I think we can all agree that 2021 was a challenging year.

Unlike the jubilant parties of New Year’s past, this year seemed to be less of a celebration and more of a collective sigh of relief that it is over. I know at our house, we kept it low-key, opting for board games, creating a few new traditions (hello, banana cream pie) and calling it good.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

One thing that remained the same for us, and for you as well, I suspect, is making lists and resolutions. One of my resolutions this year is to write more letters.

I love writing letters. I love everything about it: the feel of quality paper, the heft of a favorite pen, choosing the perfect ink. There is a slow, deliberate ritual to it all that I find really gratifying. Writing makes you pay attention to your words. Texts have an immediacy to them that is (sometimes) helpful, while letters are crafted.

Handwritten letters do, however, have an inherent complication. Namely, the reliance on the U.S. Postal Service – and that can be problematic.

It’s important to pause and differentiate between the postal employees who are amazing and deserve our undying thanks and the system under which they serve which is, if not broken, pretty banged up. The weirdest part of it all is, a lot of the damage has been done by the person in charge, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

The most egregious of his actions, according to The Guardian, was the outright attempt to “… slow down mail delivery before the 2020 presidential election, in which millions of Americans voted by mail.” His actions were reversed under pressure and in the face of lawsuits. However, DeJoy has gone on to reduce staff, close stations and reduce hours, along with changing the delivery time for first-class mail from three to five days. All done as workers cope with seasonal and COVID-induced increases in mail volume.

The system is not merely flawed, it is being actively dismantled from within.

There has been a lot of talk about privatizing the postal system. I know some smart, well-intentioned people who see no problem with that and ask why the market system should not be brought to bear. I understand the urge. The thing is, the mail is not a product, like a new shampoo. It is a service, one that is vital to our social fabric as well as to the operations of our government. Financial solvency is always a goal, but as with other vital services (many of which we taxpayers subsidize), it should not be the determining factor. There are larger issues at stake.

Just think for a moment about how many times in the past few years alone privately owned “public services” such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been called before Congress to testify for violations of privacy, putting youth at risk and selling off the details of our private lives to the highest bidder.

There is something sacred about the trust we place in the U.S. Postal Service to deliver our correspondence, both legal and personal, swiftly and safely to its intended destination. I realize that maintaining (and, dare to dream, enhancing) the system is expensive, but we can’t afford not to.

As more me, I’m looking forward to sitting down at the kitchen table with a fresh stack of smooth paper, a favorite pen, some cute stamps  and sending off my love to the friends I miss so much.

Happy New Year!

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