Former Postmaster General Calls Harry Potter Stamps “Prostitution” In Textbook Example Of Muggle Curmudgeonliness
Clutch your pearls, world! Here comes Harry!
LOL, stamps. What are they good for? Do you use them to mail your phonograph to a time traveler? Adorn the walls of your tribe’s cave? Burn them to protest the relentless march of modernity? Well a Mr. Benjamin F. Bailar does none of things. The eighty-year-old Bailar served as Postmaster General from 1975-1978, and was a proud member of America’s Citizen Advisory Stamp Committee—that is until recently, when he resigned over the national disgrace that is Harry Potter.
For millenials like me, the Citizen Advisory Stamp Committee is A) not a made-up thing and B) comprised of some very well-respected individuals. Our nation’s stamps are currently being presided over by respected historian/Smithsonian official Henry Louis Gates Jr. (“please, Henry Louis Sr. is my father!”) as well as a former Olympian and several other highly regarded patriots who are flown to Washington four times a year to preserve the good name of stamps. The committee has been responsible for selecting who and what appears on stamps for over a half century, so, imminent extinction of snail mail or no, they’ve definitely had an influence on what figures and images are considered iconic Americana–and that is not a power they take lightly. They’re essentially the Jedi Council, and Bailar is this:
In a brouhaha first reported by the aptly-named Linn’s Stamp News, Bailar has thrown the Committee into a shambles by writing a resignation letter (of course not an e-mail) accusing stamps of selling out:
The stamp program should celebrate the things that are great about the United States and serve as a medium to communicate those things to a world-wide audience […] To prostitute that goal in the pursuit of possibly illusory profits does not make sense to me.
Bailar also suggested that the Stamp Committee be dissolved “given the apparent desire of the [Postal Service] to commercialize the stamp program.”
That commercialization refers to the introduction of pop culture characters such as those seen on the recently released Harry Potter stamps. Stamp committee chairwoman Janet Klug told The Washington Post that depicting pop culture is part of an effort to “get a lot of young people interested in stamps. We have to go where they live.” Klug says Bailar, an “outstanding stamp collector,” will be sorely missed.
Speaking as a semi-young person, I’ll admit that I just see stamps as an expensive hassle, but I could envision collecting them if pop-culture icons like Harry Potter continue being represented. It doesn’t seem to me that adding Harry undermines the weight of important historical figures, but then I admittedly am from a totally different generation than Bailar–in many ways, fictional figures have usurped even religious icons for me in terms of recognition.
It’s always funny to me when people fear Harry Potter as a corruptive influence, but I have to admire Bailar, especially since Klug says he’s remained in the committee even while caring for his ailing wife. The former Post Master General is obviously passionate about stamps, and if the cause you love is going to die, better it go out with pride intact. Thank you to Bailar for his service, and now I may go buy some good-old fashioned Amurrican stamps as a symbol of gratitude. Where are stamps sold? A museum?
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