I’m not sure who first started this trend of tattooing personal beliefs on the back of a car.
It used to be parents of honor students or owners of terriers or fans of the Raiders would reserve their bumpers as a display-case of pride, but lately, this honored spot has become a soapbox. Maybe it’s the free advertising. Maybe there’s a sticker surplus. Most likely, it’s because the Raiders no longer have fans.
No opinion of mine has ever been changed by a bumper sticker. I can’t remember ever following a sticker on the freeway and thinking, “Gee, NO-bama. That’s pretty clever. I’m changing my vote.” Conversely, I’ve also never re-contemplated circumcision after tailing my high school English teacher’s 1979 Datsun.
But bumper stickers have nothing to do with political conversion. They secretly serve the same purpose as gray and blue uniforms. We adorn our bumpers so everyone around us will know how we think, and thus they’ll see us standing at the pole we most want to represent. If we want to be viewed as a conservative, we “Support Our Troops.” If we’d rather be seen as liberal, we seek “Change and Honesty.” Problems ensue when a liberal wants to support the troops, but doesn’t support a war, or a conservative thinks change and honesty sound like good things, but her family says that means hating babies.
We are unknowingly fighting a war, and the enemy isn’t hiding in a country that ends in Stan. Polarization’s a deadly enemy. Take the recent D.C. incident. President Obama was addressing various Suits about plans for healthcare reform, and after stating that, contrary to popular Republican opinion, his new plan would not insure illegal immigrants, a brash Senator from South Carolina by the name of Joe Wilson yelled out, “You lie!”
Now, the issue here does not concern the accuracy of Rep. Wilson’s statement, but rather the appropriateness of its delivery. To some conservatives, he was Paul Revere, flying in the face of authority to stand for the right (no pun intended). To some liberals, he was more like Stonewall Jackson. Personally, I think Rep. Wilson thought he was in the Maury Povich audience (“Is He My Baby’s Daddy?”).
And what about Obama’s recent Nobel Prize? Do you blindly hate him for receiving an award Fox News tells you he doesn’t deserve? Do you blindly love him for standing as the medallion-draped figurehead of your Democratic party? Are you somewhere in the (gasp!) middle?
Let’s remember Dr. Seuss’s tale of the North-going Zax and the South-going Zax, who meet face to face in the Prairie of Prax. Neither Zax accepts the fact that he might have to move over to let the other one by, thus halting his own progress. They stand nose-to-nose forever, neither one getting to go where he wants, while freeways and skyscrapers go up around them.
We can continue stretching ourselves until we snap. We can take our ball and go home. We can dig deeper into our political trenches, or we can crawl out and (gasp again!) compromise.
Political polarization represents a self-defeating war being fought on American soil. Be a part of the peace talks. Remember that everyone carries a different set of formational experiences. Don’t assume a religious affiliation directly correlates with a political party. Bear in mind that sometimes, there are gray areas. Take a moment to understand why your left-or-right-leaning neighbor leans left or right, instead of deciding what you think of your neighbor when you discover his leaning.
Please, don’t be a Uni-directional Zax. The All-Terrain model is much more fun.