Since September 11, the most frequently seen bumper sticker in San Diego is the American flag, often shown with slogans such as "United We Stand" and "God Bless America." Other popular stickers include sports stickers, supporting the Padres and Chargers. After the two local teams, the next most popular sticker seems to be for the Oakland Raiders. Denise Flores of Paradise Hills has the Raiders emblem on the back window of her Nissan Maxima -- the eye-patched head in a football helmet with swords crossed behind it. "Me and my husband are Raider fans, even though we come from Arizona. Actually, I became a Raider fan because of my husband. We go see them when they are in San Diego. I haven't had money to go to Oakland, but I would like to."
Rochelle Harrell of Emerald Hills keeps religious messages on her Pontiac Sunbird. A white sticker reads "The Lord Is Good" and complements two metallic placards, one of the Christian fish symbol and another that suggests, "Try God." Harrell, 25, just wants to share her joy. "These are on my car because I just love God. I go to church, I'm real faithful at my church, and I teach at a Christian preschool. I'm just trying to tell people that they should give God a try and that He is there no matter what."
Manuel Olivo of Mountain View picks up his kids in a white Ford Explorer that glorifies all that is American: baseball and the flag. A baseball sticker with the Padres logo is on the right side and rear windows of the truck, and an American-flag sticker is on the left side and rear windows of the truck. "I like the Padres and I'm an American."
Marciel Rivera's Volkswagen Rabbit has three stickers that boast about his kids and their school. Two are identical -- "My Child Was Student of the Month at Cuyamaca School" -- and a third says, "My Child Shines at Cuyamaca School." Rivera, who speaks in the broken English of a recent immigrant, does not seem boastful, only proud of his children's success. "I'm just so proud of my kids. For me, it's a big honor that they've been such good students."
Lee Kundrat has political, religious, and sports messages on the back of her Dodge minivan. In the center of the back window is a "Dole-Kemp" sticker that has been placed over a Chargers sticker that is just visible from one corner. The left edge of the window has a Padres sticker commemorating their 1998 National League Championship, and the right edge has a sticker commemorating the Chargers' Super Bowl appearance against the 49ers. On the bumper's bottom left is a Harvest Crusade sticker. "I hate bumper stickers. They're so tacky! My kids put those on. The only one that I would keep is the Harvest Crusade sticker because people get saved going to those crusades. It's full of Christians, and it's a nice place to be. But we were awfully happy when those teams won championships, even though it was a long time ago."
Dan Correll, 17, has three stickers on the back window of his Ford pickup that could seem in conflict with each other. "Slightly Stoopid," in gothic type; "Bob Marley"; and "United We Will Stand," with an American flag in its background. "Slightly Stoopid is a local band from Ocean Beach, and my friend's brother is the drummer," Correll explains. "Bob Marley -- I believe in all of his lyrics. I think they're very positive, and I like the feeling that they give me. 'United We Will Stand' reflects my pride as an American since September 11." Correll sees no conflict between an American-flag sticker and a Bob Marley sticker, even though some of Marley's lyrics were critical of America. " 'United We Will Stand' implies the people of America. Marley's lyrics were against the capitalist system and what was happening to the economy of Jamaica at the time he wrote his music. I'm against the capitalist system too, but 'United We Will Stand' is more about the people, not so much the capitalist society that we live in. It's kind of like, 'We will stay united in our freedom.' That's what I believe the American flag stands for. It doesn't say, 'With Capitalism United We Will Stand,' just 'United We Will Stand.' " When asked what kind of system he would prefer over capitalism, Correll has no answer. "I've been thinking about that, and I'm really not sure yet."
Some drivers multiply the messages. Vickie Wilson pulls her Plymouth minivan into a handicapped space at Cabrillo National Monument. Wilson's political ideas are no secret to anyone who sees the back of the van: several bumper stickers express outrage over the 2000 election and criticize the president. "Under Republicans Man Exploits Man. Under Democrats It's Just the Opposite," "Everyone Does Better When Everyone Does Better," "No More Bushit," "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For the REAL Winner" (with a website address, www.stolenelection.com), "I Vote Pro-Choice," and "www.fringefolk.com."
A San Bernardino resident, Wilson says she never put bumper stickers on her car until she was motivated by political events. "The election was obviously stolen in the year 2000. If you read the foreign media, it is everywhere about what went on in Florida. Votes were purged by the thousands, and the purging was done by Katherine Harris. I want to draw attention to the cause. The mainstream media has been pretty much bought out by very right-wing Republicans. People often stop and ask us why we have these stickers on the car, so I stop and give them an explanation. I can count on one hand the negative reactions I've gotten in the last year and a half. Almost all of the reactions have been positive."
Ocean Beach seems to attract cars with bumper stickers, from politics to surfing. On West Point Loma Boulevard, a Jeep Cherokee sports ten bumper stickers on its rear hatch door. Among them: "Blessed Be," "Dragon Wagon," "Men Are Animals! But Some Make Good Pets," "I'm Only Driving Because My Dragon Is Tired," "Dragons Love You Dipped in Chocolate," "DRAGONS ARE REAL -- VIRGINS DON'T EXIST."