Randall Beach: Save our postal service
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor global pandemic shall stay our couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
This is what Americans are still counting on: that six days a week we will continue to hear that reassuring plop in our mailboxes, delivered by a smiling, reliable mailman or mailwoman.
But we can’t count on it continuing. President Trump recently declared “The Postal Service is a joke” because it’s not charging enough to Amazon and other internet companies.
Trump told Congress he won’t support a bipartisan emergency plan providing $13 billion to the USPS unless the agency raises package rates by 400 percent. Independent analysts say this would hurt the USPS, which is already reeling because the coronavirus pandemic has drastically reduced mail volume.
Meanwhile, as postal carriers continue to provide service to all parts of the country, including remote rural areas, approximately 500 of those workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Hundreds more are suspected of having the virus.
Many of us have become so alarmed by the situation and so appreciative of our carriers that we are taping messages to our mailboxes thanking these workers for their brave and steadfast service. Some of us are even attaching envelopes with tips of $5 or more.
The Rev. Allie Perry, who writes some of the “Faith Matters” columns for the New Haven Register and is a neighbor of mine in the East Rock section, recently posted a colorful “thank you” sign to her postal bin on her front porch. Periodically she puts an envelope there with a little money.
“We may not be mailing letters as much as people once did,” Perry told me in an email, “but the USPS continues to be absolutely vital, a kind of circulatory system for our body politic, reaching to the extremities of rural communities.”
Perry noted the USPS began in 1775, before our country was born.
“What other service operates so democratically in this country, financed with no taxpayer dollars, just the revenues from postage, while providing jobs for so many?” Perry asked.
“Talk about essential public service!” she said. “I am so grateful for our letter carriers continuing to serve us during this pandemic. And I am so outraged that the Trump administration is going after the USPS. This is yet another attempt to assault our democratic institutions.”
Another neighbor of mine, Van Galligan, wrote in a letter to a friend: “If the Post Office is allowed to go under, then our soul will be unmoored and the spirit that gave life to our world will float away into darkness and the robots will come in to take final charge. And what used to taste like wine will taste like ashes.”
“For me,” Galligan said, “it will be the end of American civilization.”
Katie Coleman of New Haven emailed this to me: “The USPS is an important lifeline for millions. People receive their medicine through the mail and their Social Security checks, their stimulus checks…”
Carol Christmas of Hamden, who was a letter carrier for 33 years and has set up her own business, The Write Way, offering her services as a card and letter writer, is deeply worried about the USPS’ future.
“This is another threat of loss in the pandemic tapestry,” she told me in an email. “It makes me feel like I must get all my letters written soon, just in case the mail carriers disappear.”
Christmas noted the upcoming presidential election cannot be ignored as a factor in this struggle. “The issue of voting by mail is the clincher,” she said. “Voting by mail might counter the administration’s plan to suppress the vote.”
“The postal service is not a business, like FedEx or UPS,” Christmas noted. “It is a public service guaranteed by our Constitution with universal delivery to every address in the country. It’s like the public library or a national park. It exists for the common good. If it gets privatized, we’ll lose a national treasure. The service will erode and the prices will skyrocket.”
Christmas concluded by saying that as we face this pandemic, “The world is holding its breath. And that is why we still need the Post Office more than ever. It secures a method of communication that is reliable, trusted and comforting.”
She is urging us to call upon our state and congressional representatives to ensure financial help for the USPS is included in the next stimulus package.
Randall Beach – 203-865-8139 firstname.lastname@example.org.