Honk If You’re Tired Of Bumper Stickers

I have been silent, publicly, about the war that is ongoing in Iraq. The reason is that I don’t get daily briefings from the Central Intelligence Agency or the Department of Defense. Therefore, my knowledge about circumstances in that part of the world is extremely limited; I find it imprudent to mouth-off about something so important based on my set of facts, which is so limited.

That which limits me, however, does not impose the same limitation on many of my fellow Americans. I encountered one such individual while stuck in traffic in my hometown of Sacramento, California. The car immediately ahead was a “vintage” Honda that didn’t appear to have been washed since it rolled off the assembly line a few decades ago. Its driver was a throwback from the hippie days who, at a glance, hadn’t seen water for as long as his car. Each bumper and virtually every inch of space on the car’s body was tattooed with stickers evidencing the driver’s social and political philosophy.

What struck me was how well informed, based on his bumper stickers, this individual seemed to be, compared to yours truly. Obviously a recipient of daily CIA briefings, this individual knew that “Bush Lied” and “We can’t win this war.” How else could a person tell others to “Honk if you think it is time to bring the troops home” without access to confidential information about the status of conditions in Iraq? Although I saw no sticker questioning President Bush’s parental legitimacy, the absence of such a message must have been a mere oversight or a result of inadequate vacant space on his car to spot such a sticker.

Next to “Bush is an idiot!” were the proclamations that “Only humans warm the globe” and “Corporate CEOs are a bunch of crooks.” The sticker that fascinated me most was “Protect the environment: Don’t pollute.” This one was very hard to see through the exhaust pipe muck that was caked on the bumper from years of billowing smoke that emanated from the tailpipe. I wondered how the driver could overlook his obvious hypocrisy. But, for the ten minutes or so that I was stuck behind this moving testimonial to free speech, my thoughts returned to the war and the fact that the driver ahead had formed such hard-and-fast opinions while my own were considerably more ambivalent.

It is not that I am ignorant of the social, economic and political toll this war is having on our nation. And, I am devout believer in democratic principles, including the right for my friend up ahead to have strong opinions – and to be able to express them. But, I believe democracy obliges us to be well informed as we form our opinions and articulate them to our fellow Americans. I am a voracious reader and try as hard as I can to be a good citizen. Yet, as hard as I might, I have not become sufficiently comfortable that I know enough about the war to render an intelligent opinion about when the troops should come home or whether our president “lied” to us.

There are some things, however, that will forever flash across the screen of my mind: seeing that airplane flying into a tower in New York City, as I stood in the bathroom shaving on the morning of September 11, 2001; watching the “Today” Show while I prepared to go to the airport to catch a flight that was about to be canceled; my intuition that America had just been terrorized by someone(s); my profound anger at the unknown source of that devastation and human tragedy occurring on American soil; the intense feeling of insecurity and vulnerability that had just been visited upon my nation and me by this cruel and despicable act; and, yes, my unbridled desire to strike out and get even with the bastards who might be responsible for what had just happened. Although I didn’t know who was responsible, I was among the millions of Americans who wanted President Bush to take firm and decisive action to let “them” know that they wouldn’t get away with what they had done. In retrospect, I was part of that national consensus to “get even” and stop them before they did it again. The overwhelming majority of Americans reacted as I did.

Almost six years later, the driver ahead represents the solid majority of Americans who now serve as “Monday morning quarterbacks,” and who prefer to lay the full responsibility for what is going on in Iraq on President Bush. To me, this seems to be unfair and, perhaps, shortsighted. What if the president has access to more information than the driver ahead about the intentions of those responsible for killing roughly 3,000 human beings on September 11, 2001? Do we want foreign policy governed by the president of the United States, whomever he or she might be, or do we want it governed by a bunch of people who spend their life’s earnings on bumper stickers?

My final thought was that the cost of all those stickers might be put to better use: like a better car that doesn’t spew exhaust fumes that pollute the environment. Now, I would honk my horn for that.