One of the first things I noticed about the place upon arriving in Maine was the abundance of bumper stickers. What is rarer than a car not having a bumper sticker would be that it only have one bumper sticker. The backs of cars are laden with the expression of the owners’ likes and dislikes, political persuasion, favourite coffee shop, and, since it’s Maine, encouragement to eat lobster (I did. It was delicious).
It’s such a wacky difference that what I’m used to. Bumper stickers on cars are striking exclamations of individualism and, not that Southern Albertans aren’t individuals, they simply scream out “I don’t care if I’m the same as everyone around me” in a way that I didn’t encounter growing up in Coaldale. Conservatism means sticking to the old ways of doing things. It systematically represses change or difference. The conservative core in Alberta doesn’t equate to bumper stickers.
Does this mean that Mainers are a more liberal-leaning group in general? The short answer must be ‘yes’ as there aren’t a lot of places in the world that are more conservative than Southern Alberta yet I don’t think that sort of sweeping statement can be made. I am, after all, in America where freedom of speech is touted as a basic right. Not that it shouldn’t be a basic right for all people, but that here it’s been amended into the constitution. Perhaps it’s simply a testament to the American spirit that is quick to assert their independence in thought and, as it turns out, bumper sticker.
Now, anyone who knows me would be able to agree with me when I say that I could a little more of this sort of energy in my own life. The ready expression of my own thoughts is not something that I’ve always been able to conjure up at will. Perhaps I’m here for a little of this to rub off on me, to realize that I can indeed take ownership of what formless contrivances create the estuaries of thoughts in my mind. I can see it now: I’ll be randomly walking down the road and spout off to anyone who will listen my wild conjectures regarding the fuel economy of cars that drive by, my questions as to what happens to people who have booked their ticket to sail on the tourist sail-boats who then encounter rain, and how I don’t actually think it’s appropriate for you to use an altered Aldermere Farm logo for your daughter-in-law’s Christmas present.
Will that really happen? It’s unlikely. Sure, I could use a little more chutzpah when it comes to asserting myself but there are particular reasons that I like myself just the way I am, meekness and all. Beyond being simply a personality trait that I’ve picked up from various overlapping layers of my socialization (youngest of four, and boys no less, no money for after-school programs as a kid to build self-confidence…yadda yadda) The truth is I like being who I am. I like being able to focus that energy which would otherwise be directed towards externalizing random and useless thoughts into refining the thoughts that I do find as useful. I like being introspective and thoughtful, not sharing every random association or memory that churns through my consciousness. I like to be aware of them, yes, but to express them aloud is not always going to be helpful to me.
All these bumper stickers are another layer of visual ballast that makes up our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather have it known and visual than in the depths of the unconscious. As I said, I like to be aware of these concepts that fly through my grey matter, but I don’t necessarily understand the medium. Maybe I’m just a status-quo toting hillbilly from out West. Or maybe I just like my quiet. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll change my mind on all of this tomorrow. Regardless, it’s unlikely you’d hear about it.