By Jim Hightower on February 25, 2014

What's the matter with the post office?

The US Postal Service, I mean -- the corporate hierarchy that runs this enormously popular public institution. Yes, I know that USPS has lost revenue it traditionally got from first-class mail delivery, but I also know that letter carriers and postal workers have offered many excellent ideas for expanding the services that USPS can deliver, thus increasing both revenue and the importance of maintaining these community treasures.

Yet, the Postal Board of Governors, which includes corporate interests that would profit by killing the public service, seems intent on -- guess what? -- killing it. The board's only "idea" is to cut services and shut down hundreds of local post offices. Incredibly, their list of closures include the historic post office in Philadelphia's Old City, the very building where Ben Franklin presided as our country's first Postmaster General, appointed by the Continental Congress in 1775.

All across the country, post offices that are invaluable artistic and historic assets are slated to be sold to developers. One is the marvelous 1935 Bronx post office, with classic architectural flourishes and 13 museum-worthy murals. "It's not just a post office," says one customer fighting the closure, "it's part of my life." No one feels that way about a Fed Ex warehouse. Yet, says a USPS spokeswoman dismissively, the four-story building is "severely underused."

So, use it! Put a coffee shop in it, a public internet facility, a library and museum, a one-stop government services center -- and, as USPS employees have suggested, a public bank offering basic services to the thousands of neighborhood people ignored by commercial banks. Come on, USPS, show a little creativity and gumption, and remember that "service" is a key part of your name!

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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