Should there be an Elvis Stamp in the US?
Rabbi Ben Kamin is an Elvis fan but he does not believe that the US Postal Service should have issued an Elvis stamp. Read why:
One of those remarkable people called a ‘philatelist’ visited me the other day with a voluminous collection of stamps. This fellow, who even carries around a special moist sponge for his stamps (“It’s so crass to lick a stamp,” he snarls), is actually a member of the American Philatelic Society.
He is very disappointed in the current lack of artistic merit in US stamps, and is opposed to the self-sticking variety. He takes great pride in his anthology of cancelled samples and really possesses a pronounced sense of history and citizenship.
But when he pulled out a commemorative first class stamp with the visage of Elvis Presley, we got into a bit of a tussle. I opposed the Elvis stamp, released by the Postal Service in 1993, although I adored Elvis and particularly admired his unabashed admiration for black-style vocalization.
But Elvis Presley should not have a stamp in his memory. You can love Elvis, you can know every lyric of his haunting ballads, but you can still sense that there is something wrong with engraving this tragic man on our letters and cards. Elvis Presley died ignominiously and self-abusively. He killed himself with drugs, alcohol, and indulgence. The end of his life came to be a cacophony of blind extravagance and gross irresponsibility. He was not martyred; he was stoned.
Elvis Presley, brilliant, stunning, original, nevertheless became as sick in spirit was he was sublime in song. His music was good; his life-style was bad. Can’t we acknowledge the difference?
At the time of the release of the Presley stamp, some officials of the Postal Service did acknowledge the concerns of educators and psychologists who mentioned the poor role model Elvis had become—as well as the culture of Elvis “sightings” and reincarnations that blur the difference between life and death for kids. This continues to be a problem against the background of the national epidemic of teenage suicide. Kids are playing dangerous games with their health because they don’t always get it that death is final.
In the end, the Postal Service, always poorly run, and fiscally dysfunctional, decided to run the stamp and enjoy its biggest sales of any stamp in history. Never mind the ramifications of putting the stamp of approval on an idol who surely would have never wanted any youngster to pursue the kind of self-destruction that he did.
I don’t want a dead Elvis on a stamp; better a live Elvis on a stage. Remember when the government canted the refrain, “Just say no!”?