I love the peril of unintended consequences.  Ohio, in order to scarlet letter drunk drivers, requires the convicted to change their license plate to one that consists of an obnoxious yellow background and red alphanumeric identifiers.  The result is a modern day Mark of Cain and an identifiable public shaming.

The problem with the prosaic Ohio shaming of the convicted drunkard is that the colors of humiliation also happen to be the popular colors of the Iowa State Cyclones license plate.

Here’s the ISU vanity plate I designed on the Iowa Department of Transportation website:

The problem with provincialism in a nation is that you cannot unite the States if one thing, or a pair of colors, mean one punishable legal thing in one territory and another thing entirely in a different area of the country.

I fear for the Iowa State University fans driving in Ohio who unwittingly and proudly wear the colors of a drunken shame on their license plates; and I worry that the obvious drunkard driving warning Ohio is trying to convey with its license plates will be viewed in Iowa merely as a beloved fan of a local university, losing all memeing and meaning from their Ohio regional neighbors.

How do we reconcile intentional punishment versus celebration in the spirit of national cohesiveness and interstate commerce?  Couldn’t Ohio think of a smarter, more unique, combination of colors that would better indicate their intent to berate its citizenry?

Are there other iconic condemnations and celebrations that the States have used to promote or to persecute that could be too easily confused in a different part of the country?  Regionalism, unfortunately, matters.  I know the colors red, white and blue have been used to serve both masters, but I can’t think of anything else State-sponsored that creates such an iconic and certain divide as these license plates.

In the world, I’m sure there are greater examples of good representing evil and the reverse that leads to unnecessary human confusion.  The perversion of the swastika by the Nazi Party is one sad historic example — the Sanskrit svastika was never the same after Hitler’s bastardization — a symbol forever tainted through no purposeful art of its own.


  1. I happen to know an Ohio-an 🙂 This will surely garner some comments from current resident(s) of the state. I’ll keep you posted.
    In the meantime, observing unintended consequences is a favorite of mine. Thank you for the heads up.

  2. Here’s a popular one — every time Barbara Streisand sued over some depiction she didn’t like in the media, it led to everyone finding out about it. Oops!

    1. That’s funny stuff, Gordon, thanks!

      I see your Gravatar is back!

      Now, beware, with your new email address, I will have to clear you from the comments moderation queue one time. After that, you will be not be held in moderation.

  3. Thoughts ‘from Ohio’ and I quote:
    “we call those party tags. Or drunk danglers, since many are not fastened too well.”

Comments are closed.