Memory is not a Document (Ronald Reagan Lives on in our hearts and envelopes)

Today for the first time I had the pleasure of mailing Ronald Reagan’s face through the U.S. postal system. Three times, in fact. Appropriately enough, the stamped envelopes contained rebate forms for my 2004 TurboTax software. Very supply-side economics. Let the rebates come trickling on down!

Reagan–who was arguably an amnesiac even before he had Alzheimer’s–makes for an odd stamp. I was reminded of one of the sidebars in Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Memory is not a document.

Meaning, it’s not permanent. It’s not evidence. It’s not even there. Reagan exemplified this. The whole thing is very Pynchonesque. A Reagan stamp, that is. Like there’s this vast underground postal empire giving these stamps a meaning that exists above their actual 37 cent value. W.A.S.T.E.

I remember in the early nineties when the Elvis stamp came out, there was a debate whether it should depict the young hip rocker Elvis or the older sequined Elvis (younger won out). If we had a debate about the Reagan stamp, what would the two alternative versions be? Obviously the presidential version. But what about the young homoerotic Kings Row Drake “Where’s the rest of me?” McHugh? Which would be more appropriate?