A Bumper Crop

Publicizing pets, politics, peace

By Anita Peltonen

No country has cars like Americans have cars … and pick-up trucks. And probably in no other country are bumper stickers so popular. They seem to have first appeared after World War II, as ads for stores or tourist sights. Now, ubiquitous, they can be a freak flag, or a mark of membership in a huge club, or something else.

My unscientific but passionate pursuit of the best displays in Philipstown and Beacon suggests that dog-owners seem to be best-in-class exhibitionists; I found more bumpers displaying favorite breed than favorite creed.

Messages of peace outnumbered messages of anger. But those who “wear” them must care about them, otherwise they’d be unlikely to deface their vehicles with grungy paper-and-glue residue.

In any case, I saw wide differences in sentiment.

I also found unexpected combinations of stickers — and magnets — on the same car or truck. Take the car that has multiple military, 9/11, and veterans’ stickers, which also reads “Proud Democrat.” Remember the days when combinations like that were not such a surprise?

Other bumper stickers are crude or rude. Poetry magnets they are not. Some stickers and magnets are just unreadable, drawing others to drive too close. Funny ones are a relief. Brevity is the soul of wit.

I wasn’t able to photograph the few Confederate flags I saw, because I spotted them while driving. I saw no Honor Roll parents’ bumper stickers, nor “My Other Car is A…” After dog-breed messages, I’d say the next-most-popular were college, military or political affiliations, or warnings to bumper-kissers … of how many kids were “on board.”