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Before social media, if you wanted to make an instant friend or enemy on the basis of your opinions, all you had to do was put a bumper sticker on your car. America Love It Or Leave It, My Country Right or Wrong and If You Don’t Like The Police, Next Time You’re In Trouble Call a Hippie, divided the world clearly in two. So did God, Guns and Guts Built This Country, From My Cold Dead Hands and Made By, Paid For and Driven By An American.
Of course it was also possible to be antagonistic without mentioning politics. All you had to do was display a sticker that said Don’t Like My Driving? Dial 1-800-Eat Shit, As a Matter A Fact, I Do Own The Road, and If You Can Read This You’re Too Damn Close.
Remember the sappy Baby on Board stickers? They were part of the offend-no one era that included I’d Rather Be stickers (surfing, skiing, camping), Hug stickers (Have You Hugged Your Yorkie Today) and Honk stickers.
The Honk stickers were so popular, they may have been the country’s first chat room. They let people instantly zero in on like minded compatriots wherever their journey took them. There was nothing you couldn’t honk for:
Honk If You Love West Virginia, Honk if You Know Jesus, Honk if You Believe In Extraterrestrials and Honk If You Love Little League.
The Honk era also included the slightly risqué Do It Better stickers. Licensed Contractors Do It Better, Paralegals Do It Better. Many people did it better though they didn’t say what “it” was.
Also popular during the offend-no one era were disclosure stickers like Our Child Is An Honors Student At Tech High, I Passed Chem Lab and We’re Spending Our Children’s Inheritance and hokey humor like I Brake For Unicorns, I Brake For Yard Sales and My Other Car Is A Skateboard.
But preachy and belligerent bumper stickers did not go away either. Commit Random Acts Of Kindness and Senseless Beauty and Live Simply So That Others Can Simply Live stickers intermingled with Support Animal Rights– Love a Hockey Player and Stop Rape–Say Yes stickers.
Thanks to road rage, fewer people display bumper stickers today. The kind of car someone is driving, the way they are driving and the traffic conditions in general can enrage a fellow driver and the bumper sticker can put them over the edge. Especially dangerous in the era of road rage are bumper stickers that attempt to be funny but could be taken the wrong way.
I Owe, I Owe, So Off To Work I Go (At least you have a job, you ingrate!)
Officer, This Is Not An Abandoned Vehicle (Oh, yeah? I drive the same car!)
I Support The Right To Arm Bears (There’s nothing funny about threats to the Second Amendment!)
Why Are You Following Me? (If I could pass you, I would you!)
In fact, the only safe bumper stickers today are probably Support Mental Health Or I’ll Kill You and I Didn’t Take My Meds Today. Neither one requires a If You Can Read This You’re Too Damn Close” bumper sticker.
Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).