The back of my old CRV is adorned with a nearly forty year-old license plate (you can still read it if you squint in a certain light) and three bumper stickers. One says RESIST (as in the GOP’s vile embrace of authoritarianism), the second is a Ukrainian flag, and the third is for my Congressman brother (we’re not in his district but you know, family).
A few weeks ago I was filling up my Honda at the local gas station, a rural place where Confederate flags barely raise an eyebrow, when I noticed a white car idling beside the little store behind me. It registered in the way those kind of things do:
( . . . must be waiting for someone getting coffee . . . or in the bathroom . . . or picking up a ham biscuit.)
Many dollars later I replaced the nozzle, declined the receipt, twisted the cap and headed out. I was idling at the mouth of the lot that yawns onto a very fast two-lane highway, when the driver of the white sedan, now in my rearview, leaned on his horn making me jump in my seat and come off the brake.
Towards a flying truck.
I recovered, re-stopped and kind of threw my arms up in the international symbol for ‘That was unnecessary and very, very rude!’
I saw no apologetic wave from behind.
Fine, I thought, annoyed. I waited for a break in traffic, began my turn and was again aggressively honked at, causing a surge of confusion ( . . . did I hit something? . . . maybe I didn’t put the nozzle back?) Then the white car suddenly pulled up next to me and then INTO MY LANE like it was trying to herd me somewhere. At 45 m.p.h.
Shocked, I steered towards the shoulder and slammed on the brakes. My vehicle shook. It was then that I realized that what had just happened wasn’t merely somebody with bad manners. Nor had I run over anybody’s shoe or driven off without paying. It was political. The driver just didn’t like my bumper stickers.
Which made me mad.
I grew up in DC where I learned to stand up for myself. (When I was like twelve I was waiting to order at McDonalds when some creeper came up and put his hands on me. I spun around, punched, and knocked him sideways. He left. I got my vanilla milkshake.)
I leaned on my horn. I may or may not have cursed loudly at him through my open window.
He slammed on his brakes ahead of me.
Uh-oh, I thought.
He clearly was weighing the benefits of backing up. Then traffic suddenly resumed and he peeled off. When I told people about the experience some suggested I remove my beliefs from my car. Others were firmly in the ‘don’t back down’ camp.
Which is where I am.
Timothy Snyder, leading authority on the rising threat of totalitarianism, advises us to be as courageous as possible in defense of Democracy. (Alarmingly, he also suggests current passports.) But I am not capitulating to homegrown terrorists. Read my bumper.
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