Bumper stickers largely fall into five categories: humor (“My Other Car Is . . .”) bravado (“Don’t Like My Driving?”), affiliation (“Honk If You . . .”), politics (“Free Tibet”) and self-disclosure (“We’re Spending Our Children’s Inheritance”).
Yet all categories have dropped off in the era of road rage, rabid political polarization and carried guns. So many people are already angry, no one wants to set them off. Like making eye contact with a deranged person on the street or a stray dog – you don’t want to call attention to yourself or your car
Of course, years ago bumper stickers like “America: Love It Or Leave It” and “My Country Right Or Wrong” were meant to antagonize. What were people going to do if they disagreed? Get out of their car and shoot you? Today, with angry, armed people everywhere today, we know better. That’s why the provocative, “come-and-get-me” bumper stickers like “Eat My Dust,” “As A Matter A Fact, I Do Own The Road,” “Don’t Like My Driving? Call 1-800-EAT XXIT” and “If You Can Read This You’re Too Damn Close” have become so scarce today.
But humorous bumper stickers are also vanishing either because no one can take a joke anymore, no one realizes it’s a joke or people are so angry that anyone who tries to make a joke angers them.
A bumper sticker that says “I Owe, I Owe, So Off To Work I Go” could infuriate someone out of a job.
“Officer, This Is Not An Abandoned Vehicle” could infuriate someone driving the same car who doesn’t think of it as a beater.
“I Support The Right To Arm Bears” could infuriate gun lovers who think there is nothing funny about threats to the Second Amendment.
Even semi-funny bumper stickers like “I Brake For Unicorns,” “I Brake For Yard Sales,” “Have You Hugged Your Yorkie Today?” “My Other Car Is A Skateboard” and “Are We Having Fun Yet?” could set people who are already angry and “just looking for a reason” often because they are so brainless and insipid. And don’t even think of “bragging” bumper stickers like “Our Child Is An Honors Student At Tech High,” or “I Passed Chem” or “We Saw the Wisconsin Dells.”
What about “Honk If …” stickers that seek to affiliate with like minded people? “Honk If You Love West Virginia,” “Honk If You Know Jesus,” “Honk If You Believe In Extraterrestrials,” and “Honk If You Like To Snowboard”? Yes, seeking “friends” is an innocent act that should earn us good karma rather than attacks. But a quick look at Twitter shows it often does the opposite and earns us shame and vitriol.
And speaking of attacks, in the U.S. the animus between the “Make America Great Again” crowd and the “Impeach” crowd is so volatile, many are afraid to extend the argument onto their bumpers. After all, if you post something on social media, no one is going to ram you with their car.
A few years ago in the U.S., a car decorating trend emerged. Instead of bumper stickers, people attached Christmas wreaths to their bumpers at holiday time and put stuffed animals in their rear windows. Who could be offended by the attempts to be cute or celebrative? Maybe we learned from the saccharine “Baby on Board” stickers of yore. They were promptly satirized with “Baby, I’m Bored” and “Mother-in-law in Trunk.”