Bumper Sticker Politics
by Victoria Tkachuk
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Call me a cynic, but I'm already getting discouraged about the 2008 election.
I know that it's probably too early to say anything definitive about the candidates except what we've known for a long time about some of them. I also know that this whole election drag-out fight is going to last awhile and will, undoubtedly, become dirtier and more revealing as time marches on. But those issues revolve around the candidates, who are not- at least not currently- my concern. I am most troubled by the voters.
When you don't have a car or much money, your transportation becomes your own feet a lot of the time. You walk to the store, you walk to the library, you walk around town pondering your own existence... It was on one of these regular trips that my fiancé (Nic) and I passed what has become an infamous bumper sticker gingerly placed on the back of a car:
"I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians, because they are not like your Christ. --Gandhi"
I passed it first, rolled my eyes, then wished I hadn't because it signaled Nic to notice it, too. His comment was refreshingly terse: "If Gandhi likes Christ, then Gandhi likes Christ who says Gandhi is a sinner. If Gandhi likes Christ who says Gandhi is a sinner, then isn't Gandhi a Christian? And if he is a Christian, he can't not like Christians!" And we continued our walk.
A day later that bumper sticker is still bothering me. Why? Because I can say for sure the person who carefully stuck that nonsense on his/her car doesn't know it's totally illogical, doesn't probably realize that Gandhi- despite his incontestably peaceful demeanor and public record- is a person who believes cows should be deified and provided for while his fellow Indians starve, i.e. a whack job. Worst of all? This bumper sticker displayer of lunacy might actually be a voter.
Here are some more equally upsetting stickers I've seen in my neighborhood:
COEXIST - spelled out by a crescent moon, an "ohm," a cross for the 'T'... you get the idea
COMMIT RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS AND SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY - I've always wanted to stalk this person's car, then non-randomly ask them what's so great about random kindness? How about practicing intentional kindness? Furthermore, what in the name of my cat is the point of a senseless act of beauty? In fact, what is a 'senseless act of beauty' and when is the last time the car owner committed one?
DEFEND AMERICA- DEFEAT BUSH - First of all, we had the chance to defeat him. Actually we had two chances. We either blew it, or some citizens really did want to keep him in office. Either way, get over it! He's in his last year.
Time for a confession: I used to have that last bumper sticker on my car (about 3 1/2 years ago, before the re-election). Ah, but this completely illustrates my point about the type of person who would drive around advertising their dissent! Who was I at the time? A 22-year-old smart aleck, fresh out of liberal college (with a useless degree in modern art) thus ripe for complaint. I was the most involved in the political realm then as I ever have been: I registered voters, I knocked on doors asking for petition signatures and attended campaign meetings. All taking place outside from October to January, during which months we experienced some of the harshest Minnesota temperatures I can remember.
I worked hard to convince people that my opinion on Bush and his administration were fair, honest and right. Not to mention conveniently diverse! You want to talk about how Bush is ignoring the ________ (blacks, women, college students, immigrants, etc)? Have we got a picket sign for you!
I was shown how to dismantle any argument by simply inserting a clever quip about the most recent Bush foible during a meet-the-press session. Discredit the President, that was job #1. And it was accomplished primarily with soundbites.
But when all was said and done, what did I know about the candidates I promoted for the 2004 election, except that they weren't George Bush Jr.? Nada. That's right folks, not one iota of information that would convince anyone of the legitimacy of my candidate. With one well-placed question from a more informed voter, I could have been swept out of the arena. Fortunately I never encountered anyone with more zest for persuasion than I had.
Fast forward to late July of 2007. Ours is a culture of soundbites. Bumper stickers, taglines on t-shirts and ringtones have come to say more about an individual than what they themselves could explain.
Let's entertain the possibility that American voters have always had short attention spans and fifteen-second news installments are enough for them to feel aware of what's going on "politically." In that case, American voters are to blame for their own short-sightedness as far as the President- or any other elected official who fails to deliver- goes. The responsibility of the individual American voter is to seek out multiple news sources so as to gain a more complete picture of politics.
However, the media is just as much to blame for its reliance on short clips which are then elaborated and speculated into full-blown ideologies. Sometimes a newsperson's gut feeling about a politician is correct. I'm obliged to say that when that happens it is because the newsperson has an innate sense of what is right, not because they got lucky. Though it must feel like that to some newspeople who, for one reason or another, just keep getting it wrong about politicians' motives. I can't help but mention Laura Ingraham here. Don't get me wrong; I love the woman. But she does rely heavily on soundbites from politicians and newspersonnel, which means she often gets carried away with what a clip may have indicated about someone's stance before she even knows the context of the quote. I've heard her many times, after speculating about a clip, ask her producer where the person was at the time he/she said it. However, Ingraham uses such a breadth of media sources and assuages it all with real-time, personal interviews that she dispels a lot of would-be bias.
What's my point with all this? I'm not attempting to transfer my dissatisfaction with American voters' initiative (or lack thereof) nor do I seek to blame the media for poorly representing who, what, where, when and how the events of our world unfold, satisfying themselves with ending the night's broadcast (or cover story) with a memorable slogan. I'm trying to encompass everyone in this, so I conclude by urging you to visit several websites, read major newspapers, scan periodicals, listen to talk radio and talk face-to-face with other voters before you make any decisions about the 2008 presidential election. Seek out what the other side is saying about their people, too, by visiting sites dedicated to the destruction of the American Christian nuclear family! (Oops, was that too strong?)
Most importantly, make decisions as the God-fearing person you are. As much as I pretend that I am above most of the decisions 'normal' people have to make here, He is above all... especially me.
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I posted an article last week about this Ghandhi bumper sticker. I thought it was great--not being any sort of political person, I merely saw it as food for thought for those of us who proclaim Christ. I suppose I merely took it on the surface. The background story of it, and politics aside, I think it still contains a little food for thought. At least I now have the entire correct quote--if you read my posting you know I didn't know the exact correct one but wanted to. Bumper stickers are like t-shirts--sometimes you remember the quote on them. Beth