This morning, while Wes was driving me to work, we ended up behind a beat up Toyota Camry with tinted windows. The bumper was adorned with the following stickers:
“Other than ending slavery, fascism, and communism, WAR never solved anything!”
“Travel the world. Meet new and exotic people and KILL them.”
“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of anyone who threatens them.”
Then, on his gas tank, “Planet Fitness”.
My initial response was, “Oh lord, are you kidding me? I would like a bomb to drop exactly on top of that douche right now.” Wes said, “I can’t believe he has those stickers on a Camry. Should it be an F150 or something?” He went on to comment that this guy’s penis must be super huge. Like whoa.
I have thought a lot before about the things that people choose to put on their cars. It is such an odd communication method. You have very little space to put something that strangers will see for a fleeting moment. Based on this fleeting impression, people will make judgments about what kind of person you are. In the world of Bumper Sticker Communication, the answer people usually come to is “hippie” or “douchebag”.
In the case of this guy, I’m fairly certain that “douchebag” totally applies. I would even go as far as saying “ignorant douchebag”. Wes and I decided that the first sticker was the best because it was completely incorrect.
Yes, the Civil War resulted in the ending of the institution of legal slavery. I won’t deny that. However, I wouldn’t say that war “ended fascism” as there are still fascist dictators all over the place. The best, by far, though is the idea that we “ended communism”. First of all, the Vietnam War didn’t go well for the United States. I wouldn’t really list that as a WIN. And no, this is not me being liberal and saying that nobody wins in a war. I mean, we lost horribly and didn’t achieve our goals (could it be because those goals were not particularly defined? PERHAPS). In addition, communism fell in the former Soviet Union after a decades long Cold War. We didn’t bomb the shit out of them until they relented. The two countries just sat there with missiles pointed at each other for 40 years, running drills about how school kids should get under their desks when the bombs start to fall.
I remember when I first started working at my current job. I asked my boss why we didn’t purchase materials (at the time) from one of my former employers. My boss explained that a couple of years prior the president of my company whipped his schlong out on the table and the sales guy from the other company did the same and they sat there and compared whose was bigger (metaphorically, of course). Apparently, the president of my company won that contest. Anyway, this is how I see the Cold War. It really shouldn’t have had war in the title. It should have been called the 40 Year Paranoid Dick Size Comparison Contest.
So, I wouldn’t really say that war solved any of those things (with the exception of possibly slavery since the Emancipation Proclamation came out of it…but I would argue that the institution of slavery was only the beginning of the mess and that we still haven’t solved the problem of racism which is what slavery was all about). I feel like the bumper sticker doesn’t really communicate the proper meaning of the word “solve”. “Solve” indicates that a problem no longer exists after a certain action was taken. But I digress.
The second sticker cracked me up because it is one of my dad’s favorites. It’s something he often says whenever the subject of the military comes up. I probably don’t have to tell you this, but we are not a military family. At one time, a brief time, I considered doing ROTC at school for pretty much one reason: I was feeling horrifically undisciplined and thought it would be good for me to do something so ridiculously unrelenting and rigidly regimented to get me in shape and get my mind organized. After a little bit more thought though I realized that I would have to give up something major to be able to think that way. I would have to check out, at least partially, to do whatever my CO would tell me to do…especially if it involved killing people for a reason I didn’t fully agree with or understand. I knew that doing ROTC would mean being in the reserves for a certain amount of time after school, and seeing that Shock and Awe occurred on my 22nd birthday, I would have been screwed and horrified.
But the military mindset seems to come down to a combination of the 2nd and 3rd bumper stickers. Our Constitution and way of life is being threatened (so they tell us), so we have to go off to interesting places and kill the inhabitants because the inhabitants won’t just surrender (though they should because America is better).
I know, I know. I sound like such a hippie, and that’s fine. I am not a pacifist. In a lot of ways, I think that the Civil War and World War II had many necessary elements. It is unlikely that the institution of slavery would have gone away with just a bunch of talk. It is also unlikely Hitler would have thought better of killing all those Jews (and others). He had a mission and he had convinced many in his country that his mission was just. Diplomacy would not have stopped him from carrying it out. But since then, none of the conflicts have been just nor have they made much sense. As a member of the American public, you only get parts of the story. As a member of the military, you get even less of the story (unless you are particularly high ranking). The military preys on the poor by promising them access to things that more privileged people have (education, medical care, respect) and then once it has them, it leaves them in the lurch when they can’t kill effectively enough anymore. The treatment of the soldiers who returned home during the most recent war in Iraq reminded me of horse or greyhound racing. “Oh, I’m sorry, you were unable to catch the rabbit fast enough today. Bye bye.” The difference is that there is no gun to the temple. The gun is replaced with lousy veterans’ care and denial of PTSD.
Promises of great things can do away with skeptical thoughts for those who are approaching desperate. A few months ago I was driving behind another car that had the following bumper sticker:
“My Marine can pick off your honor student for 30 clicks”
Doesn’t that just explain it all? It fully admits the stereotype that good soldiers are not book smart and suggests that this is the way it should be. “While your kid is learning useful information and going on to bigger and brighter things with the power of his brain, my kid is shooting and killing people from far away because the government told him to.” Skepticism and reason have no place in this mindset. When the General says jump, you ask how high. When he says kill, you ask how painfully and how fast. To ask anything else is to be a traitor to your country. You cannot question and be patriotic at the same time. If you know too much about the world around you, it may be incredibly difficult to participate in its decimation.
In the ideal world, there would be no need for militaries, obviously. But that ideal will not be achieved as long as people (and therefore governments) embrace irrationality and faith. A people must be able to and must want to question their governing bodies. We can’t just support the invasion of foreign lands and the killing of people just because they say so. THEY MIGHT BE LYING BECAUSE THEY WANT A WAR (Remember the Maine). I know that the ideal is not achievable, but I would be happy with an ask questions first model as opposed to what we currently have.
When I see a car like the one I saw this morning, one laden with stickers showing that the person inside blatantly misunderstands history, the underlying concepts that led to the founding of this country, and a complete disregard for the autonomy of other humans, I just can’t help but wonder what they’re really doing. Clearly the guy is military, but if you don’t give a shit about people then what are you fighting for? Aren’t you just a government sanctioned murderer at that point? If you think it’s a joke to go off and kill exotic people, and think that multitudes of people in your own country aren’t as worthwhile ultimately, why should I support or care about you? Why should I respect you? Because you’ve got balls? Asking questions and defending a position in the face of ignorant hate mongers takes just as much courage as pulling a trigger from 30 clicks…if not more, because depending on where you are when you’re challenging that ignorant hate monger, that gun could be pointed at you.
So yeah, likely douchebag sighted this morning. As for the “Planet Fitness” sticker, I bet he can totes bench press 3 terrorists…on the point of his bayonet.
Wait…no one uses bayonets, do they? How about a musket? No? Too colonial? Crap.
*Insert Minute Man joke here*
Thank you, and Good Day!