God, guns, pottery and porn

Barn I enjoy looking at old newspapers and magazines. Especially the advertisements.

If you read publications from a couple generations ago, you might be surprised to see lots of people smoking in the ads. You won’t see black people in the ads. You’ll also see many ads aimed at women in their role as homemaker.

Got to make sure you get that laundry clean, ladies. Got to keep that husband happy. And here’s the product to help you do it!

Those ads tell you a lot about what society was like back then. The same is true now, isn’t it?

There’s a lot of talk about how we’re a This National or a That Nation, people with certain values. I think that if you want to see what we actually value – who we really are collectively – you need to look at the ads.

Specifically, take a drive along the interstate and pay attention to the billboards – what’s emphasized, how it’s presented. The interstates are some of the busiest places in our land. The perfect spot to appeal to what we really value.

That’s us. Right there along the side of the road.

Guns. Fireworks. Outlet malls. Porn. Pottery. More guns. More fireworks. An occasional church. Hotel after hotel. Restaurant after restaurant.

All right down the road. At the best price. Get off at the next exit, turn right and go half a mile. Invest your hard-earned money. You want it. You need it.

And it’s not just billboards. There are semi-trailers painted with messages, barns turned into advertising displays. All selling something.

I paid attention on a recent trip from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. One thing surprised me: The many pottery ads and outlets. Not that I have anything against pottery – I love to watch a potter work the spinning wheel — but so many?

I guess there must be a demand for pottery. After all, there wouldn’t be all those signs if there wasn’t a market for it. Advertising is expensive. Businesses invest when they anticipate a big return.

Of course, it’s not just businesses trying to pull our eyes off the highway. There’s other messages, too.

Along Interstate 71 in southwestern Ohio, there’s a barn roof painted with a giant Confederate flag. The symbol of a time when some people insisted they had a right to own and mistreat other people.

A little farther north, there’s a giant sign at the edge of a cornfield. One side of the sign says, “Hell Is Real.” The other side has a simplistic rendering of the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not do this or that. Thou shalt not kill.

Up the road, yet another billboard hawking yet more guns.

A few churches have billboards, too. There’s one promoting a biker church. (I’m hoping that the pastor is the Rev. Harley Davidson. Now that would be perfect, no?)

Nowadays, it seems that pretty much everything gets turned into a billboard and a commodity, something that can be bought, sold or bartered.

Want to be popular? Buy this. Want to get ahead? Buy that. Want to be saved? Go here.

A few years ago, there was a different type of billboard along the interstate. It wasn’t selling anything. All it said was: “Love One Another.”

You don’t see many billboards like that one. I wish there were more.

It would be interesting to visit the future and see what folks make of us. To watch the anthropologists and historians and college students research our society and analyze what drives it.

They’ll pay attention not so much to what we say we value – a nation of this or that – but what we actually do. How we live. What we’re selling and promoting.

There won’t be any shortage of research material. There’s those billboards. Everywhere. Telling us to get off at the next exit. Turn right. Go half a mile …

Author: joekay617

Feel free to add your thoughts and comments. Or you can reach me privately at joekay617@aol.com. Peace!

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