Southern Discomfort

Jeff Davis sticker. Arizona, February 2013.

Seeing the political posters Souciant features in Randomizer, readers sometimes ask if there’s a US equivalent. In cities like New York or San Francisco, and around college campuses, analogous street communications aren’t hard to spot. But elsewhere in the country, particularly suburbia, the dominant form of street communication is mobile: the bumper sticker. This startling couplet is a fine example.

For those who don’t know, Jeff Davis was the President of the Confederate States of America during the US Civil War. While considerably less popular than such legendary Southern military men as Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, Davis stands for the legitimacy of the Confederacy, a point reinforced by noting that he was democratically elected. But the owner of this vehicle doesn’t seem especially concerned to express support for civil institutions. The “Carry permit on board” sticker implies that disputes will be resolved under the sign of firearms. So does the ensemble on the other side of this SUV, which strongly emphasizes support for the military.

Left Side of Jeff Davis SUV

The bumper stickers here also resonate with director Quentin Tarantino’s most recent film Django Unchained, not to mention its predecessor Inglourious Basterds, which, taken together, suggest a continuity of intolerance between the Confederacy and Nazi Germany. The difference is that, while the Federal Republic of Germany strictly regulates public discourse, looking intently for hate speech, the United States largely allows its citizenry to say whatever it wants.

While Pro-Confederate sentiments are not usually expressed this forcefully, one still sees many “Stars and Bars” designs, especially in the southern US. It’s worth noting, too, that this vehicle sported a vanity Tennessee license plate, specifically reserved for those people whose ancestors fought the Union in the Civil War. You can’t get more state-sanctioned than that.


Commentary and photograph courtesy of Charlie Bertsch.

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