Why We Must Support the US Postal Service

When my father was stationed at the American Embassy in Rome, our family mail came to us via the Army Post Office (APO), which routes US Postal Office mail to military bases and diplomatic missions around the globe. [A note here: the Defense Department says that the APO mail service is available to only US Postal Service mail. You’ll understand why I say this in a minute.]

So, back to Rome. The Italian postal system was unreliable, so people living in Rome during my parent’s time at the Embassy (early ‘60s and, again, mid-‘70s) put their mail in post boxes in Vatican City, which has run its own postal system for the past century. I just ran across this informal 2017 poll that shows that Italy continues to be ranked poorly on its handling of the mail, with some 80 percent of the respondents to an informal poll rating it as “poor” or “fair”.

Source: postcrossing.com

the US mail ranks 7th in the world

Look at the bar graph again. In this list of 35 countries, Japan leads in high points for its mail system, followed by South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Austria, and the USA. 7th in a list of 35 countries, a good system.

Americans depend on the US mail

Americans have long relied on our government delivery of the mail to keep in touch with family, order supplies, transport livestock, and even transport children, as my friend Karen Coody Cooper writes in this piece that recently ran in our local newspaper, The Palm Beach Post.

My dad grew up on a South Dakota farm, where the mail linked his mother to family and friends who had found a warmer, easier life out in California. My father’s memoir, From the Hidewood, includes a story about his mother writing her family and making a friend of Dad’s one-room schoolhouse teacher through conversations at the mailbox.

… by the time she’d put the letter and its three pennies inside the roadside mailbox and raised the flag, the familiar slender figure with the book bag in hand had almost arrived.

Robert Amerson, From the Hidewood

Current attempts to hamper service

Elsewhere in the same issue of The Palm Beach Post was an article about the Trump Administration efforts to hamper the US Postal Service’s ability to deliver the mail, — in order to ensure its demise and resurrection as a for-profit enterprise — resulting in the death of chicks in transit to poultry farmers who’ve relied on the mail for their inventory. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has taken the issue to Washington. Look at her. I would do what she asks. She is one of us persistent, nasty women who wants answers. I don’t think she’s going to be okay with converting the US Postal Service into a private corporation. And, Americans serving our country abroad rely on the USPS to get their mail to the Army Post Office.

Private sector Mail failed me

This week, I had my own postal experience that sheds some light on the issue for me. After a decade of holding onto the written records of my mother’s family — a collection of letters, poetry, and other paper in annotated binders which she created and curated — I decided to finally get them to their proper home, the historical society in her hometown of Winona, Minnesota. Although I felt badly about not having done more with the materials while I had them, I knew that I was doing the right thing in putting these treasures closer to family. The Winona County Historical Society assured me that they’d accept the materials, redirecting any that might better belong in another historical collection — Mankato, in Blue Mound County, was where her mother’s Kelly family was from; other family came from Fountain City, across the Mississippi in Wisconsin.

I packed the binders into two sturdy boxes culled from Amazon deliveries. Given the delicacy of the task, and trying to limit my exposure to people — the Coronavirus has not been tamed here — I chose FedEx to deliver the two boxes to their permanent home.

Here is what happened one week later.

One box was delivered to the Winona County Historical Society. The other box was dumped at my front door, soaking wet, falling apart, and somehow still containing its precious cargo. The FedEx address label with the Minnesota address was gone, and the box made it back via my husband’s name and our home address on a new FedEx label. How this happened is a mystery. When I tracked the box, it shows that it is still enroute to the original destination, with a current address of Countryside, IL. The automated response line would not put a real person on the telephone. Because the box is still in transit. And the FedEx shipping center down the road, which I visited yesterday with the box and cargo in hand, will not issue me a refund and/or re-ship the cargo. I’ll try again today to reach a human being.

So much for the private sector.

The USPS will get my box this time. I’ve been out in the world enough to appreciate that social distancing precautions are in place to protect me, and 95 percent of the people we’ve seen are wearing masks. The Coronavirus numbers are in decline.

Of course, Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran are demanding that Florida schools re-open in-person. I’m betting we see those COVID-19 numbers shoot back up.

Political Musings in the Time of Corona: Andy Marlette, David Horsey, Clay Bennett

Trump ads threaten: “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” The images in these ads were taken as Trump sits in the White House. We have never been lead so callously.

He’s against God. He’s against guns.

Donald J. Trump, about Joe Biden

Trump sounds like a frantic salesman who cannot keep his pitch straight.

EJ Dionne, The Washington Post

He is hoping to get the nation to focus on the lesser problem of mayhem… To distract from the crushing, monumental screwup of public health and the economy.

Mona Charen, Ethics and public policy center

He is a businessman, and as such has thrown in the towel and declared bankruptcy.

William Damato, Letter to the Editor. The Palm Beach Post

The most dangerous people are the ones who speak with total authority and no room for error.

Jerome Groopman, Harvard Medical School

We all have to die, but we don’t have to die of stupidity.

Leonard Pitts, The Washington Post

Stupidity is being allowed to metastasize. And without science-based leadership at the top, it will continue to empower and embolden the mask holes among us.

Frank Cerabino, The Palm Beach Post

I equate Florida to a cruise ship. It’s very social, and it’s very group friendly, whether you’re flocking to the beach with friends or you’re all around the table having lunch.

Peter Ricci, Hospitality and Tourism Management program, Florida Atlantic University

We have I would say uncontrolled transmission at this time. That is fair to say.

Norman Beatty, assistant professor of medicine, University of Florida division of infectious diseases and global medicine

Florida alone has an average daily death toll roughly equal to that of the whole European Union, which has 20 times its population

Paul Krugman. The New York Times

Nothing’s risk-free in life.

Governor Ron DeSantis

Local government leaders in Georgia are being sued by the governor of that state for having the temerity to order the wearing of masks in their jurisdictions.

Can I get annexed to Germany or even North Carolina?

Mayor of Athens, Georgia

I am among the many New York State government retirees living in Florida. I know we make up the largest group outside the State. I know we have the expertise and the numbers, so how about we can petition Andrew Cuomo to be annexed? We would leave Mar-A-Lago behind.

Editorial Cartoons Say it Best

I grew up reading The New Yorker. Well, not reading it exactly, but flipping through the magazine to take in the cartoons, and trying to enjoy them like my parents did. We also had two big coffee table books of collected New Yorker cartoons, including one issued in 1950 on the magazine’s the 25th anniversary. It included this by Charles Addams.

These days, the editorial cartoons in The Palm Beach Post express the nation’s exasperation and exhaustion better than ever. Here are some from the past month.

Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal digs into Governor Ron DeSantis, whose callous attitude rivals that of his hero, Donald Trump. Trump’s genius test is fodder, too.

Nick Anderson of The Washington Post channels Trump’s “it is what it is” response to the Coronavirus.

Walt Handelsman of The Advocate in New Orleans and Signe Wilkinson of the Philadelphia Daily News are tracking the Republican’s dismal record on responding to America’s economic crisis.

Andy Marlette even gets credit for weather forecasting, correctly noting that Hurricane Isais kept away from Florida, where the Coronavirus is running rampant.

These talented artist-commentators say more than a thousand words. Thank you!

Letting the World In

As the tears fell down my cheeks this morning, I realized how much I’ve gotten used to being hard to the world.

Tracking Florida’s COVID-19 numbers helps me know how the Coronavirus pandemic is going on in the world just outside our door. I was trained for this new project of mine during my nearly 30 years in the New York State Division of the Budget in Albany. There, we knew about how to tell a story by using numbers, and the real story that the right numbers deliver.

We see pictures of people gathered in bars, unmasked. We hear that our daughter’s friends are going out as usual, and are grateful that she has her eyes open to the danger and is staying home. Governor DeSantis stands by his position that it is testing that is creating these numbers, not an increase in the virus. He tells Floridians to be brave, sounding like a World War I officer commanding his soldiers out of the trenches and into the bullets and bayonets of the enemy.

The news alarms me, even when it’s presented by smart people with broad, educated perspectives. I read the paper, scan The New York Times’ alerts throughout the day, and take in the nightly PBS News Hour, but otherwise it’s light reality — there is really no such thing as too much Say Yes to the Dress — or fiction diversions — the new Perry Mason on HBO, Vera on PBS, and we may make it through the crime/horror/Arctic drama Fortitude, if only to remind ourselves why we migrated south.

So, all in all, my relationship with television has been pretty passive as of late.

Yet, here I was this morning, freely weeping while we watched today’s CBS Sunday Morning. Two segments touched me, and the first was a story from back in our old haunts, Albany, where amateur painter Steve Derrick has taken the time to honor the front line in Albany Medical Center by painting the portraits of what they look like after a long shift, showing them in a local gallery, and giving the paintings to the doctors, nurses, aides, and others have inspired him so. A nurse was in tears as she thanked him for seeing who she is. This is soul food.

As you may know, the OLVG Nurses and Chapel in Amsterdam gave me the support to begin my recovery last year. The time my husband and I spent in that sweet chapel gave us time alone in the presence of something more than ourselves. The music we heard there lifted us up.

I grew up singing at home. Dad played the guitar and sang baritone, my sister was the soprano, I was the alto, and Mom was the audience. School choirs broadened our repertoire. I sang in church choirs in Albany churches. That was my form of worship. When Mom died, Susie and I sang The Lord Bless You and Keep You, following harmonies we learned at Herbert Hoover Junior High School in Potomac, Maryland.

Several years ago, Grammy composer Eric Whitacre figured out how to create a virtual choir. He videoed himself conducting a piece, and the singers filmed themselves singing to his conducting and the accompanist’s music. Then, he pieced together all the videos and audios. The first year, he had several hundred. This year, it’s more than 17,000. Here it is. Happy tears!

Eric Whitacre’s Sing Gently

Doing the Right Thing

The governor of my state of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is “counting on people to do the right thing” about social distancing and wearing masks to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus. In the next breath, he shrugs off the young crowds at the bars, saying “people are going to do what they’re going to do.”

Do we do the right thing when we do what we do?

The answer is, as it often is, it depends.

Years ago, I was part of a wellness program run by Albany Medical Center and Dr. Drew Anderson, Director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Lab at the University at Albany. Dr. Anderson introduced me to the idea of making the right thing easy, and the wrong thing thing hard.

Set the clock to wake up early. Have your exercise clothes ready. Have more fresh fruit than less processed snacks at the ready. Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. It’s a good way to structure your own behavior.

Things get sticker when the impact of our individual behavior spills out into our community. Sometimes, a physical reminder of the right thing helps reinforce the behavior, like placing doggie poop stations at strategic intervals in my community. (The Lopez Commission imposed mask-wearing on Kumba to help him resist over-reacting to other dogs. It’s working. He’s a dear.0

Kumba’s mask reminds him that other dogs are not a problem.

Suggestions are not enough when it comes to keeping society safe. Regulations ensure that houses in Florida are built to withstand hurricanes or storm surge. Laws have established speed limits, seatbelts, and airbags to make driving safer. When it’s a matter of public health, national security, or other overarching principle, the people we elect to represent us in government step in for the collective good.

Absent any action from the governor, the Palm Beach County Commission has finally mandated masks. The Palm Beach Post had urged them to do so in this editorial that ran the day before the vote.

No, this is not an overreach by the government. No, it’s not unconstitutional. And no, it’s not a question of your personal rights being taken away. It’s well-established law that elected officials have the right – no, the responsibility – to take actions to protect public health.

The Palm Beach Post

The Commission made doing the right thing easier. With our case numbers leaping ahead of most states, you know that my family is sticking with masks if we have to interact with the world. I have been transforming pillow covers into masks. It takes me a long time but is comforting, and I can see why knitting, darning, sewing have long been idle time activities. (Another weight management strategy: when your hands are busy, you’re not using them for snacks!)

Compliance isn’t universal, and not wearing a mask won’t land you in jail, although it carries a fine.

Four days after the Commission’s ruling, scores of partying 20-somethings made for an alarming headline: PANDEMIC’S YOUTH EMBRACE MYTHS AS CASES SKYROCKET.

“I think it’s a hoax, and I think that it’s just the flu on steroids.” She then giggled and walked into the restaurant without a mask covering her mouth and nose.

John Pacenti, The Palm Beach Post

These people are part of Generation Z, the age group that mobilized for gun reform after the Parkland shooting, and that have more recently marched in Black Lives Matter protests. I choose to believe that most of these young people, like us old people, believe in collective behavior for the common good. We’re just at home doing the right thing while the media interviews the partiers.

Stay safe, wear a mask, and be well!