Falken: Billboard battle more annoying than influential

Allen Falken

Allen FalkenColumnist

Last November an atheist group put up a billboard on the New York side of the Lincoln tunnel that read, “You Know it’s a Myth: This Season, Celebrate Reason.” Soon after, to show the atheists how silly they were behaving, The Catholic League put up a billboard on the New Jersey side of the tunnel that read, “You know it is real: This Season, Celebrate Jesus.”

I, just like everyone else on Earth, am extremely susceptible to everything I read, particularly when it comes to roadside advertising. So I imagine that commuters lost their faith in God while at work in NYC and regained their faith in the Christian God on the drive home. Convenient because everyone likes opening presents on Christmas morning in the living room and no one likes awkward office Christmas parties. If only there were a billboard telling me not to eat double whoppers with cheese on Sixth Street I might be able to stick to a diet.

When did the best way to argue your point to the masses become a contest to out-crazy your opposition? I’d like to know the thought process that leads to people doing these sort of things.

I know, Ill glue a plastic fish on the bumper of my car so that when I cut someone off while reading an atheist billboard they will know they were nearly killed by a Christian.

To which the atheists strike back! Putting little feet on the fish and the word “evolve” emblazoned across its side. Then the faithful print out an even bigger fish that will eat the fish with feet. So on and so fourth until our back windows are covered in elaborate scenes of fish vs. fishman warfare.

There is no war of ideas here; it is a cold war of lunacy. It is an arms race of snarky barbs that won’t affect anyone except the guy who prints out the plastic fish. Who just bought his third yacht, very plush, Xbox in the bathroom.

If anything, it makes both sides just look really unappealing. I had a friend who was really offended by a bumper sticker that read, “You can’t be Catholic and Pro-Choice.” It didn’t take long for him to resolve his conundrum. He remains pro-choice.

I am all for an open discussion of the issues. These signs and car bumper accessories do not facilitate discussion, they only induce high fives or arguments, neither of which move the dialogue closer to an understanding.

The questions of what is right and what is wrong and where did we come from are deep and complicated. If you think you have it all figured out and want to pick your side, that’s fine. I am happy for your clarity. For the rest of us who are unsure about how we feel, waving your flag in our face is abrasive.

Painting “Bush” on stop signs never influenced a single vote; it only served the self-satisfaction of the vandal. When politicians call Americans un-American because they don’t think blowing up poor brown people is the best way to spend our resources, it does not inspire them to become more like their definition of American. It only makes politicians’ metaphorical flagpole grow another half inch. Our goal should not be to antagonize each other, and yes, the irony of that last paragraph is not lost on me.

Jon Stewart’s heart was in the right place last November when he tried to “Restore Sanity.” It was just done in a ham-fisted way. It is no fault of his own 8212; it is hard to shout out from the middle. They do not make megaphones that point in opposite directions.

For those of you who still need to make your really funny political statements in public, go right on ahead and do it. It’s your right. Same as it is my right to read them and assume you are a doorknob. But fear not, I will not express that sentiment on the back of my car. Only my appreciation of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and maybe my support of the Minnesota Twins will grace the view of anyone tailgating me.

When I die and rot in the ground or ascend into an idilic afterlife, I will rest easy in quiet satisfaction that I never put any goofy symbolism on my bumper. These are issues, not products. Please fight with ideas and not with slogans.

Allen Falken is a journalism graduate student.