Monday, July 24, 2006

Anti-Abortion Bumper Sticker

Can it really be? According to my own internal search, I haven't posted a Bumper Sticker Watch since this one in February! That simply cannot stand.

For those of you who weren't around for my Bumper Sticker Watches, I have an unhealthy fascination with religious and political messages on the bumpers of cars. While I keep my own car pure (save for the Autism Awareness magnetic ribbon, put there by my dear wife, who feeds us by working as a behavioral therapist with autistic children) I cannot help but admire those brave souls who bare their beliefs on the butt of their car.

So from time to time (but, evidently, not for a long time) I post an ode to some message that I see on a car. Sometime the ode is sincere, sometimes satirical. Remember, even in my most reverent moments my tongue is generally firmly pressed to my cheek.

Anyway, since I haven't posted on bumper stickers in so long, I simply couldn't resist telling you about this one.

Recognizing that I'm never again going to get above a basketball rim (for the record, I've dunked four times in my life, thank you) I've started playing tennis again. Tennis is a game that ages a little more gracefully. I'm also in charge of the cat litter in our house, which has alas been far too neglected this past week. I say alas particularly because the litter box is in the basement next to me office, so when its contents begin to, well, shall we say ripen, I notice. And, speaking of ripening, my bowl of cereal this morning reminded me that I either need to get less milk when I go to the grocery, or I need to drink a little more of it more quickly.

This created an interesting shopping list for me today:

1. One new can of tennis balls, since the balls I played with yesterday were over two years old.

2. One crate of cat litter - the litter box can't be changed without some fresh litter, and boy does it need to be changed.

3. One gallon of skim milk.

Where could I go to get all three of these items? Well, I could go to Wal Mart, but I've been boycotting them for most of my adult life. Of course, they haven't noticed yet, but I'm still holding out hope. What do you think: can one small family in Louisville, KY bring down a corporate giant? If we're joined by enough other families, yes we can!

So, I decided to go to Target. My mother tells me that, ethically speaking, Target isn't much better than Wal Mart (this is how, by the way, she justifies shopping at Wal Mart, not boycotting Target, but that's another story), but ethics aren't the only factor to consider. There's always aesthetics, and if Target takes over the world at least the world will look relatively pretty.

On my way to Target to pick up my three disparate items, a mid 90's, metallic blue Ford Ranger pick-up truck pulls in front of me. On the right side is a Bush-Cheney '04 bumper sticker. On the left is an metal Ichthus fish. (How many times have we seen those two together?!?) And in the middle? A large colorful bumper sticker, with white trim, which has a picture of a crawling Caucasian baby in a white cloth diaper, and text which reads:


Will the anti-abortion movement ever grow tired of equating abortion with infanticide? I'll admit it, my moral intuition makes me very uncomfortable with the practice of abortion. For much of my life I have identified myself as pro-life, even though I am nominally pro-choice now (that is, I think that under certain limited circumstances abortions are morally permissible; and further I think that abortions, whether morally permissible or not, should remain in most cases legal, because to criminalize abortion would ultimately do more harm than good), but I've got to say that I am morally and intellectually offended by the fundamental dishonesty of conflating the killing of an unborn fetus with the murder of a little child.

But bumper sticker leave little room for subtlety or argument. They simply reduce complex ideas to manageable sound-bytes, just like every other politically propagating media in America at the moment. Is there, then, any wonder that political discourse is so polarized and uncharitable? Is there, then, any wonder that people are so willing to believe the worst about the people who disagree with them.

Pro-choice? You're nothing better than a baby killer! Why don't you just club kids like baby seals?

Pro-life? You wish women would go back to the only thing they're good at - popping out babies and fresh-cooked meals!

In favor of affirmative action or social welfare? Why do you hate hard work so much? What's your problem with a level playing field?

Opposed to affirmative action or social welfare? Why must you continually oppress and exploit minorities?

Liberal is, in our polarized political lexicon, becoming another word for communist. Conservative is becoming another word for fascist. And all because our ideas and beliefs, as represented by our talking points and bumper stickers, oppose nuance and complexity.

No one is completely right, and most people aren't completely wrong. Very, very few of us wake up in the morning trying to come up with the most effective way to really do some harm to our culture and the people in it. It's just that whenever we solve a problem new problems emerge, the unintended consequences of our "solutions." But bumper stickers like the one I saw today, so full of misplaced moral superiority, so full of intellectual and ethical dishonesty, stifle what should be a great debate in this country. Instead of opening up avenues of thoughtful communication, they shut them down, firing up the people who are "with us" while trying to shame or intimidate those "against us."

Maybe I don't like bumper stickers as much as I thought I did.


Princess Pinky said...

Yesterday I saw a NEW Camery COVERED in bumper stickers, COVERED! I was in awe of whatever would inspire someone to deface so new a car. As I pulled closer my eyes began to roll heavenward because in the left corner of most were small fags and ribbions. It was in fact the car of an army mom.
She declared with her numerous bumper stickers how proud she was of her son. Also, she declared how wrong the war was and the best support for our troops was to not have sent them in the first place.
The best bumper sticker on her car (and I have seen it on a shirt that I really want to buy) said "Will Someone Please Give Him a Blow Job So We Can Have Him Impeached?!!"

Tom said...

I think you mean "flags and ribbons". I would be a little strange to see a car covered in small fags.

However, if one of those small fags gave Bush a blowjob that would be a whole new kind of scandal.

Troy said...

I saw one yesterday:

Annoy a Christian; Think for Yourself.

I'm trying the latter at least.


Liam said...

Good post, Chris. I'd life to riff on both the simplistic slogans and Troy's comment: People on the left and the right often mean one thing when they use the word "Christian": a right-wing fundamentalist. If you are opposed to a fundamentalist theocracy, you are prejudiced against Christians -- even if you are a Christian. If you have a progressive political agenda, you know the Christians will come after you. This is, of course, and old topic, but it can still be very annoying.

Look, I'm a Christian who was just annoyed by people not thinking for themselves!

Sandalstraps said...

Princess Pinky,

Wow! Nothing else to say to all of that.


Thinking for yourself not only wouldn't annoy this Christian, it would go a long way toward renewing my faith in a culture which has of late consistently failed to demonstrate critical thinking skills.

In other words, I'm with you.

Here's what your bumper sticker should have said:

Annoy a Christianist;
Think for Yourself.


Good to see you're back from Spain. Happy 40th birthday, even if that is a sore subject for you. You should be proud of how much life you've managed to cram into 40 short years.

I agree completely with your point about the misrepresentation of the word "Christian." Every morning I go to Debunking Christianity to see such insulting simplifications of the complex demographics of our faith.

Jerry Falwell, etc. and I may have a hard time coming to terms with this, but the body of Christ is big enough for both of us.

Everyone make sure to drop by and wish Liam a happy 40th. That's where I'm headed next.

Tyler Simons said...

There was that "Bullets First" bumper sticker, right?

Sandalstraps said...


You're right! There was that one. I wonder why it didn't show up in my internal search for "bumper sticker."

Anyway, I'm glad to see that I haven't abandoned bumper stickers for quite as long as I thought I had. Thanks for the help, Tyler.

DavidD said...

I am liberal enough and experienced enough with abortion that my position is that it's none of the government's business at all, up until an impending birth. I would leave it to a woman and God.

At the same time, I think it's just honest to say that abortion does resemble infanticide, or there wouldn't be bumper stickers like this. I understand pro-choice groups avoiding this comparison, but the reasons anyone might give to fight off this comparison are technical, maybe even legalistic. Women who suffer emotionally after an abortion are not mourning the loss of "a little tissue" as my profession used to like to say, to spare women's feelings, maybe the medical personnel's feelings, too.

One thing that makes discourse as difficult as slogans do is when people cannot find a way to agree with what the other person is saying, something in what they say anyway. Of course when the subject is abortion, a concession like this is not likely to make any difference. It's a shame. I wish I could share my experience to lead people to see that there are good reasons for abortion beyond rape and incest, but those arguing always seem to be ones who have contempt for those who would even allow abortion then. Some of the reasons for abortion are the same as reasons for infanticide in the past. Fortunately women can have abortions now instead of waiting. That may sound disgusting, but it is in looking at such disgust that maybe one will pray to God for direction instead of pretending that morality is for people to decide rationally. There are similarities between abortion and infanticide. Public discussion of that will just lead to bumper sticker talk, but in private, I think it helps to consider that.

BTW I decided I had made my last comment at Debunking Christianity came when Mr Loftis pounced on something I wrote, misreading it and saying I "admit" that he is right. It's about as bad as any bumper sticker I've ever seen. Where there is so much oneupsmanship, it really doesn't matter much what you say. If there is some real desire for discussion, I think seeing the truth in what someone else says, whatever truth you can find, is essential.

Sandalstraps said...


Thanks for your comment, and thanks for wrestling so sincerely with such a difficult and volatile issue.

As for your no longer commenting on Debunking Christianity - while I rarely comment there anymore, I haven't had your experience. I have had a few people misinterpret my comments, or simply fail to read them with any charity, but John has so far not been among them.