Saturday, March 3, 2012

The 7 Most Annoying Bumper Sticker Slogans of the Past 20 Years

In a world of bumper sticker slogans, one occasionally runs across an amusing, if not thought-provoking, message. That said, it is far more common to see one that simply annoys you. Sure, it may not be the worst message in the world, but after seeing it a hundred or so times it becomes a little like that song that is overplayed on the radio (need I mention Hootie and the Blowfish?). The other problem is that it comes off as a bit of the old "hit and run" mentality. Because I am anonymous, I can yell anything at you I want, and I don't have to bother listening to your response. Hah! I have won an argument that I don't even have to defend, because my opponent has been reduced to silence... sort of.

7. Mean People Suck

Of all the bumper sticker non sequitors out there, this one takes the cake for being the most adolescent sounding. It reminds me of something a ten year old might say in response to a bully's mistreatment of fellow students. I mean, do we really need to place this on our car? It's about as a revelatory as saying that the color purple is "purpley." I feel as if they should also have a qualifying sticker beside that one saying; "...And Nice People Rule". Thank you oh great bard and master of the obvious!

6. Jesus Died For You

I understand perfectly well why people have religious bumper stickers. In fact if I had a bumper sticker myself I would probably purchase one that had something meaningful on it. However, as far as I can tell, this particular one communicates very little. Now I do not mean to suggest that Christ dying for the sins of humanity is meaningless; what I mean is that the format undermines the salience of the message. I can remember hearing this phrase like a mantra growing up, but what does it mean to simply state a formula over and over again without explaining its context? It is part of that drive-thru religious mentality that seeks to reduce salvation to a singular transaction. What makes this bumper sticker so irritating is that it gives off that air of superiority so often associated with fundamentalists. Even more off-putting, is the accusatory tone that it seems to suggest (though I cannot divine the intent of every driver). Jesus died for you! That is good to know, but last time I checked you too were in need of Redemption. Indeed, I am glad to know that you are saved, but is not presumption a common characteristic of the devil?

5. In Case of Rapture This Car Will Be Unmanned

Not altogether different from the previous, this one has even more temerity than the former. In essence, it is a boast, not in God (as St. Paul requested), but in one's own capacity to be assumed into heaven. It is a kind of latter day Protestant version of the Assumption. Moreover, the implication is that of thumbing your nose at those who are presumably "left behind". What, one might be tempted to ask, will lift these heavenly creatures up? Will it be God Almighty, or will it be their own inflated sense of self-satisfaction? Nevertheless, going to heaven is not enough for this individual- he has to remind others that while he is taken up, everyone else will be on notice for his wayward vehicle, because sadly they failed to believe in the infallibility of the Left Behind book series.

4. Got Milk?

Few slogans are as ubiquitous as this one. What is most cloying about this is the fact that it is not really clever at all. To this day, I am not precisely sure why I am supposed to find it witty. Got Milk? No, I don't "got milk", next. Adding insult to injury, many others have become so enamored by the add campaign that they have sought to put their own spin on it; Got Hamster? Got Soy? Got Monks? Got Originality? (I invented that last one). The problem stems from the fact that the original message is utterly inane, and so to multiply that inanity a thousand-fold is nothing short of madness. But do not let me discourage anyone from adorning their cars with one of those hilarious bumper stickers, for I am sure that whatever word one chooses to put alongside the word  "got" will be nothing short of brilliant.

3. Free Tibet

Most popular in the 1990s, this particular bumper sticker was all the rage among "stoners" and fans of the Beastie Boys. Somewhere else on that same bumper, you might also expect to find these sage words; "It's All Good". At any rate, I have nothing against the good people of Tibet. Indeed, I pray that they will one day be free from that oppressive regime (viz. China). My beef is with the hipsters who glom on to any fashion or fad in the hope of feeling at once relevant and generous. No doubt their "campaign" to free Tibet has raised considerable awareness. But one might be tempted to ask, what impact has it made? Are the Tibetans any freer than they were before this celebrity cause was initiated? And is anyone still advocating for them? This is part of the problem with turning a cause into a kind of cultural badge of honor. Once that initial enthusiasm wears off, you wind up throwing it on the ash heap of all the other trends and fashions that have come and gone over the years. I care very little that the Beastie Boys were at one time "relevant". I care even less that people in the west find Buddhism groovy. The truth is the good citizens of Tibet should be defended, but not because they are part of some cause, but because they are human beings.

2. Question Authority

There is also a similar one out there which says; "Question Everything." At any rate, both essentially amount to the same thing. I will not be daft and pretend that I don't understand where people are coming from when they make this statement. Read with a charitable eye this is saying that one should not just accept something without thinking critically about it. Absolutely, I would agree 100%. But this goes right to the heart of what's generally lacking from many of these back bumper formulations. They have no context! Unfortunately, I fear that many of the people who place them on their cars don't have any either. It is fine to say; "Question Authority", but what does that mean? Why are you questioning it? Is there any authority that is good? If you decide to reject that authority, what will you replace it with? If I had a bumper sticker on the theme of authority, I think I would have it say; "Question Anarchy". There is a profound shallowness in thinking that authority is intrinsically a wicked thing. There will always be an authority, the only real question is whether that authority is benevolent or wicked. That is the question we should be asking.  

1. Co-exist

Cut from the same cloth as the previous example, this slogan is probably the most ubiquitous of all. What exactly does "Co-exist" mean? Each letter of the word is not only a letter but a symbol representing either some philosophy, ideology, or religion. "C" represents the crescent of Islam, "O" represents the peace sign, "E" represents equality of the sexes, "X", the star of David, "I" "Wicca, "S" the Yin Yang of Taosim, and at the end an innocuous little plus sign meant to signify Christianity. There are all sorts of versions of this message, but for our purposes I will focus on this particular one. If I were to give this acronym a charitable read, I would say that it reveals a simple sentiment, "live and let live" (which is fine, as far as it goes). However, surprisingly enough, I did not just fall off the turnip truck yesterday, and thus have enough wits about me to know a sham peace when I see one. It is in some ways the perfect mantra for the world of wishful thinking. The problem with it is two-fold. First, what exactly does it mean to "co-exist"? Last time I checked, the both of us do exist, making our co-existence inevitable. So if that is your criteria... mission accomplished. Secondly,  I understand what it means to "tolerate" other human beings; I am even bright enough to understand that one of the rules of co-existence is that I may not unjustly take away the existence of another human being. But must I tolerate everything? Must I turn a blind eye when I see the Chinese abusing the Tibetans, or must I close my eyes when a jihadist is trying to blow up an American? The only way we can ever really hope for co-existence is not by pretending that we have no differences, or even by becoming some kind of existential eggplant. The only way that we can co-exist is if we embrace a religion that actually safeguards our conscience as opposed to attacking it, a religion that recognizes the value and worth of every human being regardless of their race or status. Until we can be intolerant enough of other ideologies that do not practice this, then we will never learn to "co-exist" at all. Ironically, those who have this bumper sticker are generally the ones who are least tolerant of Christianity, though they would do well to ask themselves where they got the idea of tolerance and respect in the first place.

Honorable Mention: You will know the success of a bumper sticker by its ability to provoke another driver to create a snarky riposte in response to it. One such example comes to us from  the understandably "Proud" parent of a straight "A" student. By all means put that "A" paper on the refrigerator for all to see, but putting it on your car just seems to reek of desperation. Another example of this bumper sticker back-and-forth comes in the form of a little fish, and the great battle that has ensued between the Darwinists and Christians. The original "Christian" fish was not a pretentious sign at all, but the subsequent spat has become a bit grating. Lastly, I have too add as a general group the many "pro-choice" bumper stickers out there. That is not say that I am a fan of all of those pro-life ones either, but only that some are more obnoxious than the rest; "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries" and "Keep your laws off my body". There is a particular hostility to its tone never becoming of one whom you have never met before. One might be tempted to ask such an individual if this is indeed the one message they intend to leave with the world.

Feel free to add your own.                


  1. "Innocuous little plus mark"? Really? Looks like a Latin cross from here.

    At any rate, the "Coexist" bumper sticker is a bit wet, but in a world where all members of a given religion are still tarred with the same "terrorist" brush, it's a message worth promoting.

    "...they would do well to ask themselves where they got the idea of tolerance and respect in the first place."

    That would be the Enlightenment. Both Catholicism and Protestantism reluctantly and tardily embraced the concept, to our shame.

  2. I appreciate your comments Bill, you seem like someone I would have an interesting conversation with. At any rate, I would like to address your critique. First, you are correct the "t" is a little more stylized in this particular version, but this is not the only version of this bumper sticker. Generally the "t" is not quite as adorned as it is on this one. My point was only that the Co-exist bumper sticker seeks to de-fang what might otherwise provide a startling contrast. Secondly, you say that in a world where people, in essence, are unfairly painted with a broad brush, this is a worthy message. I do not disagree that the message of respect is important, what I object to is the painful oversimplification of the message. As if all the problems that stem from differing ideology could be solved if we only realized that we should all "co-exist." The truth is there are plenty of ideologies and religions that by definition cannot "co-exist". Lastly, you are once again correct in pointing out that Enlightenment thinkers embraced "tolerance", but you might ask yourself one further question: based on what principles did these thinkers come up with this truly enlightened world-view. Did they conceive of it out of thin air? Of course not, the whole premise for the respect that is due the conscience of an individual is derived from the Christian conception of free will. A purely materialistic world-view does not subscribe to such superstitions as that of "conscience" and "free-will". These are supernatural ideas, and enlightenment thinkers simply utilized them for their own purposes.

  3. Thank you for your response. Chapmaniac. Your point about the Enlightenment building on a Christian foundation regarding conscience and free will is well taken; I had not really considered that before.

    I should perhaps mention at this point that I have no bumper stickers on my car...

  4. How can you not list "Baby on Board"??

  5. Ah, there are so many awful one's. I chose these because they were prolific, annoying, and seemed to be the most indicative of the philosophy of our age.

  6. One of my favorites: Reading Is Sexy.

  7. I saw my favorite bumper sticker on a massive Cadillac being driven by and older woman who was so short, your could barely see her grey curls over the steering wheel. And she was weaving in and out of traffic at about twice the posted speed:

    "Get out of my way, I'm going to Bingo!"

  8. That would work well on my list (yet to be made) of most amusing bumper stickers.

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  10. I can top "Question Everything". I saw one that said, "Question Reality". No thanks, I happen to like sanity...

  11. That's pretty much where the logic goes, right?

  12. The one I will never be able to shake from my memory: "just say NO to sex with pro-lifers"

  13. I especially agree with your putting "Tolerance" and "Coexist" on your list. Those two drive me nuts (no pun intended for them being bumper stickers). Hard to coexist with people who want to kill you. I wish I could recall all the annoying ones I've seen...there seem to be a lot lately. If I remember any, I'll post them.

  14. I read number 5 as

    In case of raptors, this car will be unmanned

    Then I saw it wasn't and I :(

    1. That's where great ideas for bumper stickers come from "Ninjanomicory". Go with it!

  15. While technically not a bumper sticker, the stick figure families I have seen on people's cars drive me crazy. You are giving out WAY too much information about yourself.