This blog is about the graffiti in my soon to be published book, Bugs on the Windshield. (This title is subject to change.)
I was a truck driver for just under ten years. I’ve been all over the United States, driving in all kinds of weather and traffic. Much of the time my surroundings were unfamiliar and sometimes, downright scary. A strong Christian upbringing helped me get through the rough spots.
Bouncing down I-95, heading south toward Savannah, GA I glance to my right as I pass under a bridge. I smile as I catch a small, but familiar, bit of graffiti. It says, “TRUST JESUS,” in small blue letters. I’ve seen these identical “tags” all across America. They look amazingly consistent, usually blue, although I’ve seen a couple in white.
I don’t know who’s art it is, but they were persistent. They did a lot of traveling, stopping over and over to paint each bridge. I wonder about the logistics of tagging that many bridges, the why and who of it.
A google search showed me TRUST JESUS has had an impact on a lot of people. One man’s compelling story can be found at http://www.thegospelwitness.com/word/trusjesus.htm. This was written in 2003. Another site dated 1980, http://www.route40.net/page.asp?nz1954 has some pictures and speculation about the origin of the graffiti.
I don’t condone defacing public property, but this is a legacy. The project used quite a bit of paint, and they must have been organized. Stop the car, grab the paint, place it just right, jump back in the car and into traffic. All that without getting run over, caught, or dumping the paint.
Interestingly, this is tough paint. In some areas an effort has been made to paint over the graffiti, but the blue bleeds through and is still visible. Other places, people have gone to the trouble to deface it, cross it out, or write “don’t” above it. The original message remains. Divine? Maybe.
How different is this from carefully protected artifacts? Think about Register Cliff along the South Platte River, near Guernsey Wyoming. On the Oregon Trail, it’s simply a cliff of soft rock. In the 1800’s many passing pioneers stopped and carved their names before continuing on. The names may be the last trace of families that lost their lives on the way to a promised new life. Some of them were responsible for opening up the western states.
I’ve often wondered about Native American cave painting and pictographs found throughout the United States. Is it important information being passed along to future generations, or a case of youthful exuberance? Is it early historical documentation, or graffiti?
Honestly, I enjoy seeing some of the art that travels our country via rail road cars. This art, or graffiti, is sometimes stunning in complexity. It tells a story, saying something about the artist. “I am somebody. I can make a mark so you know I exist.”
No, I don’t think people should be allowed to deface public and private property. I know it causes damage and many dollars are spent to remove and repair it. But I think these are legitimate artists with a story to tell. It is my hope that these young people can draw enough attention so they can get the chance to express themselves in a productive way. My son has a friend in California that owns and operates a business selling shirts decorated with original art that started out as graffiti. He is quite successful.
Many bridges are being replaced or repaired, and I fear the Christian message will be lost. In times when political correctness often overshadows Christianity, it seems more important than ever for our light to shine in the darkness. That tiny blue message may be the spark that changes the life direction of a motorist in dark despair. Whoever is responsible, I hope you tag the new bridges.