Tuesday, November 22, 2011

License Plate Decals.....

There's no way I can write this blog post without coming across as a heathen, but I'll just have to take that chance.

In fact, I tossed around several titles that were worthy of a heathen, but my brain is on strike tonight and I couldn't come up with a good one.

About thirty years ago or so, our state adopted the practice of displaying the name of a registered car owner's county of residence on the license plate. I thought it was kind of cool at the time, for some reason. I had a friend who didn't want to display her county on her tag, but then she got stopped (her husband was a copy - irony much?) and the policeman informed her that the fine for not displaying one's county decal at the bottom of the license plate was $25. That was years ago... it may be more than that now.

Then the state came up with about a gazillion different specialty tags, and SOME of those don't have a space for a county decal. Mine, for instance, says "Share the Road" at the bottom instead of my county. That's not why I bought that specialty plate; I wanted to support cycling initiatives in my state and I naively believed the extra money I pay every year would go to those initiatives. If my "Share the Road" license plate had a space for the county decal, I would still buy it. It's not that big a deal to me. I don't really get why some people don't want to display the county in which they live. Wait a minute.... never mind.... some counties in Georgia are places you definitely DON'T want to be from.

Then I started noticing that instead of the county decal on some plates, the phrase "In God We Trust" appeared. That's cool, if that's what they want their tags to say. To each his own.

In fact, there was a tremendous snafu when officials had a design contest to choose the next Georgia plates. It seems some of the designs had the optional "In God We Trust" phrase on them, and others didn't, leading some of the people voting on the designs to think they were choosing whether or not to have the phrase on the license plate.

Good. Lord.

Pun intended.

As an afterthought.

And here's where I turn into a heathen. If it was so important for drivers to display the county of residence on their license plates that law enforcement would IMPOSE A FINE for failure to do so, why isn't it that important anymore? Who decided that "In God We Trust" could take the place of a county decal?

Now I've heard there is legislation pending requiring the phrase to appear on ALL Georgia license plates. Please don't test my (limited) grasp of civics by asking in what stage this legislation might be; for all I know, some state representative mentioned it in passing and it isn't even pending at all.


What if I don't want my religious views (general statement though it may be) displayed on my car? Is my only other option not to have a vehicle registered in the State of Georgia? (And how long before they make me put it on my bike as well?)

I'm not here to talk about my religious views (or lack thereof), and I don't feel that strongly about religion one way or another to warrant an argument, a personal attack, or a condemnation of my moral character (or lack thereof). But I do acknowledge there are people out there who DO feel strongly enough about the matter that it will generate some genuine discomfort to have to wear such a public statement that the drivers may or may not agree with.

I realize it's also on our currency, but since I never have that long enough to take a good look at the phrase, for some reason that doesn't bother me at all.

It's not like we had this giant blank space on our license plates and someone decided it needed to be filled in, and hey, our national motto would do just fine, because there are too many folks in Alabama who would never understand "E pluribus unum." (I'm sorry...I couldn't help myself.) That space on our license plates HAD some information on it, information that someone at some point thought was vital enough that a driver who didn't display it would have to pay a penalty. But the name of one's county can be omitted if one chooses to proclaim to the world "In God We Trust." Whether or not that person believes it.

No one asked ME what a good phrase might be to wear on the backs of our cars. (We aren't one of the states that require license plates back and front. Who makes these rules, anyway?)

For me it would be a toss-up between "Only the Good Die Young" and "How 'Bout Them Dawgs."

Oh, and while I'm being a heathen, I also intended to make fun of the marquee (is that what it's called when it's a church?) in front of a church near our house. But I'm not going to tell you what it is until I have a picture of it, because A) it loses something in translation; and B) you might not believe that it's really there unless I document it.


Lilith said...

In my state, we have choices for different designs on our license plates. Years ago, a specialty plate came out that said, "In God We Trust." No biggie, except for the fact that it's considered a specialty plate, but NO ONE has to pay the specialty plate fee.

But if you want one of those, you just ask, but if you want any other specialty plate, you have to pay the extra fee and apply for it.

Oh yeah, it caused a big uproar and I do believe the phrase, "heathens" was thrown around a lot!

Kelly said...

Eons ago, when I was in college at UT Knoxville, I changed my tags over to TN plates in an effort to establish residency for tuition purposes. It didn't work, despite the fact I had no other residence (meaning my folks were both dead and I was of age), but that's a story for another time.

Anyway.... back to the point. At that time the first digit on a TN plate indicated the county according to its ranking by population. My plate in Knox county began with a 3. Shelby (Memphis) was 1 and Davidson (Nashville) was 2. I always thought that was kinda neat.