It’s catchy. It’s easy to remember. It makes sense. Sort of. And it doesn’t make you think.
The quick litmus test for an ideology, one might suggest, is to test its universality – that is, does it apply universally?
Substitute the word ‘cars’ for guns and let’s see: Cars don’t kill people. People kill people. Chances are if you come up on that bumper sticker, you’ll be (a) confused (as in, ‘what are they talking about?’) or (b) terrified as you discover the intention behind the statement – to justify whatever behavior the driver has in mind without any societal checks on the driver, so long as they are using a car to do it (as opposed to, oh, say a squirrel).
Silly? It seems so. That’s not to say there might not be arguments on both sides of the gun control debate (that discussion is for another day). But to argue against the regulation of the use of the thing (by people) because people (rather than the thing) are the intention agent is nonsensical. Whenever we regulate action or behavior, we are regulating the actions or behaviors of the people engaged in those actions or behaviors. Thus when cars are required to be inspected (for safe operation), it’s not really the car, but the car owner, who is on the hook for maintaining the car in proper working order.
To take the next step and reduce the discussion to a bumper sticker invites us to our dumber selves, to stop thinking and simply rely on catch phrases. The advertising industry (when a government does it, we call it propaganda) has long known that over-simplification creates over-identification – hey, that’s me – or it could be – cool.
And a quick review of bumper stickers in the United States, at least, shows an enormous and surprising level of hostility. It’s almost as if there’s a dare to race to the death out there on the highways and byways of our land.
As with so many things, I continue to wonder why we are so angry with each other? So perhaps when we meet up with someone on the road whose car verbiage proclaims how very much we disagree on just about everything, rather than getting our own bumper stickers in their proverbial face, we might just pray blessings upon them. I wonder what would happen if we did. Don’t you?