Thursday, July 28, 2011

If This Is What You Want, Then This Is What You Get

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." - Histories, Herodotus, 440 BC
"Cash, Grass, or Ass - Nobody rides for free." - 1960's U.S. pop culture slogan
While the news that came out Tuesday wasn't entirely a surprise to any of us, it's one of those social and technological markers that we'll remember for a long time - along the lines of when we first heard that Polaroid film was going the way of the dodo bird.

In case you missed it, the U.S. Postal Service has decided that it can no longer afford to keep open every post office and postal retail location they currently own - so they've released a list of about 3700 post offices that will likely be eliminated across the country.

From coast to coast, every postal service outlet is being looked at, including the historical post office on the site where Ben Franklin invented the U.S. postal service, on July 26, 1775, 236 years ago this week.

For an organization that is fully self-supporting - and has been since 1970, when the Postal Reorganization Act was signed by President Nixon - the last 15 years have been a never-ending onslaught on their core business. The more e-mail we send, the less regular, first class mail goes through the U.S. postal service system.

We understand the logical progression of technology. Every member of our staff uses computers and cell phones, and even iPads and e-readers. We like that it doesn't take days or weeks to send messages across the country or the world. Without modern forms of communication, we couldn't do what we do for you every day.

That doesn't negate our love for the postal service, either.

The U.S. Postal Service is, to us, still one of the wonders of the modern world. Friends, family, and others we love can bake cookies or cakes, buy a book, or take a child's afternoon art project, box them up, and send that item anywhere in the country - really anywhere in the world - for an amazingly small amount, and have that item delivered in a matter of days.

In the U.S., there isn't anywhere the USPS really won't deliver - and in many rural and remote areas these days, it isn't FedEx, UPS, or DHL that carries those precious items the last mile. Often, those private delivery services contract with the U.S. Postal Service to do the part of the job that's too dirty, remote, or expensive for others to handle.

We're certain many of you are probably like us - concerned for the small towns and local neighborhoods that might lose a post office over the next year. You may have friends who will lose their jobs at the postal service, to say nothing of the fact that for many small towns, the post office is one of the few remaining vestiges of an America where we once cared more about our communities than the bottom line.

The next time the idea of privatizing more government services is thrown around by some far-right wing, corporatist-backed politician, we hope that people remember: this is what happens when a society chooses to privatize public services that should remain public.

If you're worked up about this issue, we'd suggest you to write a letter to your Congressperson about it. Sadly, you may have to go just a bit farther to mail it.

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