LC's Take: Bumper stickers

Posted Wednesday, December 14, 2011 in Features

LC's Take: Bumper stickers

While most cat lovers, including LC's loving editor, would find this incredibly offensive much of the time, the editor chose this image because she and her cat are estranged at the moment. 

by LC Van Savage

Guess what? If you see a smutty, sexist, obscene, vulgar, or racist bumper sticker attached to someone's vehicle, there's not one thing you can do about it. Nothing. And that's the truth, folks. Well, I guess you could heave great clots of mud on it, but otherwise no, you cannot legally do anything.

Want to know why? I'll tell you. Messages on bumper stickers are protected by the Constitution. Whatever the message. Yes friends, it’s considered  free speech.

When we're behind a motorcar that carries an offensive (to us) bumper sticker, we almost feel compelled to read it, right? We can’t resist. Oh now, I can hear you saying we're in no way forced to read the words, or to look at the disgusting pictures that often accompany the repugnant stickers, and you'd be right. Sure, we can pull up at a stoplight behind a car with a gross, loathsome statement glued to its back end and keep our eyes heavenward. But do we? I don't think so. I sure don't. And how do we keep our very literal grandchildren from reading all those things? And how do we answer them when they ask “But Gram, what does XXXX mean on that bumper sticker on the back of that guy’s car ahead of us?”

OK, I know what you’re thinking. Obnoxiousness and offensiveness are subjective things; what inflames me might fill you with self-righteous pridefulness. But in my opinion, some of the bumper stickers out there shouldn't be out there and please, don't accuse me of prudism. Honestly, folks, I don't have even a nodding acquaintance with that.

One sticker comes to mind, and I'll soften and slangize its ninth word. It reads "If you can see the pimples on my arse, you're too close." Now that's objectionable. I mean just the mental picture of the driver's be-zitted backside is enough to cause a fatal accident or at least an involuntary gack of one’s lunch, which can then be followed by a fatal accident. Is that bumper sticker funny? Well ... yeah. Sorta. Sorry, but that doesn't make it any less indecent.

Today's bumper stickers can (and do) display the most atrocious of obscenities, including the inimitable S and F bombs. Once so taboo they were only juicily scrawled on the sidewalk in chalk well after dark followed by the sound of rapidly retreating footsteps (mine), they're now used so casually they've lost all their punch, and have become ho-hum and completely impotent.           

Up to a point. While few of us crumple to pieces any longer when we see or hear those words and all the others, they can cause some embarrassment when you're oh, say, driving your elderly grandmother to her weekly bridge club, and you're stuck in traffic behind one of those low-life dimwits for whom filthy language is obviously high-class entertainment, so he's put a whole lot of it on the back of his vehicle. Idle conversation turns to frantic babble while Granny's eyeballs and yours, too, desperately search the skies for something to watch so you don't have to watch "it" until you can finally get away from that nasty prose.

Do we have to accept someone's poor language choices while we idly idle at a red light? Our venerable Constitution advises that we do. People who wish to festoon their vehicles with obscene sayings and sexual suggestions have the legal right to do that, and while it is our prerogative to object, we are prohibited from stopping the practice. It is the rights of the moron driver ahead of you which say they can shoot off their entitlements and be gross in any verbal way they wish. Even if it offends. And apparently especially if it offends.

One of the stickers I find particularly vexing is the one aimed directly at tourists that says, "Welcome to (wherever.) Now go home."

Who's the sub-Cretin who thought that one up? I doubt it could penetrate this simpleton's small and obviously calcified brain that the tourists are buying his or her wares, perhaps even giving him or her a job, keeping taxes lower, forcing highway improvements, giving countless employment to people, paying for services — the list of positive things tourists do for us is very long. I think there should be a law against the habitual, unfunny and rude practice of insulting golden geese. Talk about biting the hand.

I would personally love to see the abolishment of those stickers that gratuitously deal with sex and violence, and obscenities that only reflect the mental machinations of the imbeciles who plaster them onto their vehicles. They apparently also have the right to glue on racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist, war-mongering and any other inflammatory opinion statements. What a world!

When we espy an offensive sticker and raise our voices in objection to its blatant grossness, the attitude (generally shouted by drivers) is "Hey! S. happens!" And, of course, it does. But you know, I'm not entirely sure the framers of the Constitution really had any of this in mind. Maybe if the Colonials had pasted obscenities on their horse's arses, or their wagons and carriages, those worthy gentlemen would have quickly reframed. I'd like to hope.

lcvansavage@newmainetimes.org  

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