Symbols of Hate on the Road (and at Press Briefings)

Driving in this State of Jefferson certainly can be an interesting experience. The other day I was on Interstate 5 when a pickup truck zoomed past me. He was in a hurry to get ahead of me so that he could slam on the brakes to slow down for the Cottonwood exit. As he slowed, I got a good look at the little individual additions to the pickup truck, which gives a glimpse into the beliefs and life of the driver.

The first thing I noticed was the Trump 2020 bumper sticker. You see lots of those around here. The second thing I noticed was the Confederate battle flag mud flaps. You don’t see that as much around here. The third thing I noticed was the set of testicles that hung from the trailer hitch of the Ford. No comment.

Those three items alone could probably keep an FBI profiler busy for hours. As I drove in my Subaru, which is the group think car of choice for Enviro Leftists like myself, I mulled over why a person would have such a bizarre troika on their pickup truck. I mean, these things are done intentionally. You have to physically buy the Confederate flag mud flaps and attach them to your truck. You have to obtain the Trump sticker and attach it to the bumper. You have to fashion the testicles and physically tie them to the trailer hitch.

These things just don’t appear on a truck. They were put there as an advertisement. As a bit of social protest. As an attempt at testosterone humor. As a way to exclaim your political beliefs.

Donald Trump did something similar recently. He was giving a speech on the coronavirus and he used his ever-present sharpie to change the term in his speech text from “coronavirus” to “Chinese virus.” When a politician changes the name of a virus, you can bet the farm he did it for a political reason.

Naming a disease after a perceived enemy or foreigner is nothing new. The Spanish flu of 1918 didn’t originate in Spain. In fact, the Spaniards didn’t particularly care for the term. In Spain, the Spanish flu was called the French flu.

In France, syphilis was called the English disease and in England syphilis was called the French disease. In Russia, syphilis was called the Polish disease and in Poland syphilis was called the Turkish disease. It is quite common to name our diseases in ways that are detrimental to a perceived enemy or country. That’s what Trump is doing with his Chinese virus.

I was watching Lou Dobbs on Fox Business one night where he kept referring to the coronavirus as the Wuhan virus. In this case, “Wuhan” refers to the place of origin where the coronavirus first jumped from a bat to humans. If you remember the place name of your illness, you may not feel too kindly about that place, or country. It is a subtle, but effective, way of fomenting an insult towards a perceived enemy. It is propaganda. Lou Dobbs is no stranger to propaganda and racism — as he has led a campaign for years against economic and climate refugees from Mexico and Central America.

Labels are important. What you choose to call something matters. Thank heavens that Fox and Dobbs and Trump have not succeeded in weaponizing the coronavirus as an instrument of right-wing propaganda. You won’t find Wuhan virus or Chinese virus used anywhere in the reputable media. Fox alone uses the term on occasion but even their attempt has dissipated. COVID-19 is the name of the disease that originates from the coronavirus. We fight a disease, not a country.

As for that truck owner with the Trump 2020 sticker, the Confederate flag mud flaps and the testicles from the hitch? The labels he chose to display also matter. A Confederate flag in 2020 on a truck doesn’t mean that the truck owner is a history aficionado of the Civil War. It means that they don’t give a damn about race relations. I am more disgusted by the Confederate flag than I am the truck testicles. The testicles are in poor taste, the Confederate flag is an aggressive symbol of hate. And the Trump 2020 bumper sticker? Well, there is a reason why you wouldn’t ever see a Biden sticker on a truck with Confederate flag mud flaps.

Allan Stellar is an RN and a freelance writer who moved to Red Bluff after the Camp Fire. He can be reached at

This column first appeared in the Red Bluff Daily News.