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February 04, 2008

Faded Flaming

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A while ago I wrote here about my one experience with political bumper stickers. I've been meaning to write about bumper stickers I see on other peoples' cars. Especially about cars that are plastered with the things.

That's easy to do because I live about three miles from the University of Washington, and I suspect that students, faculty/teaching staff and college-town groupies are more prone to festooning their cars with stickers than the rest of us. I know I seldom see political bumper stickers when I'm traveling on rural freeways and streets in smaller cities and towns.

Even in a large, liberal place like Seattle I normally see cars sporting only a single die-hard Kerry/Edwards sticker from 2004 or perhaps a sparkling new Obama one. I said Seattle was liberal, so maybe that's why virtually all cars I notice having lots of stickers have lefty slogans. Only a few times a year do I spot heavy-duty right-wing sticker plastering. Could this be because righties are, uh, more conservative in their temperament and behavior?

Anyway, from time to time I'd like to post pictures of cars I come across bearing lots and lots of stickers. Here are some shots of a car I recently spotted. The stickers are pretty faded, so perhaps the owner is satisfied his binge doesn't need up-dating.


This is the rear of the car. Some of the stickers on the bumper are kind of hard to see, so the next two pictures have closer views.



I tend to see some of the best examples of sticker covered cars when I've driving around and photography is impossible. But I'll keep my eyes peeled and camera ready in the hope of getting fresher, or at least more massive, displays of mobile political discourse.



posted by Donald at February 4, 2008


Every now and then I see a car (or truck, of course) plastered with anti-abortion stuff. And the Jesus-fish is everpresent, but I don't know if you count that. Bush/Cheney's aren't that rare either, although you'd figure even their archest supporters would have become a little embarrassed by now.

Posted by: JewishAtheist on February 4, 2008 2:44 PM

I've always had difficulty taking drivers with more than one bumper sticker on a single theme seriously, no matter whether it's politics, pets, hobby, or whatever.

Posted by: PA on February 4, 2008 2:51 PM

If I owned a car, I would plaster it with surrealist stickers that look like political statements. Something like "If selling babies for profit is wrong, I don't want to be right." It'll be my own niche.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on February 4, 2008 3:28 PM

In recent months I've been seeing more and more rear-window decals that use stick figures to show (presumably) the families that own the vehicles. Typically there'll be larger male and female stick figures to represent the parents, smaller figures of appropriate sizes, genders and numbers to represent the children, and sometimes even pet figures. I don't know whether these decals merely indicate pride in one's family or if there's some ulterior motive behind them, for instance a Christian-based defense of the traditional family. I haven't seen them in stores, though I haven't really looked.

It would be impossible for me to have such a decal on my car because there'd be no way to fit all the cat figures.

Posted by: Peter on February 4, 2008 4:38 PM

What about that old bumper sticker standby, "War is not healthy for children and other living things"? Now that's telling it like it is! I can't imagine the courage it must take to make your car wear that. Is it still on the Hit Parade in Washington State?

But bumper stickers don't weigh nothing. The weight of multiple bumper stickers adds up, damn it! More weight = fewer miles per gallon. A clear and present environmental threat.

When cars with bumper stickers are driven by fools, only fools will drive cars with bumper stickers.

Posted by: Rick Darby on February 4, 2008 5:34 PM

Yeah, the coded-Christian decals are very popular out my way, with NOTW and fish logos seemingly on every other car. Most of the "W" stickers have mercifully disappeared though.

Seems like right-wingers like the coded appeals.

Posted by: Steve on February 4, 2008 5:56 PM

Don't the multiply-stickered vehicle owners seen how foolish they look? I mean, for a teenager it's okay, but an adult? Yikes!

Posted by: MD on February 4, 2008 6:15 PM

A bumper or rear panel plastered with stickers serves the same purpose as a lapel full of buttons for me: it helps me know who to avoid close contact with.

I daydream sometimes about my own line of bumper stickers, beginning with

"Question Authority? Sez Who?"


Posted by: Narr on February 4, 2008 6:35 PM

I'm surrounded by large SUVs with all manner of conservative/Christian bumper stickers festooning the beasts. There's the omnipresent fish symbol, various pro-life messages, that annoying stick figure family collection mentioned earlier, and fading political stickers from campaigns gone by. I very rarely see liberal stickers.

Of course, when I lived in the Bay Area, it was reversed. The need to sticker your vehicle is bipartisan, I think.

Posted by: JV on February 4, 2008 6:45 PM

Just a few days ago I was chuckling over a SUV that had environmental bumper stickers on it.

I've never done bumper stickers, myself, but I've always wanted one that says "Bumper Stickers Suck!"

Posted by: Jonathan Schnapp on February 4, 2008 7:07 PM

Another common sight within the past year or so is an oversize stylized cross on a car's back window with the name and dates of a recently deceased person. Almost invariably the person so honored died at a young age. Based on the names, and on the people driving the cars, the practice is found most frequently though not exclusively among Hispanics.

Posted by: Peter on February 4, 2008 7:43 PM

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the obvious: there are so few politically conservative or right wing bumper stickers around because conservatives have learned the hard way that their cars will be vandalized by tolerant leftists, for daring to advertise the wrong position.

I didn't use square quotes because in the mind of The Left there is absolutely nothing contradictory or ironic about vandalizing others property in the defense of tolerance.

Posted by: ricpic on February 4, 2008 8:41 PM

Here in Canada, political bumper sticker sloganeering isn't as common, in fact it's fairly rare, and while I'm not exactly sure why that is, I think it boils down to the differences in the national characters; Canadians being a bit more reserved and quiet and placid; Americans being a bit more vocal and energetic, boisterous.

I've never seen a car in Canada sporting as many political bumper stickers as that Washington one. It just doesn't happen. I've only seen two cars in the last month that I can remember sported political bumper stickers; one was sporting two anti-abortion stickers; the other had one bumper sticker which simply said, "Doing my part to piss off the Religious Right", which was odd, because we don't have an organized "Religious Right" up here; I could only conclude that that bumper sticker came originally from the U.S. (as probably did the abortion bumper stickers on the first car).

Posted by: Will S. on February 4, 2008 9:04 PM

If I see one more damned bumper sticker that says "My child is a star student at XYZ school" I'm going to become a drive-by shooter.

My current favorite: "Give Peas a Chance"

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on February 4, 2008 10:42 PM

'Jesus is coming. Look busy."

Posted by: Luke Lea on February 4, 2008 11:07 PM

Hey ricpic, for one, you're wrong. As I've said, I'm surrounded by right-wingers who love to decorate their cars with bumper stickers. For two, during the last presidential election, my wife had a single sticker on her car supporting the Kerry/Edwards ticket. While shopping at Home Depot, some tolerant conservative slapped a Bush sticker, not on top of the Kerry sticker, but on the driver's side window.

So I'll say it again, the need to sticker (and apparently the need to vandalize with stickers) knows no political boundaries.

Posted by: JV on February 4, 2008 11:52 PM

Living in Manhattan, I'm so out of car culture this all comes as news to me ... I can report that cab drivers aren't using those bottles of scent-with-a-wick as much as they used to, though. I wonder why, come to think of it. Little 12" TV screens have shown up in the passenger part of many cabs though, embedded into what's basically the back of the seat the driver is leaning against. It's incredibly annoying, because the default for the little TVs is "on." You have to figure out how to turn them off and then hit the button. It's become part of the routine of getting in a cab: haul yourself in, tell the driver where you're going, figure out how to turn off the TV screen ...

I don't think I've ever regisetered the stick-figure stickers people are talking about. They're Christian somehow? How does that work? Stick figures now indicate "Christian"?

So much of life bewilders me ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 5, 2008 12:31 AM

"Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History"

Like a previous poster said... I don't want to know the owner of the vehicle wearing this banner.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 5, 2008 7:44 AM

I work in Boulder, CO, where the Whole Foods parking lot is a stickerfest. They run the gamut from neutral (Kerry/Edwards 2004) to tasteless (and nonsensical: "The only bush I trust is my own." Huh?). Almost exclusively leaning left, but I suspect Colorado Springs down the road (home of the Air Force Academy and Focus on the Family) balances things out.

My favorite: "Forget Tibet--free Boulder!"

Posted by: CyndiF on February 5, 2008 9:42 AM

The stick figures aren't Christian. They're kind of a rear-window-based census of the family; that's all it means. Saw one the other day that had a cross where the dad would have been, so asked my wife what it meant. It means the dad died in the war.

Another observation that my wife and I have made is the driver of every single car with a Jesus fish is a terrible driver. We don't use it so much to ID self-professed Christians, but as a warning to give them a wide berth on the road.

Posted by: yahmdallah on February 5, 2008 10:23 AM

That car I photographed would have been nearly perfect if it had had one of those "Hate is not a family value" stickers to complement the rest.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 5, 2008 10:28 AM

I work in Boulder, CO, where the Whole Foods parking lot is a stickerfest. They run the gamut ... to tasteless (and nonsensical: "The only bush I trust is my own." Huh?).

Not so much tasteless and nonsesical as tragically obsolete (sigh). Although on the brighter side the sort of women who patronize Whole Foods in a community like Boulder might not all be caught up in the Bald Eagle trend.

Posted by: Peter on February 5, 2008 10:54 AM

I'm going to make one that says:

No one is BORN a Utopian

Posted by: agnostic on February 5, 2008 11:51 AM

I think the reason bumper stickers stay on so long is because they're almost impossible to remove. Living in a small liberal enclave (Decatur, GA) surrounded by right wing nuts discourages me from putting stickers on my car, not that I would anyway. But my favorite sticker ever is non-political: "Is there life after death? Fuck with this truck and find out."

Posted by: Michael P on February 5, 2008 12:24 PM

Women who sport lots of bumper sticker are generally very easy. Just a first-hand observation.

Posted by: Doug on February 5, 2008 12:53 PM

"Jesus loves us all,
but he still thinks you're an asshole."

Posted by: jayal on February 5, 2008 1:09 PM

The only bumper stickers any of our cars have worn in the last decade or so have been for the local college/community radio station where my wife and I volunteer as programers. The only other one I've recently been tempted to slap on says "Buy Local."

I have noticed that the cars with a veritable overflowing cornucopia of stickers around here do have a greater tendency to express liberal rather than conservative sentiments.

Every so often I spot one small station wagon with a bumper sticker that reads "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup." Gotta love the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Posted by: Chris White on February 5, 2008 1:45 PM

Last week in a parking lot I saw an ancient VW bug with a totally color-faded but quite readable "Pope Pill and his Rhythm Ban" sticker on the rear window. Damn, they really made 'em to last back then.

Still all-time favorite: "Horn broke -- watch for finger!"

Posted by: Flutist on February 5, 2008 11:26 PM

"I didn't use square quotes because in the mind of The Left there is absolutely nothing contradictory or ironic about vandalizing others property in the defense of tolerance."

Oh, well, then that's good. That means I CAN put the "The 9/11 hijackers prayed to god, too" sticker on my car without fear of reprisal from the hordes of deists who have no trouble starting wars over some misinterpretation of a mistranslated book that was the written form of centuries of oral tradition..

Please, saying all lefties have no problem destroying the property of other people is like saying all righties have no problem blowing up abortion clinics, molesting children or stoning adulterers (vote Huckabee!).

Posted by: Upstate Guy on February 6, 2008 12:05 PM

In the same vein as some of the comments above, my two favorites of recent years have been: "I Rise From the Grave to Feed Upon the Flesh of the Living - And I Vote!" and (in Gothic lettering, in the rear window): Your College Sucks.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on February 6, 2008 1:14 PM

I have not done it yet, but whenever I see some idiot with "fuck" or "shit" on a bumper sticker, I want to put a brick through their windshield -- for the children, of course. I leave the political ones alone, but I did see an
"I (heart) Aztlan" sticker last week and would add that one to my brick list for the flag, of course.

Posted by: sN on February 7, 2008 3:01 AM

"Well, Neither Do Well-Behaved Men."

Love the "I Rise from the grave // And I vote!" entry! Classic.


Posted by: Narr on February 7, 2008 1:33 PM

I love this thread, as I've often pondered these questions regarding people who plaster their cars with this stuff. A couple of faves:

Death to all Fanatics!

Vegetarian: Old Indian Word That Means "Bad Hunter"

"Yeah, It's Got A Hemi" (On the back of a Ford Aspire)

Posted by: Jeremiah on February 7, 2008 1:51 PM


I'm one of those people with multiple political stickers plastered all over the tailgate of my pickup (most of them custom-designed), so obviously I see it differently.

Actually, when I see another vehicle similarly plastered (even with opinions diametrically opposed to mine), I have kindly thoughts toward the owner. There's something about the practice that's quintessentially American, like one of Sinclair Lewis's village radicals or one of Bill Kauffman's "front porch anarchists." I wish more Americans were opinionated about something besides American Idol.

Until the Internet ended broadcast culture's domination, aside from heavily filtered letters to the editor of at most a few hundred words, the bumper sticker was one of the few ways the average person could "talk back."

An elderly (now late) neighbor of mine fit into the same general category, although with him it was homemade signs in his yard. "Old Man Bailey" owned a gas station that was driven out of business when the city widened the main highway running through town. For the next two decades, he held a grudge against the mayor (it helped that the mayor stayed in office most of that time), and filled his yard with several dozen anti-McKinney signs fashioned from torn cardboard and magic markets. I have fond memories of Mr. Bailey. If this country had more village radicals, ornery old cusses and cranks, maybe the American public would be a bit harder to hoodwink and push around.

Posted by: Kevin "Carson on February 18, 2008 4:22 AM

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