Have you ever passed a car with a bumper sticker that just makes you scratch your head and say, "Huh?" I recently passed a truck with a bumper sticker extolling the skills of a local tattoo parlor. The sticker claimed it was "the friendlier tattoo parlor." I have never frequented any of the numerous tattoo parlors in my rural county but I wondered if the other tattoo parlors were truly unfriendly. Were they cruel as they applied needle and ink? I chuckled as I drove on, grateful for that brief moment of laughter in the midst of my busy day.
I have a weakness for bumper stickers. They are a short peek into someone's mind-set and attitude about life. Now that we are in the midst of the fifth season there is an increase in political stickers. We have, of course, the expected four seasons — spring, summer, fall, and winter — the normal seasons. But now we are fortunate to have that special fifth season upon us — election season. Each season has its drawbacks — allergies arrive in spring, summer has its mosquitoes, fall brings the first chill, while winter, for many of us, brings lower temperatures and ice. Election season brings candidates — their mailings, their incessant mailings, recorded telephone calls (I hate when one pretends to be my friend!) and annoying ads. Each of these same seasons has so much to look forward to — spring has robins and Easter, summer brings vacation time, the beach or the mountains, fall brings the colors, and winter has Christmas to make the snow appear picturesque. Election season? Why, it brings out a whole new batch of bumper stickers.
Political bumper stickers are not generally amusing but are of a more declarative nature. The drivers of the cars are letting everyone know their candidate of choice, their opinion on national issues or the government as a whole. When our current president was running for office, I especially appreciated one of his bumper stickers — "W". Clean, simple and to the point. Whenever I saw it I felt this compulsion to say the letter out loud with the exaggerated southern (perhaps even redneck) drawl that his critics often use — 'Dubya'. In the current race, I feel sorry for anyone who may have placed a Thompson or Giuliani sticker on his or her car. I imagine they've taken a scraper to them by now. But most of the drivers who have a thing for stickers don't limit their bumper stickers to mere political statements.
We are all familiar with those folks who just can't say no to a good bumper sticker — political or otherwise. You know their cars — they have local races and national ones splayed over their vehicles. They declare their love for their pets, their recent adventure to a local eatery (Joe's Java Makes Me Jump) and trips to theme parks around the country. They show pride in their local country radio stations and their faith in God who is their co-pilot. They have adhesive covering their bumpers, doors and framework. Don't you wonder, as they drive by, if perhaps the bumper stickers are not only proclaiming loyalties but also holding the car together?
Here in farm country we have stickers proclaiming, "My other car is a horse". I can handle that, but I worry about those who claim "My other car is a broom". I wonder if perhaps the driver is really active in witchcraft. Then there was my recent sighting of, "The voices in my head have some very good ideas." I try not to get too close to cars like that. Other messages are equally questionable. I recently saw a smallish sticker on the back of a trunk which stated, "Our gods will eat your god." That did not give me a good feeling about the driver. I will admit to being curious about just what that message might mean, but not curious enough to find out. I had a strong feeling it may have been an occasion of sin.
Those are the kind of bumper stickers that make me pray for the driver of the vehicle — truly. I offer up a quick "Our Father" and intercession to St. Michael the Archangel for their souls and my protection. Sadly, this can happen more than once on any given driving day. I include the owners of stickers that include profane words, immoral actions and approvals for illegal activities in my prayers as well. I also take in those stickers proclaiming strong feelings about their ex-wives and their love for fishing (or hunting or football watching) above all else. However, I especially pray when I see those stickers that declare views contrary to life and Church teachings. I used to like seeing the rainbow stickers until my husband informed me that they were not a sign of the Cursillo movement as I thought but rather for support for "same sex" issues. For these, folks I try to do a decade of the Rosary, at least, asking the Blessed Mother to protect these ignorant drivers under her mantle as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Using bumper stickers to build a prayer life shouldn't be the only way to pray but it doesn't hurt and I hope in the long run it helps. It can really benefit you as you drive. Taking a moment to say an Our Father for another driver who has decided that "God is Dead" will help you to defuse your anger at his equally dangerous decision not to use the turn signal.
I find Christian bumper stickers to be particularly interesting. I can appreciate those that are generically Christian such as "Life is Hard, Pray Harder" but chuckle at those that announce that "In Case of Rapture, this car will be empty." Really? Will God's coming really create massive pile-ups and crashes? And what about those in the car who aren't raptured but perhaps are taking a snooze in the back seat? Too many questions come from that theological view.
I do like the simplicity of the fish. I am not sure when they first appeared, but they remind me of the shared heritage we have with the first Christians. The Darwin fish (fish with feet, declaring "Truth") must have appeared soon after. Now you can see the Jesus fish eating a Darwin fish — that always makes me chuckle. My husband once noticed a van with a school of fish on the back — two large ones with five little ones following behind in a line. He promptly went out and got us our own school — two parents with 11 little fish. Prideful? Perhaps, but still cute. On the upside, I am no longer mistaken for a hotel van when I pick him up at the airport after a business trip.
I am also taken by those bumper stickers that have meaning for me but I doubt it is the same meaning for the driver. In particular, I see the bumper sticker, "Why aren't you outraged?" at my local library frequently. The driver's other stickers (against the President and the war) make it clear that he is angry at the current political situation. Strangely, I could have that same message on my car but it would have an entirely different meaning. My outrage would be towards the millions of lives lost in abortions as a choice and the continuation of a billion dollar pornography industry as free speech. Yes, I am outraged but at a much different group of societal problems.
Election season will pass, just as the weather seasons come and go. And long after the next president is chosen, the election stickers will remain. We can still see Kerry stickers (Edwards remaining ever present in our minds, long after he lost that race and dropped out of the current one). And while this season lasts, I have ample opportunity to keep up my prayers for others on the road when their political choice is not one that reflects Catholic thought and teaching. I can pray for them and reflect on my all-time favorite bumper sticker — "Some People's Minds Are So Open, Their Brains Have Fallen Out."