The Hummers of Tiananmen
SUVs are offensive. Having one's view blocked by a lone commuter in a steel behemoth is annoying, even without the menace of the windshield-level bumpers. SUVs embody contempt. Contempt for everyone else on the road. Contempt for the environment. Contempt for justice, civilization, and the whole planet. While mainstream consciousness is waking up to peak oil scenarios, SUV drivers are pumping gas into their overgrown status symbols like alcoholics in denial. Do they mind that the US government goes to war, stages coups and supports corrupt governments, dictatorships, monarchies and generally anti-democratic regimes in the interest of oil?
Enter the Hummer: SUV offensiveness taken to a new level. Since when have the children of the post-Vietnam War era wanted to identify with the military? The Hummer not only acknowledges the war-as-energy-policy paradigm, it makes it palatable by commodifying military aesthetics as a luxury status symbol. Hummer sells fantasies of ruling the road. And the world. Cue post-apocalypse fantasy of picking up the groceries in an armored tank; though where in this fantasy the milk is supposed to come from, let alone the gas, has been left out of the script.
I see red every time a Hummer heaves itself into view. Fortunately I live in an area where sightings are still more of a monthly than a daily event. Unfortunately I was recently caught without the homemade bumper stickers I normally keep my bike bag for such occasions while cycling back with the groceries from Berkeley. Fuming at my unpreparedness, I reached home with the idea of taking the iconic image of that lone protester at Tiananmen Square standing passively (yet impassibly) before a menacing column of tanks, and replacing the Chinese government tank with a Hummer.
The protestor of the original image stood for democracy against a totalitarian regime. In the new version, the Chinese forces of oppression are replaced by a vehicle which simultaneously symbolizes the petroleum oligarchy which increasingly dominates US policy and—ironically—the "freedom" (to "have cool stuff") enjoyed by Americans (for which the terrorists supposedly hate us).
The communist red star of the Chinese tanks finds a ready-made replacement in the Texaco logo, a substitution all the more fortuitous due to G.W. Bush's ascendancy to the presidential throne by way of the Texas governor's mansion and the coincidence that "T" also stands for "totalitarianism".
Available on t-shirt. Move over, Che Guevara!
16 September 2005