By Lorraine Glowczak
It was sometime in the middle of last week when I stopped counting the numerous cars I saw donning the bummer sticker, “coexist.” It was uncanny how they kept popping up as if to slap me in the face and grab my attention. So, I began to wonder what the word might really mean – especially for me.
I am aware that the design of the words contains religious emblems such as the Islamic Star and Crescent, a peace sign, the Jewish Star of David, and the Christian Cross. It is suggesting to us to put aside our personal belief differences – and – well, coexist. Diverse philosophies are incredibly fascinating to me on an historical and cultural level and, in this particular circumstance, I can coexist with the best of them.
But still, I began to feel annoyed at each passing bumper that boasted this advice, even though I like the ideal of its message. I felt confused. As a result, this writer who accidentally fell into the role of inquiring reporter, did a bit of researching to see what she might learn.
I came upon an online article written by Rick Paulas who had his own response to this particular sticker. He stated something that lead to understanding my own annoyance. ”…..what happens when you put anything on a bumper sticker is that you remove the suggestive tone and make it a command: ‘Get along, or else.’”
Although seemingly inclusive, there is an air of self-righteousness in the term “coexist” - forcing the reader to fit into a certain mold – and paradoxically – doing the opposite of what it suggests.
It’s true we all will always be different, often with very opposing viewpoints. But it is also true, that it might be wise to find a way to hang out together somehow since we don’t have any other choice. Maybe it would feel less demanding if we changed the word, coexist, to a simple image of a tandem bicycle.
I personally have never ridden on a bicycle built for two, but blogger/author, Ann Pederson
explained the experience of tandem bicycling when she and her husband, Gary, participated in a biking trip across South Dakota.
“For those not acquainted with tandem bicycling, it’s not as easy as it looks. For two people to really work together on one bike, they must learn to trust each other, compensate for the other’s exhaustion, and cooperate in ways that test any relationship. Some bikers on the trip cracked jokes about how a tandem either makes or breaks a relationship. Gary and I learned how to find a good balance, how to communicate quickly and directly, and how to let go into the joyous ride that resulted from our new-found tandem lifestyle. As a person who loves to be in control and take leadership, I had to learn how to let go and trust that Gary’s cues and decisions would work for both of us. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t contribute to the ride. That’s another joke that I began to tire of hearing—that the person in the back simply is along for the ride. I can attest to my participation by sore muscles, early bedtimes, and ravenous appetites at the end of the ride.”
She went on to say that the experience created in her a greater understanding of trust and faith in others and herself.
Perhaps with the image of a tandem bike as a bumper sticker could create a more suggestive tone of working together, rather than a command.
Hum? Maybe I’ll start a new viral bumper sticker sensation. Or – just borrow another one I saw a year ago: “You may coexist – but your driving still sucks.”’
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