The Bumper Stickers

For the sake of transporting myself to a job nearly a decade ago, I had to purchase a car, a fact I very much resented. In order to ease my resentment, I decided to purchase some bumper stickers to personalize my car and take ownership of it. I wanted them to be political in nature, but not too aggressive. I settled on three stickers, all in the same style:  

* Question Authority
* Question Yourself
* Question Everything

I liked these bumper stickers because, rather than telling people what to think, they merely encouraged people TO think. Call me crazy, but I feel like a lot of the world's problems would be solved if we actually put our brains to work and challenged some of our preconceived notions.

Alas, these stickers were not well received. 

First, one of my friends told me about these "dumb question stickers" on a car she saw in the school parking lot. She was unaware that they belonged to me, and, embarrassed, I didn't let on. The funny thing was that my car - and the stickers - were parked just outside of her house as she made fun of the mystery hippie.

Second, when I was a high school teacher, someone, presumably a coworker, left a note on my windshield that said "Question authority, then do what you're told." I could understand why a fellow teacher would object to this message because it seemed like 90% of our job was trying to keep our students in line. When you ARE the authority, it's not fun or easy to be questioned, but how were we going to teach these kids to be good citizens if we discouraged them from thinking critically? My lack of desire to constantly enforce arbitrary rules and tell them what to do at all moments was my biggest "failure" as a teacher, at least as far as my administration was concerned. This ethical conflict, which could be seen on my own vehicle, is a strong reason I jumped ship.

Third, I returned to my car after attending a bonfire one evening in Huntington Beach a minute or two past the time the parking lot was posted to close. A lone cop was in the still half-full lot issuing a ticket to just one car in the middle of the lot… mine. I sprinted toward him, shouting at him to please not write me a ticket as I was about to leave. I made a comment to my friend about it being "just my luck" that in a lot with hundreds of cars that mine would be the first he'd cite, and the cop said, "I noticed your sticker, 'Question Authority.'" Panicked, I pointed out that the stickers also said to question yourself and everything - the questioning wasn't solely directed at authority. He agreed to stop writing the ticket, but then warned me that the sticker would get me in trouble at some point.

I guess I should be appreciative that the police officer let me off, but that guy was a dick. This guy's ego was so inflated with his self-important status of authority that he took any challenge to his position, no matter how vague, to be something worth targeting. Guys like him are the reason we need to question authority. And ourselves. And everything, actually. Maybe I should just buy these bumper stickers again.

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