Bumper Sticker Logic #2

by Anthony Weber

At a red light in Traverse City last year, I waited behind a car that appeared to be held together entirely with bumper stickers. My amusement changed to annoyance when I realized that my 11-year-old sitting next to me was learning some new words while absorbing some bad ideas.  Who knew so much crass and shallow thinking could fit onto the back of a car?
Last week, while waiting at a different light, the multiple stickers on the car in front of me got me thinking again. It began with this slogan:

“Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck.”

I wouldn’t put it on my own car, but it earned a chuckle. I get so tired of phrases like “Always be yourself,” as well as its more aesthetic cousin “You’re beautiful just the way you are!” When used properly, these sentiments can bolster the self-image of someone who has been wrongly shamed by reminding them they have a value that transcends opinions and circumstances. That’s when it’s used properly. In general, I hear versions of it mindlessly parroted by the self-indulgent “don’t judge me” crowd.

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This “Always Be Your Own Beautiful Self!” scenario sounds really good in a song, but even Christina Aguilera’s stellar pipes do not have the power to change an important truth about the world: some things in all of us are not beautiful. Sometimes, the people pointing out ugly things are right.

Deception, greed, gossip, exploitation, self-destructiveness and objectification are not beautiful. They’re ugly. Maybe those who do these things are kind to puppies and still like Tom Cruise even though he’s no Jack Reacher. Fine – that part of their character is beautiful. But none of them – and none of us – are unmarked by the ugly scars of selfishness and sin.

Lady Gaga recently popularized this approach to life in “Born This Way.” Her mom (at least in the song) tried to instill a perspective in her from the time she was a kid…

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