Bill Cosby

Until revelations of Bill Cosby’s sexual assaults became well known a few years ago, he was one of America’s most beloved entertainers. There was even a stamp issued for “The Cosby Show” by the USPS, and Cosby was a shoo-in for a commemorative stamp ten years after he had died (The United States Postal Service had long had a rule of a wait of a decade after death before commemorating anyone except a deceased President —this has been waived, and ten years is not a formal requirement but is still traditionally followed.)

But the revelations against Cosby have been horrific, and indeed the question now is not whether he will ultimately be commemorated on a postage stamp but whether he will go to jail. It’s fair to say that the Cosby show never would have had been commemorated on a US postage stamp if the Postal Service knew then what it knows now.

The reason for the ten year rule after death for issuing a stamp commemorating a person that the Post Office skirted around (by issuing a stamp to “The Cosby Show”—an event— rather than Cosby the man) is clear; and it is a good one. Commemorative stamps issued by an agency of the United States government are a high honor. Time is necessary to determine whether the person or people involved in an event are truly worthy of historic commemoration and if they are worthy of such an honor from the totality of their life and not just a short series of praiseworthy events.

Consider a “Giants of Capitalism” Commemorative which at one time might have included  Bernie Madoff or commemorating Mark McGuire for his 70 home runs in 1998 before it was discovered that he used steroids. Bruce Jenner might have been commemorated for his decathlon victory just as he might now, as Cait, for her gender change. The Post Office policy of ten years after the death of people involved in an event before it gets pictured on a stamp goes a long way toward avoiding embarrassing Commemoratives.

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