CANCEL CULTURE: “Stone Mountain Memorial” and other ideological postmarks

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Postmark Culture versus Cancel Culture

When my mother’s house had to be sold in order to provide for her care during her last three years, my brother and I were faced with the challenge of cleaning it out. Among the few things I retained from that project was a small plastic storage container piled with loose mid-20th century U.S. postage stamps. Their face value ranges from a single penny to six cents. One of the most expensive was also a reminder of the “southern roots” of my upbringing. The Stone Mountain Memorial stamp was, in fact, was the only stamp with more than one instance of a block of four with the issue number attached. One will note the block numbers: 32261 and 32263. My guess is that one of my parents bought several sheets of this stamp and retained the most valuable part of the sheet because she or he was quite certain it would be worth more than its purchase price someday. Even though that is the case (the block of four is worth about $5.00 now), I doubt the purchase was made only out of philatelist economics. My mother spent several years of her childhood in Georgia, which is where the Stone Mountain Memorial serves as a distillation of the valor of the Confederacy. It is additionally known as being the symbolic cynosure of the KKK.

I must say that I was surprised to find that a stamp had been issued in honor of the SMM. After all, what is the likelihood of Germany issuing a stamp of a work of sculpture valorizing three major Nazis? The question is who made the decision to issue this stamp? I’m not kidding. I want the details. What are the names of those who proposed and approved this stamp? Should not their names be publicly revealed so that their responsibility in this matter does not recede into forgetfulness of history? One can certain that no postage stamp was proposed at this time to recognize the successful boycotts of segregated bus systems. The SMM stamp is meant to be a cultural counterattack on the civil rights movement. Nor should one imagine the “Law and Order” stamp, which preceded the SMM stamp by a couple of years, to be any less of an effort to advertise hegemonic whiteness.

Should anyone wonder how the myth of “The Lost Cause” managed to perpetuate itself with such seeming ease, one need only look to the ordinary instances of its reiterations. Some of us may be repulsed by how the aftertaste of the stamp’s glue was meant to be a sacramental reminder of the ideals of the successionist states, but let there be no doubt that that was the intention of those who championed its circulation and foregrounding on envelopes. And let there be no doubt that this stamp’s implicit postmark is also the watermark of my grade school education in Norfolk, Virginia, in which the history textbooks I read gave an account of the civil war to my all-white classroom that was meant to indoctrinate us. And it did.

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