Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bumper Sticker Politics vs. Things Learned in Grade School | Roseburg, Oregon

The other day, in a Safeway parking lot in Roseburg, Oregon, I saw a bumper sticker that read:  Socialism is a Obama Nation.

Gosh, where to start?

Well, how about here:  Hey Bumper Sticker, ummm, don't you mean, "Socialism is AN Obama Nation"?

It was a white sticker with red font, and I had a red Sharpie with me.  Man, oh man, did I want to do a little redline edit on that sucker.   I scanned the parking lot for witnesses, and I dropped my keys on the ground so I'd have an excuse for loitering near the car.  But, in addition to learning in grade school that "a" comes before words beginning with consonants and "an" comes before words beginning with (or sounding like they begin with) vowel sounds, I also learned it's not cool to mess up someone else's property.

Golden Rule and all that.

So, I got on with my job and went into the store.  But I kept thinking about that bumper sticker.

Sure, cut school funding, I thought, you've clearly learned all you need to know.  And I'm so confident in the water-tight presentation of your thoughts, that I agree with you and will vote accordingly, Dumbass.

But thinking like that, even for an instant, felt a little bit too smug and judgmental for comfort.  Like I was placing myself on the side of the the snotty elite that some folks complain about.  And, as much as I strive to regularly and steadily improve myself, and as much as I would love to be associated with something elite (physical prowess, musical skill, or some kind of brainy something or other), I know that I make grammar mistakes all the time.  There's likely a ton in this post.  So, I dropped that line of thought.

Glass houses and all that.

Plus, it's a slippery slope when you start dismissing different thoughts and opinions based on how they look on paper.  Like, I remember learning about the Reconstruction Era in school, and how there were literacy and character tests established as a means of segregating the voting process.  Was my mocking this bumper sticker really hugely different?  In power and efficacy, yes.  In spirit?  I dunno.  It definitely felt Asshole Adjacent.  Which isn't any kind of ideal.  I don't really want the highpoint of my funeral to be, "One thing I can say about her is this:  She went right up to, but didn't quite cross over into actually being an asshole."

Not that I fear being an asshole, it's just I'd rather be an actual bona fide asshole, but for the right reasons, than a sort of "also ran" asshole for the wrong reasons.

On my way back out to the parking lot, I began to walk with more purpose.  The bumper sticker had got to me.  It just felt so confident in its righteousness, and yet was so wrong in so many ways.  It wasn't just an opinion I didn't agree with, it was wrong.  And not just grammatically.  Additionally, perhaps worse, the humor was so weak that it couldn't justify the flaws - and, THAT simply could not stand.

There comes a time when you have to engage with the world.  A laissez-faire attitude towards ignorance won't help anyone.  There has to be some kind of standard we reach for, and we need to help lift each other up.  And so, when you look at it that way, I had no choice, it was my duty as a citizen, my responsibility to society, to deface the personal property of my fellow man!

I mean, c'mon!  This was a printed sticker - someone thought it, wrote it down, typed it out, kerned the font, picked the red on white color scheme, print up a batch, and sold a few to someone who then sold it to other people.  It's staggering to me that no one in the process knew better.  Best case scenario is that there was a mole in the operation that wanted the other "side" to look bad.

And that's just gross.  The whole, I'm going to sit back and watch you hang yourself because I don't agree with you.  If there was a mole, that person missed an opportunity to share some information and make things better.  Even if it was just a bumper sticker, better is better.  Because, really, when you get down to it, we're all on the same side.  Or should be working toward that, at least.

At that point, though, none of it mattered to me any more.  I was going to take a stand.  I got my pen out, and quick-as-a-bunny, pretty-as-you-please, I was going to change the "a" to an "an" and be on my way.

But the car was gone.


Although I was disappointed, I almost immediately saw that it was better this way.  Nothing good could have come from my writing on that bumper sticker.  Not really.  A bit lame to do a guerrilla attack on the sticker.  It's very likely the rain would wash off my work before the driver ever even noticed.  No, I'm no Banksy.  Compared to what he does, my little Sharpie'd "n" would have been so low rent.  And that's never what I'm aiming for...  It may be inevitable, that might be my level, but I have to at least aim a bit higher.

And that goes for engaging with people who think differently than I do.  I can't just dismiss them.  Well, I can, but I don't want to.  I've held really ill-informed, poorly reasoned opinions in my day, and other people have helped me to see things differently, a bit more clearly.  I'm sure I'm still holding some.  And just because I'm not in full agreement with a person, someone doesn't mean I won't find some value in knowing them.  For example:  Anthony Bourdain.  He's not someone I know, but I enjoy him.  But I have a problem regular assertion that if something is slower and dumber than him, it's ok to eat it.  By that logic we can be grilling up human toddlers.  Each time he says it, I feel my blood boil just a bit.  Still, I really enjoy, like, 90+% of him.  He's a Grade A person to me.  And so, I need to work that into my real life.  I need to be doing the less-awkward, more socially acceptable version of loitering near that car until the driver returns and asking, "So...  That bumper sticker, what's up with that?"  Without getting up on a soap-box, high-horse, or grand-stand, I want to step into the fray.  I can no longer just let things lay.

Lie?  Lay?
Lie.  I'm pretty sure that's a lie.
Well, not a lie, but a situation where lie is the correct word to use.
Yep.  Yep.
Definitely lie.

Related Reading:
"Obama the Socialist?  Not Even Close" by Milos Forman, July 10, 2012