Just read a post by Nancy, a Friend in Ontario, who tells about placing an Every Church a Peace Church bumper sticker on her car. (ECAPC website here) I started to write her a comment about my own recent "coming out" experience, but I thought I'd just do a post.
A Friend from our meeting had given me the FCNL bumper sticker proclaiming "War is not the answer" over a year ago. It took me until just a couple months ago to finally slap it on my car. I'm not big on bumper stickers. I had one on the very first car I owned, back when I was about 20 or so. I don't recall what it said. It was just something whimsical with a picture of Charlie Brown and Snoopy on it. Since then, I've been reluctant to turn my car into a roving billboard.
I've participated in two anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C., as well as several vigils at the local county seat with members of our local peace group. I'm also a member of a local Amnesty International chapter. But, as they say, there's safety in numbers, even if the numbers are small. Gathering with others of like mind is a lot less threatening than a lone display of an unpopular point of view.
For although although Noam Chomsky tries to assure me that there's a "sharp divide between public opinion and public policy," I can't help feeling that my point of view is largely unpopular. At best, I sense an aura of "well, the government has sure made some blunders but ... it's not patriotic to rock the boat" ... a sort of collective mantra: Whatever happens, we mustn't openly admit we've been wrong ...
It was the second wave of Abu Ghraib photos that did it. I just couldn't stand being silent any longer, for silence implies consent ... or so the old saying goes.
So I finally put both the FCNL bumper sticker and one that had just arrived from Amnesty International (Torture: Stop it. Investigate it. Prosecute it.) on my car.
I totally understand how Nancy feels. I feel the same:
..."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....I feel naked."
No one has accosted me or reacted with hostility. Almost no one.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a work-related conference in the D.C. area. I suddenly found myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic and thought, I have to be crazy driving down here with an anti-war sticker on my car!
Fortunately, the only incident I can report took place on the way back from the conference. A red pickup truck passed me to the left on the interstate. A young man naked to the waist (well...that was all of him I could see) leaned out the passenger-side window, turned very deliberately toward me, and spat. The pickup was way ahead by that time, however, so his gesture was purely symbolic.
The only other thing I dread is the reaction of some family members who will be visiting soon. Or rather, their nonreaction, for I know they won't say anything. Once again, tension so thick you can cut it with a knife. It's the flip side of open hostility, in its own way just as nerve-wracking. I know they won't say anything but that the distance between us will widen.
But hey, there's also this totally practical plus: I can spot my car more easily in the huge parking lot at the end of the day!