Adhesive thinking

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.


  1. LeeAnn »

    6 November 2010 · 4:59 pm

    I had a guy throw a Bible into my car, I should say my moving car, in traffic, from his moving car. He was enraged about my Darwin fish on the bumper. I know this because he’d earlier been yelling at me in the parking lot.
    I think he represents your #2 option.
    Heh heh heh…#2. /Beavis

  2. CGHill »

    6 November 2010 · 5:01 pm

    At least 5.0 on the Sphincter Scale.

  3. McGehee »

    6 November 2010 · 6:18 pm

    LeeAnn, I’d say the Bible-thrower is unclear on the concept, but he seems to be unclear on so many concepts that it wouldn’t exactly be a news flash.

    Suffice it to say that the use of a Bible to express anger just seems wrong. Maybe the Bible made him do it, simply because it wanted to get away from him.

  4. Andrea Harris »

    6 November 2010 · 9:00 pm

    Was it a nice bible? Like, a King James (not the New either) with real leather binding and that onion-skin paper for the pages? I had a copy of the Bible like that — it was one of the nicest books I’ve ever owned. (Most of my books are dog-eared paperbacks.) Or was it one of those paperback versions printed on cheap pulp that they sell in the Dollar General?

    Anyway, this is why I don’t put bumperstickers on my car. Though if I did I’d have one that said “I don’t know and you don’t either.” That should just about enrage everyone.

  5. Francis W. Porretto »

    7 November 2010 · 5:38 am

    “The populace would be divided even if everyone had unadorned bumpers and strictly solid-color Ts.”

    But think of all the entertainment we’d sacrifice! Besides, I purely love the looks I get when I wear my “Nuke the Moon” T-shirt.

    LeeAnn: Don’t worry, dear. Jesus loves you anyway. The rest of us…well, we’re working on it.

  6. KingShamus »

    7 November 2010 · 6:18 am

    Bumper stickers and t-shirts are social markers, I think. They help identify the tribes.

    When I see a ‘coexist’ tag, I’m reminded why I don’t want to be in that particular group. I’m sure the same thing gies when a lefty sees an NRA sticker.

  7. CGHill »

    7 November 2010 · 8:46 am

    I have accumulated several NRA stickers, but I can’t bring myself to put them to use: something about not wanting to telegraph “Here there be guns,” I suppose.

  8. Steve Skubinna »

    8 November 2010 · 1:27 am

    I don’t have any stickers on my car, not even the ones from the police associations I donate to, which might conceivably get me out of a minor ticket. There just isn’t any message so important to me that can be condensed to a sticker that I am compelled to spread. Besides, my cars are transportation, not fashion statements or message centers. And I don’t really want to broadcast tribal markers willy-nilly anyway. Seems to me best to gather what information I can about others while keeping a low profile.

    Of course, that’s just my own personal practice. I am not above being amused by some stickers, or angered by others.

  9. Tam »

    8 November 2010 · 8:14 am

    Wearing a “Nuke Berkeley” tee shirt and a Blackwater ball cap in hippie-dippy Broad Ripple is some of the cheapest entertainment on the planet.

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