Friday, February 8, 2013
We have in our society a system of communications between friends, family and business that connects us all.
This could describe Facebook — or a more venerable network, the U.S. Postal Service.
This week brought the sobering news, all but official, that our national mail system will cut first class delivery on Saturdays, starting in August.
“An American Icon” is how a Michigan retiree termed our tradition of postal delivery, in a Feb. 7 Wall Street Journal article.
Closer to home, last year’s going-away party for retiring postmaster John Smith in Odell served as a measure of how personal the postal system is to many people. There was a potluck in the lobby, and hugs and tears among neighbors.
But the beauty of the American postal system is about more than the neighborhoods it serves. Consider that it is not merely an American institution; our mail system connects the people of this country to citizens throughout the world.
Reducing mail delivery one day a week won’t stop people from sending postcards from Australia or keeping in touch via letter with Tia Maria in Mexico, but losing one day of service reminds us of how vital these links are.
The postal service’s immediacy and versatility is often compared to electronic and social media.
“Snail mail,” is the less-than-kind phrase often used. Out of respect for the people who work hard to process and deliver it, we suggest “conventional mail” as an alternative.
True, email is immediate, and Facebook provides a unique platform for photos and video.
But as our society faces one of the biggest changes in the history of the postal system, it’s good to keep in mind that what sets it apart from other systems is its egalitarian nature.
Yes, the sender must buy a stamp, but there is no charge to the recipient. On the other hand, free computer use at libraries aside, cyber and electronic transmissions involve some cost to the recipient. Further, the free postal service is extended to people in far rural places, who need that connection and might not enjoy the electronic opportunities found in other places.
It looks like no letters on Saturday will be the new reality. As this historic change happens, it should be seen as a watershed moment where we as a society take stock of the great value that the postal delivery system means to the individual and to our culture as a whole.
With that in mind, the Hood River News will, in coming months, look into the impact of no Saturday mail.
For our future coverage, we ask that you tell us in a few paragraphs what it means to your household, group, or business.
Emails are welcome at:
Or, drop a letter or postcard to Kirby Neumann-Rea, editor, at the address at the top of this page.