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G.I. Joe in Ontario
The Puzzling Power of Pride

I was driving through Canada the other day, a fact that in itself will leave some Republicans shocked, when I was passed by a white sedan with two "Power of Pride" bumper stickers on it. These bumper stickers are quite common because they've been distributed for free by large businesses to customers of all kinds. In the United States, you'd have to never leave your house not to have seen one of them. The design is simple, with the phrase "Power of Pride" sitting above a graphic of a waving American flag.

I'm mentioning this particular sighting of the "Power of Pride" bumper stickers because of the particular context in which they appeared: in Canada, on a car with Ontario license plates on it. Here was a Canadian, driving around Canada displaying the American flag along with references to power and pride.

What could it mean?

It could mean that this Canadian was Proud to be a citizen of the United States. The implication of this would be that there are Canadian secessionists who believe that they live in the United States, or that they ought to. Or, it could be that Canada really is, as all American tourists comment, not really a foreign country at all. Or, it could suggest that the driver of the car was delusional, believing that she was in the United States even though her car was clearly licensed in Canada.

As I watched the strangely decorated Canadian bumper driving past, I was forced to reconsider the meaning of the phrase "Power of Pride". It occurred to me that this phrase might not necessarily be meant as a compliment to the United States. Neither power nor pride is essentially a good thing. Power can be applied toward good ends, and pride can be a justifiable result of remarkable deeds. On the other hand, power can just as easily come in the form of abuse, and pride is often referred to as a form of arrogance. So, it may be that the Canadian driver I saw was engaged in a critique of the arrogant abuse of the international standards by the United States.

Really, "Power of Pride" is an awful phrase to put on a bumper sticker, if you want to make a strong and clear statement. Are we meant to understand that the driver is saying "I believe in the power of pride", or simply observing that "There is power in pride"? Combine this ambiguity with the visual image representing United States nationality, and the confusion grows stronger. Is the intended message supposed to be that "The United States is powerful because it is prideful" or that "The United States exercises power in a prideful way"?

Adding to the conflict of these counter-messages is the odd fact that the owner of this car chose to post two of these identical bumper stickers right next to each other. Imagine for a minute that you are standing on a sidewalk in a small town southwest of Toronto and some Canadian holding an American flag comes up to you and says, "Power of pride. Power of pride." What are you to make of this strange behavior? Does the repetition suggest a plural, or that the first statement is some kind of modifier on the second statement? Is there a message that we are supposed to get from seeing two of these bumper stickers together that we would not get if we only saw one?

It seemed to me that the Canadian United States nationalist felt some kind of insecurity in posting just one "Power of Pride" bumper sticker, as if she assumed that the message would not be believed unless it were repeated, in effect saying, "No. Really. I mean it. Honest."

Of course, this is all assuming that the "Power of Pride" bumper stickers were actually meant to mean anything. The more I think about it, the clearer it seems to me that this Canadian driver must have picked up a couple of free bumper stickers to solve the unfortunate problem that there are a lot of identical looking white sedans in Canadian parking lots. Putting a couple of silly stickers on the tail end of her vehicle must have been her way of overcoming an easily distractible mind.

No other explanation makes sense.


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