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."
The Jeep's owner, Sally, was too shy to discuss her bumper stickers. Her grandmother, Mary Broussard, however, is not shy at all and laughs as she discusses her granddaughter's car decor. "I never put bumper stickers on any of my cars. There was never a one. Her mother had a bumper sticker that read, 'Dragons Like You Because You're Crunchy and Taste Good with Catsup.' Everybody loved that one and thought it was cute. The 'Blessed Be' sticker is not a religious thing, it's a dragon thing. I go around in the car with her all the time, but we really don't get much attention unless the car is parked. To be perfectly honest, that's her first car. She's 20, and I think she's just making her statement that she loves dragons, and 'This is mine and I'll do what I please now.' She works with the public, but she's very shy. She's also very artistic. She won a scholarship to the art school in San Francisco but wasn't able to take advantage of it."
It would be difficult to find a vehicle with more messages than Reverend Neil Voight's mailman's Jeep. Parked in front of his Golden Hill house, Voight's Jeep has too many messages to process at one glance. It's a hand-painted, colorful blend of his own messages, pasted-on pictures, and bumper stickers. The front of the Jeep reads "United States of Awareness" over the windshield and "Cosmic Ambassador" under it.
Other painted messages say, "Jesus says I am the LIGHTen up of the world!" "Help Us St. Isaac Stern to Appreciate Beauty; Each Person, Animal, Tree, Rock, Develop Cosmic Christ Consciousness," "Honor St. Bob Lini," "If You Don't Know Where You're Going, You Most Assuredly Will Get There," "The Self-Made Man Adores his Creator," "Honor Queen Deganda," "One People, One Planet," "Transformer Bus," "What On Earth Are You Doing For Heaven's Sake?" "Thank You For Being You, Be More Of You," "Honor All The Angels And The Divas," "Nature Angels," and "Along the Road of Life There Is a Sign: He Says I Am the Way." Among his bumper stickers are "The Green Help the Earth Live," "Sacred Sites Are More Precious than Gold," "It Takes a Whole Village to Raise a Child," "Support Your Local Planet: Recycle," "Yes on 12. Safe Parks for Kids," "Save Anza-Borrego Desert," "Help Protect the Special Nature of San Diego," "If You Want Peace, Work for Justice," "Protect America's Environment," "Prevent Truth Decay," "Be True to Yourself," and "Time Is Art."
"I bought it from the postal service seven years ago. They couldn't decide if it was a truck or a car. I've put over 220,000 miles on it. It's a miracle. My mechanic said that he didn't believe in prayer till he met me. I had him test drive it, and he said, 'That thing's in perfect shape. It'll last you the rest of your life.' Nothin' goes wrong with it anymore, but it was always a sign of a spiritual problem in my life when it did. When I heal the problem the thing wrong with the car heals, whether it's a leaky radiator or somethin' else. I was puttin' too much pressure on myself. I wasn't being enough, and I was doing too much."
The car seems to fulfill Voight's desire to rouse people's passions. "People either love me or hate me when they see this car. Real rich people, those stuck in the third dimension, can't stand it. They won't put even a little fingernail polish on their car, because that's sacred to them -- money and all that stuff. This just throws a curve to them. They call me a hippie. Well, to me, hippie means that you're not dead yet. Y'know, show some life! It's like the Kent State students puttin' flowers in the guns and all. They were right. We gotta integrate the feminine into the world. People like that love this car, because they see that I'm not attached to the third dimension. It's just a soundboard. It don't mean nothin'!"
Voight, a man every bit as colorful as his car, is a chaplain for Native-Americans and teaches world religions at the community colleges. He dresses in white and wears multiple beads and medallions around his neck. "I'm actually a Catholic priest, but I'm suspended. They don't believe you're allowed to think. The Catholic Church is in a mess 'cause they don't have women priests -- that's the only thing that's gonna save it. I was ordained a Benedictine in Indianapolis in 1957. Father Claude Ehringer, up there in Oceanside [at Prince of Peace Abbey], he's my uncle. They kicked me out of the abbey of St. Meinrad in Indiana because I would say things like Carl Jung, 'Monks wear dresses because they haven't integrated the feminine.' They don't know what to do with stuff like that, so they put me out here and thought my uncle could drill some sense into me, but then he kicked me out."
Voight says that I was lucky to catch him, as he will be moving soon. When I ask him where he will be moving, he replies, "I'm on the fast track to ascension. I'll be ascending any day now. Anyone can go home on the third wave, if you just say to Christ, 'Take me home on the third wave.' You can't wait and see if you're gonna go, because you won't go. This only happens on this planet every 26,000 years. I lost a lot of friends over this. They thought I was crazy."