A few years ago, an American friend sent me a Christmas card. On the envelope she drew an arrow pointing to one of the stamps….a cat. At the time, I thought the point was that the cat LOOKED like my friend’s cat. It was only some weeks later (in conversation) that it emerged that the cat WAS my friend’s cat. I did not know about “personalised” stamps.
Well that is not entirely accurate. As part of the Oscar Wilde issue in 2000, the Irish Post Office did provide an opportunity to personalise the stamp with a photograph. It was something of a “one off” an experimentation with new computer technology and a gesture towards the the Millennium.
It never really took off. Other postal administrations have made better use of this technology.
It is a double-edged sword. Necessarily, a stamp collection is a “Greatest Hits” album. The best of History, Sport, Music, Culture, Spirituality and the rest. Benedict Arnold will never appear on an American stamp.Yet it seems possible that he might appear on an “unofficial” American stamp and be carried thru the “official” US Mail.
To a person like myself, who has politically motivated and has a slightly subversive sense of humour, then there is certainly an opportunity to create a little mischief. I have had some “philatelic phun” but only at the expense of those who thoroughly deserve it.
But for a person with a more sinister political agenda and sick sense of humour, the opportunity to cause grave offence to the innocent is also there.
Family occasions such as births, marriages and deaths or high school or university graduations are legitimately celebrated and commemorated on personalised postage stamps. And of course all companies providing the service have rules…no drug related material, no homophobia, no racism, no sexism etc. They also have gate-keepers to ensure compliance. But it seems to me that this relies too much on the decency of people and the ability of the staff.
For example Jane Doe in Hartford, Connecticut will soon graduate High School. And beloved John Doe in Billings, Montana died last week aged 87 years old. Their families might want to send out Christmas. Cards to commemorate these events.
Seems too easy to provide a photograph. Because….well Timothy McVeigh, the mass murderer has …shamefully….lot of admirers. Would a gatekeeper really recognise his High School photograph. Can a person be just too controversial to be “honoured”? All reasonable people would say YES. Plainly Timothy McVeigh would be an inappropriate subject on an American stamp….including an unofficial one.
But recently Michael Brown from Ferguson, Missouri graduated High School. And recently Michael Brown from Ferguson, Missouri died. In a sense, his High School photograph is no different from a million others. It would be a severe gatekeeper who turned away an order for a sheet of twenty stamps from his family. But what about a million stamps from people who have supported his family. A political message? Yes. But by proxy.
And of course an expensive political message. The stamps cost twice the face value which is valid for postage.
The national Post Offices and international Universal Postal Union are amazing institutions. I have little time for the greedy and selfish politics of Conservatives. And even less time for the bizarre politics of Libertarianism which is being imported into Europe thru the Internet. Libertarianism makes a virtue out of Self Interest and decalres War on Society. …national and international.