I went outside this afternoon, on this sunny Friday, to put a new bumper sticker on my car. As a lot of you know already, I’m a crunchy granola, aging hippy, super lefty liberal. I make no apologies; that’s me! And I love bumper stickers. I love showing my loyalties to my fellow commuters. You never know when another old hippy will drive by and smile.
A few weeks ago, one of my sons brought home a bumper sticker saying, “No Farms, No Food”. I figured I’d put it on my car. I have been having a wonderful time for the past year learning all about local foods. I’ve joined a wonderful food coop (MassLocal.org) where I buy all of my meat, eggs, most of my veggies and even some flour and honey from local farmers. Delicious, healthy and supportive of local economies. I was feeling pretty happy about my new logo as I approached the back of my car.
As I looked for a likely spot to locate my new, nicely inoffensive sticker, my eye fell on my older items. “Youuuuuuk!” looked just fine, on the left side of my trunk, next to my big red R for the Red Sox. I smiled as I panned to the right, my eyes falling on my aging “Obama” sticker from the last election.
Suddenly, my heart stopped. I gasped, and heard the words, “Oh, no!”as they fell from my lips. I felt frozen, unable to react or move. Unable to accept what I was seeing.
Someone had taken a black sharpie and written the word “Nigger” across my bumper sticker, just under the word “Obama”.
I knew that the word wasn’t aimed at me, not directly, but I still felt assaulted, violated, shocked beyond words. My sheltered, naive, hippy mamma world view was shattered. How could anyone be so…..incredibly small minded, ignorant, backward? I looked uneasily over my shoulder, scanning my isolated, tree shaded driveway.
Who had done this? When had it happened? I don’t look at my car trunk all that often; it could have happened out here in the woods, or at work in the suburbs. It could have happened on one of my trips into Boston in the past few weeks, or while my car was parked at the Woods Hole Ferry. I don’t know. I’ll never know.
What I do know is that in 2011, in light of all that is happening in the world, this one ugly word is as loud and clear as a billboard. The writer of this word is stupid, uninformed, ignorant, small minded, racist and helpless. Anyone with any ability to understand the complexities of American politics or of world events would recognize the utter futility and uselessness of such name calling. Anyone with the intelligence to recognize the power struggle between the two American political parties would immediately understand that writing that word under that name is equivalent to responding, “Oh, yeah?” when faced with a challenge for which one is completely unprepared.
But even knowing all of this, even recognizing that the writer of the ugly word is unworthy of any reaction…..my heart began to race and my anger began to rise.
I am not African American, but my President is. My governor IS. I have students who are African in origin. I have friends who are black Americans. I am furious and hurt and disgusted for all of them. Because that bumper sticker was on my car, I am one of them.
When I showed the awful word to my son, Tim, he reacted in just the same way. But he added something more.
“Way to go, dude. Totally ignorant. I mean, hell, what year is this? And to do it anonymously? Ignorant coward. What a coward.”
Although I have been disappointed in a lot of things that our President has done, and although my support has been wavering lately, I am going to get myself a new OBAMA bumper sticker right away. And I am going to put it on my car.
As Tim said, “Otherwise, the ignorant cowards win.”