Friday, January 27, 2006

one day, bumper stickers shall no longer divide us

I believe I've mentioned my interest in bumper stickers before. At times, the back of my car has been positively covered in them, but I find that bumper stickers tap into one of my great internal conflicts: The Desire to Piss Off Republicans vs. The Desire to Avoid Disapproval. Therefore, the most inflammatory statements that I've slapped on my fender have only remained there for short periods of time, as constantly looking in the rearview mirror to see if your fellow drivers are sneering at you because you tell them "If You're Against Abortion, Have a Vasectomy" is kind of distracting. And the police don't really buy "political persecution" as an acceptable excuse for running into a tree. Believe me.

Of course, this quasi-reluctance to agitate was back in my misspent youth, in a pre-9/11, pre-G.W. Bush, pre-Iraq disaster world, when my righteous liberal anger often had nothing real to anchor itself to. Now, though, I wouldn't have any problem proclaiming "Regime Change Begins At Home" or "I Love My Country, But I Fear My Government", because these thing are pretty hard to dispute in 2006 America, and I've also gained a wee bit of self-confidence since I was 17. So I would put these sentiments on my bumper now, except that these days I have a much nicer car. It's really a shame when your ideals clash with your ride.

Anyway, political statements aside, I'm always on the lookout for funny or thought-provoking bumper statements. And I will never cease to be confused by those stickers which people have gone out of their way to place on their cars -- risking paint damage and an altered fender-aesthetic -- but don't really seem have a point to them. That's why I just can't get the sticker I saw yesterday out of my head.

On an otherwise un-sloganed car, driven by a very normal looking young lady, was a simple sticker stating "Someone I Love Was Murdered."

Um, okay. That's a shame, I'm really sorry to hear it. But, uh, why is it on your car? Is it supposed to make me think twice about murder? Am I supposed to look at it and say, "Well, I was about to bash some guy's head in just for the hell of it, but then I thought about that bumper sticker and I decided not to, as it appears that murder is actually wrong and hurtful."

Do you think it was a cheaper, ready-made version of those window decal dedications people put up in honor of someone who's died? I don't really understand those things, either, but at least they're thought-out and personalized. Maybe this woman wants people to tap on her window and ask her about the sticker, so she can tell the story of her deceased loved one and therefore honor their memory. I don't know, but it did get me thinking and I suppose that was the whole point.

Anyway, yesterday morning I got to my class a little early and was talking with a couple of other students, and I mentioned the sticker to them. This one girl, who seems perfectly nice and intelligent and everything, responded by saying of the person driving the car, (who I hadn't described at all), "Were they also wearing colors?"

Colors. As in gang colors. Yeah.

Clearly, she assumed I had seen this car in the city (which I hadn't) and therefore the driver must have been in a gang, because who else gets murdered? I was really annoyed. I mean, I get it, little girl -- you're young and white and go to Penn, which probably means that you come from something of a privileged background. And I get that, while attending this school, you are likely living in West Philadelphia, (albeit the safest, most cloistered part of West Philadelphia), and that probably scares the WASP-y shit out of you on a daily basis. But I kind of think that assuming someone's a Crip because they know a murdered person just reinforces why the people who live in the rest of West Philly think Penn students are stuck-up assholes, which in turn makes you feel uncomfortable when you walk down the street in your $200 jeans and people look at you funny.

But I didn't call her on it. Why? Well, for the same reason I don't put provocative bumper stickers on my car anymore -- I just don't want to fight. I want to hate you in my head, so you can't say anything mean back to me. Some may call this cowardice...I prefer to think of it as "choosing my battles." It's all about self-preservation people, and if I could find a bumper sticker that said "Ask Me About my Inner Loathing...Or Rather, Don't" I'd slap that puppy on the back of my car in a second.

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