I recently spent an afternoon hanging out with my father, and he decided that the most quality use of our time would obviously be to wash and wax my car. (He has a true passion for “winterizing” various aspects of his life, and a deeply seeded fear of the effect of road salt on vehicle exteriors.) During the very tedious waxing process, I noted that the Barack Obama sticker I had been sporting on the back of my car for some months was beginning to peel off at the corners. This saddened me briefly, but I soon realized that my displaying an Obama bumper sticker is completely redundant, anyway.
I never went anywhere with my Obama sticker where it made any kind of a statement, because it would take the average person about 2.7 seconds to (correctly) assume that I am unabashedly liberal. Come on. I’m 22 years old, I’ve spent my whole life in Burlington, and I’m not an empty human-shaped shell with a gnarled half-soul. I worry actively about whether I appear culturally uninformed. I feel vaguely guilty when I buy a Starbucks coffee. I dig recycling.
The people I roll with fit the same mold. Those who have graduated or skipped college in the first place are working for art related non-profits or design firms or City Market or as the merch guys for un-famous bands. The rest of us are still busy making oil paintings or debating what makes a prose poem or reading Kierkegaard. And we all have a certain disheveled aesthetic that lends itself nicely to the assumptions of others. Nobody, but nobody, would look at any of us and think, “I wonder if they’ve decided who to vote for yet?” They might wonder if we’re just politically apathetic, but they would never wonder if we’re buying it when a frighteningly old Republican man addresses us repeatedly as “his friends.”
My sticker was more or less expected of me. I don’t know who I thought I was convincing. Maybe once in a while, some soccer mom in an Escalade would pull up next to me at a stop light and shoot me disapproving glances, and it would become clear as they pulled away that the “Life is Precious” bumper sticker on THEIR bumper had something to do with this. And I would feel some amount of pride in offending someone I aspired to be nothing like. But really, doing things like getting a lip piercing just for the sake of causing a middle-aged passersby low grade anxiety lost its flavor around sophomore year of high school. Truth be told, they were probably expressing disapproval towards me because I had ceased to remember I was in public and was spastically drumming on the steering wheel to Journey or something. Not because of my Obama bumper sticker. I’d been branded that way anyway. And it’s such a norm that nobody cared.
There have been exactly two people in my network of college-aged acquaintances who have ever self-identified as Republican, and as these were the same kids who regularly got enormous tattoos of ironically cool 70s musicians across their forearms and rib cages, I’m 97 percent sure that these claims were mainly based on their shock value. Because if you really want to make a statement in Vermont, at least as a twenty-something, there’s no better way to do it than to tell people you lean to the right. And if that’s the case, then slapping an Obama bumper sticker on your back windshield is the equivalent of trying to make a fashion statement with Ugg boots and a fleece North Face jacket.
(Of course, by this logic, all of the white-haired biddies puttering around Chittenden County with conservative sentiments plastered across the backs of their Oldsmobiles are the REAL subversive ones around here, and I’m not sure that’s a reality I’m prepared to deal with.)
To conclude, I felt no remorse when I ripped the remains of my Obama sticker from my car and replaced it with a freebie from Burton, because anyone with a single judgmental atom in their body knew exactly which way I was voting, anyway.
Of course, upon inspecting my handiwork, I had to wonder why the hell I was devoting so much of my back windshield to supporting corporate snowboarding. But that’s an issue for another day.