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Wednesday, March 30, 2005
  Why I hate bumper stickers: 2 reasons
I won’t even mention the fact that your life philosophy (at least, the part of it you find so compelling that you need to express it to random strangers on the freeway) can be summarized in 2-8 words in 72pt-font on something the third of the size of a sheet of paper. My two reasons:

(1) No bumper sticker ever asked "What's *your* opinion?" I, the reader, have to assume that you believe the statement on your bumper sticker to be so undeniably true that you will broach no argument or alternative viewpoint. After all, you're not exactly inviting a conversation, are you? Unless said conversation can be held entirely via extended middle fingers at 75mph, the implication is that your bumper sticker is Truth with a 72pt "T", and anyone who has even a slightly different opinion can go suck lemons.

Bumper stickers never express a middle ground or a nuanced perspective, let alone invite conversation on opposing views; forget considering the possibility that the driver's perspective on things just… might be… wrong. Or at least that the issue might not as absolutely black/white as it may seem at first blush? I have to assume that this is the driver's mentality, and so he/she will be less willing to have an enlightened, open, informative discussion than in having a slogan screaming shoutfest. Thanks for your input, Mr. Meat is Murder, but thanks to your stickerized personality summary I’ve already decided that I’d rather not have that discussion with you without a police barrier between us, so that the venomous spittle of your inspired soundbite chanting can fall on an article of riot gear instead of on my face. Feel free to continue supporting Calvin’s inalienable right to urinate on whatever it is you hate today, but don't expect me to pay any attention.

I do not believe that anyone’s mind was ever changed thanks to a bumper sticker (“A fish with feet! Darwin was RIGHT!”) Therefore, they are used only to declare membership in (and the un-nuanced, obvious complete superiority of) a particular groupthink. Since bumper stickers are designed to stay on your car and yell your point of view as long as possible, I assume your opinion cannot change over time either.

For this reason, I tend to believe people with bumper stickers are opinionated (not a bad thing in general) but inflexible (definitely a bad thing). Their minds are made up, and unless you subscribe to their particular groupthink, you are wrong. Not someone I want to engage in conversation or debate, whether I share some version of the expressed opinion or not.

(2) By definition, a bumper sticker assumes that my opinion is worthier than yours simply because I am in front of you. You never see them on car doors, and only rarely do you see them on the front bumper. It is human nature to extend superiority or leadership in one area to other areas in which the subject may not be fully qualified, but in the same way that I don’t particularly care about a good actor’s political views, I don’t necessarily value your opinion on whale killing more, simply because you managed to leave your house a fraction of a second before I did. Hey, I needed my coffee so I could think.

There are very few things in this world, maybe 3 or 4, that I feel that completely 100% sure of, to the point where I'm not open to even considering opposing views: most of those are much too personal for a bumper sticker (my love for my family, for example).

Not too personal for a blog, of course. But at least blogs can have comment sections.

P.S. Extra-special detention: people who “support” a cause by buying a ribbon magnet, the proceeds of which are far more likely to end up in the coffers of a magnet manufacturer than actually being used to explore the rain forest to find the cure for Projectile Soy Intolerance.

Funny enough, I hate those things for the opposite reason of the above: it's a magnet. It's such a wimpy, temporary expression of support, regardless of who the funds went to. So... fighting breast cancer is something that, sure, you can commit to supporting now, but that if the physical laws of magnetic attraction change polarity at some point in the future you're willing to reconsider?
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