SPECIAL SERIES : The War Issue
Bumpers to Buttons
Artistic political expressions
March 12, 2006 1:43 PM
During politically charged times, many people around the Bay Area say a lot without speaking a single word.
By simply driving a car or putting on a backpack, people can get their points across because of art associated with politics.
Through political bumper stickers and buttons, people not only express their opposition to the war in Iraq but also their support for American troops and the current Bush administration.
Political stickers and pins are examples of art consisting of bold and simple, yet humorous messages that play an important role in politics.
According to Corey Cook, a political science professor at SF State, art is a pertinent force in politics.
“Art is an extremely important tool of political organizing,” said Cook.
The SF State Democrat club uses message art to raise funds and spread their political views by selling blue bracelets that read, “Think Blue.”
Chris Gembinski is the vice president of the SF State Democrat club and has been purchasing political bumper stickers and buttons since the 2004 presidential election.
“I want to show my displeasure with the war and the president,” said Gembinski, who is a freshman and political science major.
Gembinski said that art is especially important during times of political unrest.
“We need art that changes our perspective, makes us think differently and pokes fun of the way this administration is running our country,” Gembinski said.
Like Gembinski, Carl Clark thinks that political art is important and that humor plays a large role in its effectiveness.
Clark is a member of the SF State Republican club and wears a pin of former President Ronald Regan, which is designed like a Che Guevara T-shirt and says, “A real American revolutionary.”
Clark, a junior political science major, said wearing his Regan pin shows student Republicans that there are others who share their political views. The pin also can be a way for Clark to tell an interested student about the SF State Republican club.
While advantages such as publicly displaying ones beliefs exist in political art, Gembinski and Clark both see disadvantages as well.
Clark felt comfortable wearing his Regan pin but refused to adhere his Bush and Cheney stickers to something he takes to school.
“Many students hate us for being Republicans … we get called names and harassed for it from time to time,” Clark said.
Gembinski has made people upset because he wears his political opinions literally on his chest. His anti-Bush and anti-war pins make him a target for those who believe he is not supporting the United States.
According to Cook, although there can be risk in allowing people to know what your political views are, the art of expressing it on pins and stickers produces more good than harm.
“It’s very important to get your message out,” said Clark. “It’s also a good form of relief to have political messages which are humorous.”
San Mateo resident and hired bodyguard, Jordan Vezina, 30, has a very clear message framing his truck’s license plate.
Vezina got his license plate frame that reads, “I’d rather be killing terrorists,” custom made at a mall in San Leandro last year.
Despite one incident where his truck was egged when parked in the Richmond District and a sticker saying, “Redneck” was slapped onto his license frame, Vezina said that people have been receptive to the message he is displaying.
“Many people think it’s funny … I haven’t met people who are pro-terrorist,” said Vezina.
Vezina’s message may be clear, but the former Marine says that political bumper stickers and buttons tend to discourage political debate among those with opposing views.
“Bumper stickers keep information simple and it dumbs [political issues] down,” Vezina said.
Vezina admitted that his license frame does lessen the complexity of foreign policy to a low level, but he and those driving behind him appreciate its comic relief.
Humor is the main reason that Amanda Cotton, owner of Valencia Street Books, says political bumper stickers and buttons appeal to her customers.
Cotton began selling political stickers and pins two years ago because people, after the reelection of President Bush in 2004, began asking that she sell some stickers that express their overall frustration.
“We have to laugh about it so we don’t cry,” Cotton said.
Cotton sells her buttons and pins for $1.50 and she said the most popular sticker has the simplest design – a large capital W encircled and slashed in red.
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