into an already divided populace and do nothing more than dig people in and squash dialogue. Then again maybe I’m giving these things more power than they deserve.
I think he could be giving these things more power than they deserve. The populace would be divided even if everyone had unadorned bumpers and strictly solid-color Ts. I haven’t displayed a bumper sticker since 1995, not even the one AAA sends me every year. This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions; it means I have an outlet for them other than the back of my car. (This site went up in 1996. Hmmm…)
But I’m inclined to believe that most people shrug off these little bits of free speech unless (1) their particular buttons are being pushed and (2) at that specific moment they’re in the mood to go off on somebody for something, relevant or not.
And I’m in the mood to point you to this parody of the “Coexist” sticker, because that’s just how I roll.