LickedWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
“Everyone wants to be on a postage stamp, but nobody wants to die.” — Pat MacDonald
Thanks to the U.S. Postal Service, 22 years after MacDonald sang that lyric on the Timbuk3 song “Standard White Jesus,” you no longer have to.
Of all the honors American society and culture can bestow — hosting “Saturday Night Live,” being parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic, providing a voice for a “Simpsons” character, being mentioned in a David Letterman Top 10 list, marrying a Kardashian — having one’s image on a postage stamp is the greatest; but until now, it could only happen after one assumed room temperature and could not enjoy it.
The policy does make sense. Imagine if there had been an early 2011 unveiling of “The Coaches of Penn State” stamp series, featuring Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky and Mike McQueary. Those stamps would not have graced many Christmas cards by year’s end. The Big Ten Football Conference, which encompasses 12 teams, learned that lesson this year when it had to strip Paterno’s name from its inaugural championship trophy.
By waiting until people are long dead before placing them on a stamp or money, you have a reasonable shot at making sure you know enough about them to avoid such an embarrassing scenario. That doesn’t mean the occasional revelation won’t surface, but we tend to forgive the dead when we discover they endorsed documents espousing equality while owning slaves and fathering children with those slaves.
William Porter recently wrote in The Denver Post that, “When Arapahoe County’s former sheriff was recently arrested and charged with dealing methamphetamine, much was made of the fact that he was jailed, orange prisoner jumpsuit and all, in a building named in his honor. This was not only humiliating for a man once named national Sheriff of the Year. It also posed a serious public-relations problem for the county he once served: What do you do when the Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility houses Patrick J. Sullivan Jr.?”
Death and time also provide context for notoriety and achievement. Fame can rise, burn bright and disappear faster than you can say “Yahoo Serious.” Or “Crocodile Dundee.” Or “Mark Fidrych.” Or “Snooki.” Or “Carty Finkbeiner.”
Still, imagine the fun to be had if you could be on a stamp while still alive! You could carry a postage stamp in your wallet as ID to impress snooty maitre d’s, and being on a stamp would be one of the greatest pickup lines ever.
There must be a thousand variations on “signed, sealed, delivered,” “return to sender,” “you send me” and “I bet you’ve licked me before” a person could smoothly invoke while brandishing a stamp with his or her face on it.
Someone on high must agree, because starting this year, the U.S. Postal Service is not only opening its stamps to living people, it is, in a decision that illustrates the wisdom guiding the organization, asking the public to help choose who could be honored.
Get your portrait ready, Larry the Cable Guy!
According to a news release, “The Postal Service is dropping a rule that currently requires an individual to have been deceased at least five years before being honored on a stamp. Under the new guidelines, living or recently deceased individuals will be eligible for commemoration on postage stamps.”
Can’t wait to see the many costumes of Lady Gaga immortalized!
“This change will enable us to pay tribute to individuals for their achievements while they are still alive to enjoy the honor,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in a news release. “These remarkable individuals — through their transformative achievements in their respective fields — have made enduring contributions to America. Honoring living individuals expands the interest in stamp topics and keeps our program timely, relevant and contemporary.”
Remember when the public voted on which image of Elvis Presley should be on a stamp? There was young, healthy, sexy, skinny Elvis, and older, unskinny Elvis. Could a similar choice soon face Oprah fans?
Stephen Kearney, executive director of stamp services for the postal service, was quoted as saying, “Engaging the public to offer their ideas is an innovative way to expand interest in stamps and the popular hobby of collecting them. We are inviting our customers to submit the top five living individuals they would like to see on stamps through Facebook.”
Some of the suggestions people have posted include Michael Jackson, who would qualify in a few years anyway (ditto Steve Jobs and Elizabeth Taylor); peace-loving Billy Graham (who was nominated by the same person who nominated violence-loving Clint Eastwood); Dolly Parton, who would require two stamps to illustrate the bounty of her wigs; Ellen DeGeneres, who would have a field day with tongue and licking jokes; Bill Clinton, who would have a field day with tongue and licking jokes; Harrison Ford, who has technically been on a stamp with the Han Solo portrait in the “Star Wars” stamps; Bill Cosby; Madonna; Barack Obama; Bob Dylan; Stephen Hawking; and Jesus Christ (the nominating person wrote on Facebook, “I really want to be able to send letters with Jesus Christ stamps. He even fits both profiles of being deceased, yet is still alive!”)
As no human being is perfect, no human being is beyond making a legacy-shattering mistake. Changing the USPS policy to allow living human beings on stamps is risky, but the conundrum of human nature in all its fallibility is an issue that will most likely never be licked.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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