Saturday, July 4, 2015

Washington's roadside political messages

Olympia's bio-diesel-converted Mercedes and Subaru Outback driving populace advertises its philosophy in the most concise means possible: the bumper sticker. Whether it's IF ONLY CLOSED MINDS CAME WITH CLOSED MOUTHS, PRACTICE RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS AND SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY, or VISUALIZE WHIRLED PEAS, only in a place where the assumption was that the driver behind you would nod their head and say "Right on," would one so unabashedly turn one's means of transportation into a thought bubble on wheels. The sheer number of liberal bumper stickers plastered on the back of a Washington car is also an act of effacement, as if to cover up the shame that one is driving a vehicle at all.

But leave the (semi-)urban environment, and the political and cultural slogans shift toward the right. In Chehalis, thirty miles south of Olympia, is a the notorious Uncle Sam billboard, which was originally put up by a farmer named Alfred Hamilton when the freeway was built on his land. . . . [The sign's] succinct messages have been inflaming lefties for years, inspiring rage before the drivers calm themselves with a "free speech for all, free speech for all" meditation. 
Carrie Brownstein, "Washington," in Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey eds., State by State: A Panaramic Portrait of America (2008)

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