Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bumper Sticker Politics

Two months ago, Kwakersaur posted a link to an organization I'd never heard of -- Every Church a Peace Church. Two months ago, also, Tom Fox died in Iraq for asserting pacifist beliefs in a war situation. At the same time, while many churches openly supported the peace effort, too many condemned it. I was dismayed at the lack of peace orientation in Christian churches. Tom's giving of his life made me consider becoming more assertively pacifist.

So, if you've been following this blog at all, you'll know I've been writing letters to church leaders asking about their peace orientation. The replies have died off, so I'm assuming I won't be hearing from any more of them. Pope Benedict appears to have declined to reply. I'm crushed.

I contacted this organization Every Church a Peace Church and asked for a bumper sticker. Fortunately for me, they sent two, because the bumper sticker read: "Is your church a peace church?" instead of what you see in the picture. That's just a little too in-your-face for Canada. Or maybe it was just a little too assertive for me. Confrontational, even accusatory. I dunno - I wasn't comfortable with it.

So I cut-and-paste letters from one bumper sticker onto the other to make the current message, whichto me reads more like an idea or a query, something to think about or wish for. A wouldn't-it-be-great-if message or a how-it-should-be message. Getting the letters to line up was a bit of a trick, but it doesn't look too bad from here. I covered it all with clear mack-tack to hold it all in place.

And for the first time in my life, I put a bumper sticker on my car.

It seems like such a small gesture. Slack-tivism, as a friend of mine calls it. "It's the least I could do." Very literally.

But there it is on my car for all the world to see. My neighbours, my friends, dog walkers, shoppers. It's like I'm outed as a pacifist.

Every time I see it, I'm taken aback. It's as if I'm not used to it. I return to the parking lot, key in hand, and then I see it.

Bumper sticker.

For a second, I'm always surprised. Who put that there? I feel naked.

This is an army town. It's also a university town. There is one soldier in our Meeting, who served in Rwanda (and another from upstate NY who sneaks across the border to come to Meeting occasionally -- we don't even know his phone number).

My son's Cub leaders are ex-military. They would have seen my car by now. They're nice people. What do they make of it? Do they think I'm a nutcase? They always smile and talk very nicely to me. Is that for real, or is it because they've read the bumper sticker and want to show that they're open-minded?

It's been on my car for a few weeks now. Nobody has even mentioned it, not even my next-door neighbours, who are very kindly and chatty. Do people feel embarrassed by it? Are they afraid to mention it to me in case I go on a tirade?

I can't hide it because it's there.

Bumper sticker. Read who I am in five words or less.

It doesn't go away now. I need a special soap to remove it.

On the outside, I feel uncomfortable, nervous, apprehensive. But on the inside, deep down, something somewhere is dancing.


At 7:47 PM, Blogger david said...

Amazing. And I'm so glad I played a small role in this for you. Especially seeinga s I don't own a bumper to stick.

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Rob said...

Awesome Nancy! I flirt with slacktivism every now and then too. Once, I was even bold enough to put a peace button on my backpack. Bold, huh? (I don't have a bumper or a car, and I thought it a bit flashy to put a sticker on my bum.)

In any case, I had similar reactions as you. What must they be thinking? Well, the button fell off, and I lost it. That was an easy out.

My latest idea was to put some "Peace," "Love," and "Faith" decals on my bike. I think Peggy gave me the idea.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger liberata said...

Thanks, Nancy! You gave me the courage to "come out" on my blog too!

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Timothy Travis said...

My bumper sticker (yeah, I don't like them either but there it is) says "Quakers: Religious Witness for Peace for 300 Years." (Actually, that'a paraphrase, now that I think of it. It's been there so long I don't notice it, any more. Does it say 350 years?)

Other people do notice it, though, and that may be because it's in the middle between a "fish plate" on the one side and a "Darwin plate" on the other. (who says that evolution is not compatible with Cristianity?). Someone from meeting was telling me that a person he knows saw my car on the freeway and commented to him (not knowing that my friend knew the driver of the car) that whoever drove that car had a concept of Christianity that he could get behind. He told my friend he was looking into Quakers, as the result. I don't know the final outcome of that inquiry but it told me that although, truth be known, I put it on to express my frustration at and opposition to government policy (not a selfless, loving act but, rather, an ego centric one), it actually had a evangelical effect.

And I still have my "War is Not the Answer" lawn sign. As I work in the yard or shoot hoops with my daughter passers by notice it, notice us, and stop to chat. We do not necessarily talk about war or religion--it is often just an entre to meeting neighbors from two streets way.

I also need to be an "outed" pacifist if for no other reason (and there are other reasons) that it keeps me accoutable. How can I drive in a boorish unsafe manner with that bumper sticker on my car, after all?

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Friendly Curmudgeon said...

Bumper stickers can be a small voice speaking truth to power. My old Subaru that step-daughter now drives has 3 stickers: War is not the answer, God bless the people of all nations, and Thou shalt not kill, says God, as well as a Christian fish. I used to get mainly positive feedback and she does as well, although some rightwinger lectured her about just war by placing a written diatribe on her windshield the other day. I love the Magnetic sticker that says: God bless the troops/God forgive George Bush. But my wife and I decided not to sticker up our old Lexus (yes a used old Lexus, sometimes I feel guilty driving it but it was a great bargain and it runs so well.) My pickup which gets slightly better MPG than a Hummer has a single sticker, TreeHugger. I know there is a certain inconsistency there but frankly one cannot live in an old house on 8 acres in the country and not have a pickup....

At 4:01 PM, Blogger earthfreak said...


Hmmmm.... I think almost everyone in my meeting who has a car has a peace bumper sticker (the scarier ones to have are gay rights ones, in my opinion, but that's perhaps another topic)

I myself don't have a car. I do wear buttons on my coat, sometimes, but that's a moot point for a few months at least...

A friend of mine did have a guy yell at her at a gas station because of an anti-war bumpersticker. It really freaked her out. Mostly that sort of thing doesn't happen here in Minneapolis.

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Catherine + said...

Really neat blog, Nancy. I found you by way of Joe G's beppeblog.

I have a rainbow lightning bolt on my back window. I get flipped off a lot but then I consider the source and DON'T make eye contact. I also have a HRC equals sign sticker. I do have an American flag sticker next to my license plate and a turtle decal from Hawaii on the back window as well. I applaud you and all your other commentators for speaking out, however quietly and unobtrusively...we have to start somewhere. Pax to you all.


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