(This article first appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser May 2011)
“Carrier of news and knowledge, Instrument of trade and industry, Promoter of mutual acquaintance, Of peace and good-will Among men and nations.” inscription on southeast corner of post office in Washington, D.C. by Charles William Eliot
Though it may at first seem a stretch to compare the struggle to save the historic Ukiah Post Office with the current labor dispute between National Football League owners and the NFL players’ union, similarities abound. The root cause of the national postal crisis was the great commercial success of the Postal Service; and the root cause of the football crisis was the fantastic commercial success of football. In both cases, ownership i.e. the corporate elite, decided that their employees were making far too much money compared to, say, Mexican peasants, and they, ownership, wanted as much of their employee’s money as they could steal.
Because the Postal Service is a government entity, the overlords used their congressional puppets to pass a law forcing the Postal Service to begin each fiscal year by owing their own pension fund more than five billion dollars, thereby guaranteeing financial dissolution and providing an excuse for the overlords to wipe out thousands of community post offices and force millions of postal customers into the waiting arms of private carriers such as UPS and FED X.
The National Football League is a consortium of teams owned by billionaires, not mere millionaires. (The one exception is the ownership of the Green Bay Packers, otherwise known as the Communist Peoples of Green Bay Wisconsin.) Most of these billionaires, by the way, got their huge stadiums built with public money and massive local and state tax breaks, yet these supremely wealthy guys hate that their players, many of whom are African American, have a union and earn much more per year than, say, your average Haitian. Since the owners cannot pass a law forcing the players to work for less than the players are currently earning, the owners are threatening to cancel next season and forego billions of dollars profit in hopes of destroying the players’ union and getting a much larger chunk of the profit pie than they, the owners, currently get.
“Football players, like prostitutes, are in the business of ruining their bodies for the pleasure of strangers.” Merle Kessler
Now lest you think it absurd to compare athletes earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year (and in some cases millions of dollars per year) to postal employees making lower middle-class incomes, consider that the average length of an NFL player’s football career is three years. That is correct: three years. And when the average NFL player ends his brief professional football career and enters the real world for the first time, he is rarely possessed of more than moderate wealth, is still in his twenties, and has little or no training for anything but the game he can no longer play.
My question is: why don’t people with billions of dollars want other people to have anything? I don’t think that’s understating the phenomenon. Why don’t billionaires (remember: a billion is a thousand million) want us to have excellent affordable health care? Why don’t they want us to have totally groovy centrally located post offices, and why don’t they want football players who help them earn billions of dollars to have a fair share of the proceeds and decent retirement benefits and post-career educational opportunities?
I suppose if the postal employees or the football players wanted the billionaires to give up some of the billons of dollars those billionaires already have, the answer might be, well, nobody likes to have their stuff taken away from them no matter how much stuff they have, and these owners are not the most highly evolved individuals, so…
But here’s the thing. Nobody is asking for any part of what these obscenely rich people already have. Postal employees and football players and folks tying to save their post offices simply want a reasonable part of the future; and that is what these billionaires are so adamantly opposed to. They, the billionaires, apparently do not want anyone else to have anything. Ever.
“Messenger of sympathy and love, Servant of parted friends, Consoler of the lonely, Bond of the scattered family, Enlarger of the common life.” inscription on southwest corner of post office in Washington, D.C. by Charles William Eliot
Where else does such pathologically selfish behavior as exemplified by the billionaire oligarchs occur? I’ll tell you where; in two-year-olds, and in individuals stuck at the two-year-old stage of emotional development. I trust you have heard of the Terrible Twos. This expression refers to the ego development phase in which children between the ages of eighteen months and three years are in the throes of formulating their identities separate from Mama, and concurrently testing those boundaries established by their parents and society to prepare them for lives of healthy interactions with others. The two words most commonly associated with the Terrible Twos are Me and Mine.
Having toiled as a teacher’s aide in preschools (first in my twenties and again in my fifties), and as a veteran babysitter, I have been privy to myriad variations on the following scene. Two-year-old Child #1 is playing with a toy and surrounded by several other toys. Child #2 picks up one of the unused toys and Child #1 howls, “No! Mine!” and tries to snatch the toy from Child #2. In response to Child #1’s hysterical aggression, Child #2 relinquishes the toy and picks up another toy, which causes Child #1 to snatch that toy away, too, and yowl, “No! Mine!” Etc.
At this point in the drama, it was my role to gently intervene and explain to Child #1 that the toys at our school belonged to all the children, and because he or she could only play with one or two toys at a time, sharing the surplus toys was the good and fair way to proceed. If Child #1 would still not willingly share toys with Child #2, Child # 1 needed a Time Out and further explanations and examples of why sharing was the preferred mode of behavior.
For most children, this all-for-me and none-for-you phase passes as a matter of course. But for some people this phase never ends; and among those for whom the Me-Mine-Never-Yours phase has never ended are the people who rule America and own the football teams and want to close our post offices. Thus it behooves us to understand in dealing with these sad people that they are not inherently evil, but mentally ill.
“Baseball is what we were. Football is what we have become.” Mary McGrory
Speaking of post offices, I am convinced that a town’s post office is a prime indicator of the emotional and spiritual well being of a community. When my wife and I took a driving trip through northern California, Oregon, and Washington two years ago, we stopped at dozens of post offices to mail postcards and letters, and to check out the local vibes; and in every place where several small town post offices had been consolidated into a single factory-like annex warehouse postal depot, the people were as phantoms, the restaurants were lousy, and you couldn’t find a decent bookstore to save your life.
Epilogue: This just in from my pal Max Greenstreet, musician, movie maker, and handyman in Belford, New Jersey, alerting me to be on the lookout for a package he just mailed from his beloved post office.
Doreen (at the post office) says hi. “Mendocino…” she said, fondly.
“Have you ever been there?” I asked.
“No,” she said grinning, “but I’ve always wanted to. Never got as far west as the Pacific Ocean.”
“The coast is fabulous. It’s a beautiful drive from San Francisco.”
“Someday,” she said, a dreamy look in her eyes.
Then our talk turned to tiling and the infinite world of bathroom remodeling.
Todd’s award-winning collection of short stories Buddha In A Teacup is now available as a Kindle and Nook Book, and in glorious three-dimensions from Mulligan Books in Ukiah, Laughing Dog Books in Boonville, or via the Postal Service (and signed by the author) from Underthetablebooks.com