Thursday, February 7, 2013

Send me a letter, if you can! -- by Josh

A couple of years ago, as the U.S. was in the midst of an economic downturn, a South American colleague made an interesting comment to me: "This country (the U.S.) is sliding into the 3rd world."
I was intrigued as to what would make her say something like that. However, now that I've spent some more time in, let's say, a place with less emphasis on the public well-being, I can see the danger of an over-zealous swing toward privatization.
I've never seen a UPS office that looked this cool (Courtesy of)

Over the last several years, there has been in the U.S. a disturbing trend toward implementing the kind of system that any American would gripe and groan about if they saw it in another country. "What do you mean the police don't show up if you call them?" "What do you mean you have to pay a subscription for fire service?" (I wish this was a joke!) "We have to buy drinking water separately?" "Wait, you have to pay individually for a private school?" 
I was struck today by yet another example of this downslide in services that we have long taken for granted, namely, the post office. The U.S. post office has been hung out to dry by Congress over the past couple of decades (according to my thorough research), and is being criticized for not covering all of their costs. "But FedEx does it!" is the common complaint. But a grand point is being missed. Postal service is a public good. The private companies have no mandate that requires them to deliver anywhere, no matter how remote.
The post office is a cornerstone of democracy, the free flow of information, but like I mentioned earlier, this is just one of many examples of a vociferous minority demanding that we turn our backs on the notion of a common good. I think, however, that most do not agree. The only problem lies in the subtle, slow way in which the changes are taking place, like frogs slowly boiling.
I've thought a great deal about the power of unity and coordination over the past couple of years. For example, in the D.R. I pay about $1 for a 5-gallon jug of drinking water because the tap water isn't, well, potable. We consume about 4 or 5 per week as a family. Now, if each family does the same, and you multiply it by, let's say 30,000 households in our city, that's $150,000 a week spent on jugs of water to private companies. Then there's the cost of transporting the water, picking up the jugs, washing the jugs, etc. Surely it would be more economical to just create a functioning drinking water system. It at least would be comparable. The equation seems clear to me: by unifying and coordinating our actions and priorities, we can offer more services more cheaply.
Alas, I currently have no sway over the municipal sewer/water peeps, nor the slightest bit of actual knowledge on the topic. If only there were a place to check out books on that.
Zora weeping profusely on the afternoon we visited the public library in Woodburn, 
only to find their hours had been cut due to budget cuts.

Aha! I will start where I can: We can bring library services to a whole section of the city that has never checked out a book just for the pleasure of reading. We can offer literacy help for kids who have fallen behind and would otherwise just fall through the cracks. We can provide a place and experiences for kids to fall in love with books, enriching their minds and widening their horizon of opportunities. 
I want one! What an awesome PUBLIC library building. (Courtesy of These Folks)

We can give kids the chance to read for pleasure and empowerment. After all, every problem on that list can be solved by educating and uniting ourselves.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love to gripe just as much as the hypothetical Americans above (I consider myself an equal-opportunity complainer, freely sharing my opinion about any place or issue). But now it's time to get to work. I've already been inspired by all the people who have shown their support, and I know that it's just the beginning. So, let's do this!


  1. Rebecca and Josh, you guys are the best! I am going to embed your vid on the Salem website to help drum up support for such and noble cause well as inspiration. : )