Why do people use bumper stickers?

That’s just something that randomly occurred to me the other day while stuck in traffic. The car ahead of me was festooned with the usual array of colourful stickers proclaiming support for some cause or the other. The first thing that came to mind was “Why don’t I have any bumper stickers on my car?” The second thing, however, was “Why should I put bumper stickers on my car in the first place?”

On some level I wonder if it’s an American thing. People here tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves, so to speak – they’re outspoken and more than willing to tell you what their position is on any given issue, regardless of whether you asked for it or not (this is particularly obvious on the Internet where you don’t have to worry about the consequences of saying stupid things in the presence of other people). You see this all the time, what with the yard signs, flagpoles and of course, the bumper stickers.

And I guess my problem is: why are you making it even easier for me to judge you without even meeting you?

People describe me as almost annoyingly diplomatic – I try to go out of my way to not offend people and I do my best not to have preconceived notions about people I’ve met for the first time. I don’t think I’m terribly successful with the latter but all I can say is that loudly proclaiming your support for/against some political cause doesn’t really help me or anyone else in getting a decent first impression of you. In addition, I think the sort of person who decides to open with all their political/ideological stances when they first meet you is probably not someone I want to spend too much time with.

Case in point – I was driving in downtown Seattle earlier this year and I saw a car ahead of me with a piece of paper taped to his rear windshield with some lame missive about Obama or something. That immediately spoke volumes to me about what sort of person he might be, not to mention convince me of his stupidity in blocking his rear visibility in order to spout some inane political talking point.

And because of my own biases I even start judging them then and there! Like if I’m stuck behind some guy on the freeway with a bunch of, say, anti-Obamacare bumper stickers on the back of his truck I do find that I start to nitpick the way he’s driving, perhaps unreasonably so. “Oh look, he changed lanes without using his signal! Of course he would, he doesn’t care about the well-being of the public!”

I also guarantee that no-one has ever had their mind changed on a subject by a bloody bumper sticker, of all things. If my positions on anything were determined by my daily commute my life would be a mess of epic proportions. If you feel the need to convince people of things, how about talking to them? Not over the Internet though, that always leads to disaster.

That said, I have nothing against bumper stickers with funny quips on them. I can at least see the value in reading something while I’m stuck in traffic. Or, I suppose, stickers that claim affiliation with some school or the other. I don’t think it’s possible to be offended if you feel it necessary to tell people which college your kids go to.

Unless your kids go to a different school, or something.

Me? I think I don’t use bumper stickers because I like the way my car looks without them. Maybe I should put that on a bumper sticker. Which I won’t use.

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