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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bad News for People Who Send Letters

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:44 AM

As Paul Constant noted in a post below, the US Postal Service announced yesterday that it may close up to 3700 post offices to try and make up for some of the billion of dollars it has hemorrhaged in recent years.

Don't send off a snarky email about the news—this is a tragedy, people! Maybe I'm just speaking as one of the apparent minority of Americans who sends letters regularly, but the US Postal Service is an American institution and it's sad to see it wane. We take the system totally for granted, but consider for a minute that you can get a lengthy letter to the other side of the country in only two days for only 44 cents. That's amazing! That would be a terrible ability to lose if, say, 20 years from now we have a privatized postal service run by somewhere like FedEx that prioritizes bulk mail and doesn't give a damn about postcards.

It's also a loss of place. The post offices on the hit list don't include any in Portland. Instead, it's a list of those small Oregon towns with funny names: Deadwood, Oxbow, Helix, Swisshome, Post. Post! They're thinking of closing the post office in Post! In many places across America, the post office is what makes a town officially a town and not just a cluster of houses. If the post offices are abandoned, what becomes the marker of a town? A gas station?

I'm not saying everyone should run out to buy bicycle forever stamps to support the public postal service. I just want to recognize that physical post offices are important both as a tradition and service, and for creating a sense of place in communities. I hope we find a way to keep them around.

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