"War is not the answer," said the bumper sticker. I nodded my head. A lovely sentiment. Then I had a little thought. The sticker had the guts to lay it on the line, I thought it might be an invitation to dialogue. I said, What if the question is: How do we stop Hitler from slaughtering Jews and taking over countries? In that case, I thought, war is the ONLY answer. I don't care if it's a cliche. And what if 13 colonies declare independence with an eye toward inventing freedom, and the oppressive tyranny of the motherland decides to kill them until they submit? Seems to me war is the answer again. Perhaps Mr. Bumper Sticker made a rash, preliminary statement? "Look, I'm stuck here. I can't change. I have to be the truth." I couldn't make sense of the logic. And before I could ask another question, the light changed and he drove away.
I couldn't have been happier to come upon the Jesus fish on the freeway, I'd been meaning to ask if he remembered when he was secretly drawn as two arcs in the sand by the feet of Christians scared of being killed for their beliefs. I thought it was a little degrading to see him so close to exhaust and roadkill. But he couldn't answer. He seemed to have something stuck in his craw. In fact, he was chewing on something. A little version of himself, but with feet. "I'm the Darwin fish!" screamed the poor little guy. "All I wanted to do was co-opt his symbolism and insult his religion! What's his problem?" His problem, I thought later, is that he should never, EVER have put you in his mouth. The only thing more petty and childish than the first cheap shot is throwing the second punch. (I guess turning the other cheek doesn't apply to bumper sticker melodrama.) At any rate, I couldn't think what his problem was at that moment. I was too curious. Who made the Jesus fish with the little feet and called it Darwin? I mean, I think it was certainly small minded, but it is a pretty clever pun. "Oh, no one came up with that idea! These feet just grew here by themselves."
Which reminded me of another conversation I had, with a bumper sticker that compared evolution to gravity with the intention of discounting the existence of a supreme being. This one I really wanted to address. His stereo was up really loud so I tried to come up with some kind of sign language that said: I believe in evolution! Absolutely I do. I congratulate you! But it is still officially called the Theory of Evolution, whereas Gravity has long since been elevated to the status of a LAW of nature. Like thermodynamics, entropy, etc. You are discounting your argument with what might be a simple oversight! Obviously, the effort was doomed. The sticker just gave me an enthusiastic "thumbs up." I shook my head no. It was not good. I sank into a quick, but nonetheless bleak depression, thinking about a great movie I had just watched on String Theory (The Elegant Universe, check it out) wherein scientists gamely admit to working their brains out and then simply forging forward (by faith, essentially) where their knowledge breaks down, accepting that true scientists can only believe the latest thing going, which is the next thing to be proven wrong. I wanted to try and shout above the noise, and ask if he was perhaps acquainted with the brilliant scientist who told me: Science will never prove nor disprove the existence of God. We will never see him in any telescope. We will never write an equation that dispells him. The question is outside the province (or "providence" if you are Justice Sonya) of the scientific process. Be wary of anyone who crosses the ideas of Science and God with the goal of disproving one or the other. By then I had to turn right, towards the supermarket. As I signaled the turn, I remember distinctly hearing the words of the song blaring from the vehicle in question: "I am ignorant! I accept conventional wisdom on blind faith! (La la la.) Which makes it religion or worse but don't tell me that! (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)"
Well behaved women rarely make history. Or so the lavender bumper sticker seemed content to proclaim endlessly to anyone who dared to look upon her. I instantly agreed. But, as you have already deduced, I have a problem. Can't seem to simply agree with anyone. (If it makes you feel any better, it happens even when I agree with myself.) She was parked at the video store, so I knew I could have a real conversation with this one. I started small. What about Mother Theresa? She seemed pretty well behaved. She behaved herself right into the Nobel Prize. She said nothing. What about Emily Dickinson? She's the most amazing woman who ever lived. Sure, she boldly stopped going to her father's church, and then stopped going out into society at all, but, OK, maybe I see your point a little bit. Maybe you're one of those people who means "Political hay" when you say "History." In that case, wait a minute! Well behaved men have rarely made history either! Why not just say "People" for feminism's sake! In other words, what is your point exactly? Is your lovely font going to rectify some great wrong--inspire some young girl to stand up and tear down the sexist patriarchy that currently tells her to grow up and be whatever her brains and will can achieve? Who in legitimate American discourse is currently demanding that women "behave?" I waited some time for an answer. I thought the sticker was going to say "I'm left over from the late sixties. But believe me, there are people who still need to hear this." I'd have taken that. Instead, she sat there mute, her lavender turning an angry red.
[Editor's Postscript: There are millions of unsung PEOPLE in history, Ms. Bumpersticker, whom you might derisively lable as "well behaved," who poured their whole soul into being decent, hard working parents, who raised noble, hard working children, who helped others, baked great bread, kept clean homes, told delightfully bad puns, and basically made the world go around.)
For a moment, I felt a little foolish for trying to engage in any way with something so futile as a permanent statement of philosophy or belief on the bumper of a car, with anything so infantile as a punch in an ideological fistfight that takes place in tiny letters just above the place where the carbon monoxide comes out as you drive by. I decided to live and let live. And to keep my eyes on the road.
Then Calvin drove by, peeing on everything. Then praying to things. Then peeing on everything again. I love Calvin and Hobbes very much. I consider it one of the greatest works of modern literature. I saw Watterson clamoring in his grave. I mourned for humanity. I gave up. I decided I would have my car fitted with a weapon that would fire a stupidity seeking missile at any one with Calvin peeing, (or anything dirty, like the one I saw that said "Save a mouse, eat a p*ss%.") I said: I will avenge you, poor, bastardized Calvin! I will bring destruction on these vile masses. I WILL EXTERMINATE ALL BRUTES!"
Then I realized where that came from.
Truly the Heart of Darkness is our own soul.
But I still blame the bumper stickers.