No doubt the subject of this editorial is going to be aimed at our American readers, but please don't let that stop you from reading it if you're in another country. You see, it also has to do with our friends in all nations of the world. Ready? Okay, here goes?
The other week the Celebrate The Century Express rolled into my adopted hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. For those of you who haven't caught this yet, it's an Amtrak locomotive pulling four historic-model railroad cars, the whole thing decorated with many of the stamps the U.S. Postal Service issued to commemorate the 20th Century.
As I was typing up the story about the CTC Express's visit for our newspaper, I remembered the stamps I bought that morning at the post office, the current series with the brilliant full-color snapshots from the Hubble Space Telescope. These aren't just stamps, but works of art, a stunning set in any collection.
Then I looked over the list of the stamps that were issued for Celebrate The Century, the stamps that postal customers voted on to best remember the past ten decades of American history. There were the obvious ones, like World War II and the polio vaccine. But most were devoted to pop-cultural icons: Superman, motion pictures, "Titanic", Babe Ruth, Monopoly, Cabbage Patch Kids, Seinfeld? Seinfeld?!?? Star Trek?
Why didn't Star Wars get a stamp?
Why hasn't Star Wars ever had a stamp before?
Why hasn't Star Wars ever had a chance for a postage stamp? When the list of candidate stamps for the 1970s came out, Star Wars wasn't to be found. Star Wars was forgotten somehow, while disco and bellbottoms got immortalized on tiny slices of paper. Not much to ask for? Well?
This isn't a fit of jealousy, mind you. After all, not everything from the 70s could have been nominated? unless we wanted to see Burt Reynolds adorn a "Smokey And The Bandit" stamp. Star Trek has a rightful place in pop American culture, and I'm glad to see it enthroned as due its import. Anyone who survived the Cabbage Patch riots of '83 will display their lesions proudly: no doubt that deserves memorializing. The same goes for the rest that got their images emblazoned in miniscule four-color for the ages: the personal computer, Korea, Bugs Bunny, Elvis?
Where's Star Wars?
So far as I can determine, a Star Wars stamp has been issued. Several of them actually, by the island nation of St. Vincent. And they're absolutely beautiful: the first series featured concept art from the original trilogy. St. Vincent has released at least nine Star Wars stamps, but not a single stamp commemorating the saga has ever been released by the United States Postal Service.
There should be a Star Wars stamp. Really. By the United States Postal Service.
For all the common use we put stamps to, think of why they are important. Stamps aren't merely a vessel of communication or commerce. They're how a country shares its cultural heroes and ideals. When a country chooses to emblazon an image onto a stamp, it's with careful consideration, because that image becomes a representative of the issuing country. Even more than, say, a flesh and blood ambassador, because each of us will come into contact with a stamp far more than we would a United Nations representative.
So is this a strictly American thing to see SW ensconced on a postage stamp? I don't think so. Millions of people around the world enjoy the hobby of stamp collecting. This isn't something just for this country, but for our friends and family in the Force across the globe. The Elvis Presley stamps wound up in collections as far away as Brazil and Sri Lanka, as much a prize there as they would be here.
There's a reason why Star Wars is long deserving a U.S. postage stamp: it's unique, because it's the only pure mythology this country has ever produced, with the exception of the Old West. Great Britain has its legend of King Arthur, while Greece has Hercules and Perseus. All of these have been rendered on stamps. So too have some real-life heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., Charles Lindbergh, Harriet Tubman, Robert E. Lee, and countless others.
Star Wars may not be real life, but it is about a something very much real: the hero in all of us, that's waiting for the right time to come out and be useful to something bigger than ourselves. Alvin York, a young lad from the boonies of Tennessee, isn't that far removed from Luke Skywalker, a young lad in the boonies of Tatooine. Both of them were swept into a struggle far larger than what they thought possible: York entered the trenches of World War I and became one of the greatest war heroes of all time, while Skywalker left his farm to become a galaxy's savior.
That's the lesson of Star Wars: it doesn't matter who you are. "Size matters not." Only that you are willing to serve in the right place, at the right time. That's what America has been about: ordinary people who wind up doing extraordinary things when they're called to the task. America isn't a land where a noble few can aspire to such heights, but instead those heights are open to all.
And not just about people in America either, but around the world. This is a myth that comes from every age and country. It's a myth that has been shared with countless millions around the world. America has come unto her own in the chronicles of history, because like Britain and Greece, it has given the world a rich mythic saga to be cherished and passed down unto the generations to come. Long after we are gone, our children's children and their grandchildren will be watching Luke Skywalker go from being a farmboy to a young Jedi. They'll discuss George Lucas as a storyteller who understood the power of myth, and they'll watch in awe as Bill Moyers brings Lucas and Joseph Campbell together to discuss the heroic nature of Star Wars.
And maybe there is a real life hero being honored on a Star Wars stamp. Postal regs require a person be dead for 10 years before he or she can be depicted on a stamp, but his face won't be required. If a Star Wars stamp gets issued, there'll be a kid from Modesto, California, who came up in an ideal time among drive-throughs and speed shops, who's going to be representing all kids - of all ages - in this country and all over the world, about the power of following one's dream.
My dream when I was growing up was of having something to do with a Star Wars movie. That won't happen, but there is something all of us can do now: continue the mythic power of Star Wars, by giving it its just due: a postage stamp from its "home" country.
The closest things to Star Wars I've depicted on a U.S. postage stamp, in terms of mythic power, have been the Lone Ranger and Superman. But those are singular characters, whereas Star Wars is about an encompassing saga of many characters and many ideas. Indeed, one wonders what of Star Wars would best symbolize the entire story on one stamp. Would Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio be America's ambassadors to the far corners of the Earth, as have Elvis and the Cat in the Hat? Or do we depict Darth Vader's fearful mask? Do we adhere to the "classic" trilogy, or open up the prequel trilogy as well (as if Jar Jar Binks wasn't everywhere already)? Perhaps we should anticipate a piece of hardware, like the Millennium Falcon or the Death Star.
First things first: let's get a Star Wars stamp approved. We can have fun speculating about what would be on it later.
So here's what I'm proposing: let's start a campaign asking the U.S. Postal Service to consider issuing a Star Wars stamp. And what would you know, but they're already set up and open for nominations for new stamps!
We need to begin contacting all of our fellow Star Wars fans, wherever they might be. Ask them if they've ever wondered why there hasn't been a U.S.-issued Star Wars stamp. Tell them that we're now working toward the goal of seeing a Star Wars stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service. E-mail will not be appropriate for something like this. Instead, we need to let our friends at the USPS know that we're very serious about wanting this stamp issued. So run out and buy some of their nice, beautiful stamps. When you come home, write out, type, render in Crayola, whatever you are led to do, but compose a short but sweet letter to the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee. Tell them why you would want to see a Star Wars stamp. Ask them to please consider one.
When you're finished, put the letter in an envelope and put a stamp on it (envisioning how pretty Yoda might look there someday soon) and send your letter to this address:
Citizens' Stamp Advisory CommitteeAll we can do at this point is to ask nicely. But the more nice requests they get, the better the chances are that a Star Wars stamp will be coming out. To paraphrase your local congressman, "write early and write often"? and write politely.
c/o Stamp Management, U.S. Postal Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW, Room 4474EB
Washington, DC 20260-6756
Don't try to make this happen. "Do, or do not? there is no try." Let's put our efforts into getting the nod for a Star Wars stamp. This WILL happen if we want to see it happen enough. So mail your letter today. And remember?.
May the philatelism be with you? always.
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