I took a little road trip this past weekend to the political heart of America: Washington, D.C. I knew I’d be in for some political amusement, between the circus of health-care reform, teabaggers, birthers, and financial meltdown.
And how! Seemingly everywhere I turned everyone had opinions, flapping flags or placards; everything was up for debate! All the stereotypes about fired-up, proselytizing Americans were in full effect.
I passed billboards and signs, either for or against everything: Bank bailouts, mortgages, abortion, politicians, Obama, Supreme Court nominations. Though my political stripes run liberal, I couldn’t help but laugh at all the hyperbolic statements equally: A Prius in front of us was emblazoned with an “ITMFA” sticker — that is, “Impeach The Motherf—er (that is, George Bush) Already” next to an Obama-Biden 2008 decal. The pickup truck next to it displayed a “Stop Kerry” relic (circa 2006) next to a Confederate flag.
Perhaps it’s all a byproduct of American values, or the two-party system that encourages people to take sides; maybe a country built on a people’s revolution and the First Amendment can only inspire outspoken, black-and-white zeal.
We’re complex human beings, capable of careful discussion and give-and-take. How can anyone possibly distill an opinion on, say, the health-care reform bill (which has more pages than War And Peace) into a catchphrase? The reductive quality of a bumper sticker doesn’t change anyone’s mind — they are merely rallying points for the fervent, rather than talking points for the open-minded. It doesn’t raise genteel, thoughtful discussion, just people’s hackles.
Though it’s not my country’s politics to meddle in, consider how Canadian politicos take cues from the U.S. (does anyone else remember a time before attack ads existed on Canadian television?). Maybe it is worth a cautionary word or two. If only I could fit that political statement on a bumper sticker.