- - Monday, October 14, 2013


The English writer E.V. Lucas once called the postage stamp “a tiny, flimsy thing, no thicker than a beetle’s wing. And yet it will roam the world for you, exactly where you tell it to.”

The flimsy postage stamp isn’t as ubiquitous as it once was; email and electronic bill paying have seen to that. Still, traditional mail — often scorned as “snail mail” — remains the only way to correspond with a personal touch. Does anyone write “love emails,” to be tied with ribbons and kept in a box to be tucked away in a secret place? Does anyone sniff an email for a trace of a beloved’s perfume? Letter-writers can even make a letter more personal with a carefully chosen stamp.

The U.S. Postal Service, showing a little love, decided to issue 15 stamps supporting Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, with the backing of the White House and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

After the self-adhesive stamps were printed, the fitness council decided they were “too dangerous.” The designs depicted a skateboarder without kneepads, a swimmer doing a cannonball and a youngster performing a headstand without a helmet. Kids have been skateboarding without kneepads, doing headstands without helmets and performing cannonballs without safety nets for years and years. But portraying Americans having actual fun was over the line for government spoilsports.

The result, according to Linn’s Stamp News, the hobby’s leading weekly, is that the printing has been marked for destruction, the stamps will be redesigned and perhaps issued next year. The revised stamps will no doubt depict children in proper government-approved safety bubbles, protected from all the scrapes, skinned knees and bruises that were once a part of growing up.

The aim of the “Let’s Move” campaign is to separate youngsters from their television sets and electronic tablets to send them into fresh air, to run, jump and exercise to improve their health. Encouraging exercise and activity is meant to put a dent in the obesity rate among the children. So far, so good. It’s a worthy cause.

But the government can’t allow anything, not even the games children play, to flourish undirected. The last thing they want is to encourage children to explore their independence as their parents and grandparents did. Every skinned knee teaches an important lesson: Be careful, and learn your limits. But government bureaucrats regard themselves as activity directors for everyone, solely qualified to decide what children can and cannot do. Parents, get lost. Laws mandate helmets while riding on bicycles. No toy guns. Even using an index finger is a crime against “zero-tolerance” rules. So far, the school nurse has not been authorized to amputate these finger guns, but that may be coming.

Something as small as a design on a stamp must be corrected and sanitized, lest a child get the wrong idea and play a game of dodgeball, cops and robbers, cowboys and Native Americans or, worse, play baseball while keeping score. The nation’s first commemorative stamps, issued in 1893 to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the new world, would not have survived these latter-day bowdlerizers. Sailing can be dangerous. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition would do better to concentrate on push-ups and knee bends and leave editing postage-stamp designs to others. The U.S. Postal Service, with enough challenges, should simply stamp letters from the nanny “Return to Sender.”

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