The Sunday Driver, S1, E6: The Smells of Democracy

Good Afternoon all. With no shortage of both the good and bad news that fuels us, we top off the tank and begin our Sunday drive mid-week. In the Before Times, Wednesday meant a huge flock of attorneys heading to motion hearings in Oakland County. This particular Wednesday, I am tapping away in the Tiki-Hut.

Checking numbers first, as of this writing, there have been a cumulative total of 5,634,762 Covid-19 cases in the US, with an aggregate 174,499 deaths, 22,735 new cases and 783 newly departed as of today. Here in Michigan, we have experienced 93,662 total Covid cases, 6,340 cumulative deaths, 477 newly confirmed cases and 15 newly and dearly departed.
So swapping out our rag-top for a mail truck this week, let’s hit the open road.

Stan, Stan, the Mailman
Stopping first at the end of the driveway in front of the house I grew up in, who among us doesn’t remember the name, face and personality of their first letter carrier growing up? Our first mailman was a kindly, tallish, balding fellow named Stanley Kozieradzki; to the shrieking throng of kids following him through the neighborhood, chanting his moniker, he was “Stan-Stan the Mailman.”

While Stan was servicing a “rural route” of homes built on formerly beautiful farmland, he himself was from a strange place called “Hamtramck,” where as a dutiful bachelor, he still cared for his aging Mother. Stan had that interesting gift of never revealing so much of his interior life, while being completely interested in yours, regardless of age. I recall that like so many from the Post Office, Stan had served, Stan had seen things, and he never spoke of it. Not once.

Stan would roll through our environs between 1:00-3:00 PM, and dutifully steer his right-hand controlled truck up to clusters of mailboxes. In the Summers, there were usually groups of children chasing after him, as one of Stan’s principal shticks was to hand out “candy” in the form of Luden’s Cherry Cough Drops, and each one was a trophy. If you were old enough, Stan would entrust you with your own family’s mail, and it was this man who delivered good news and bad: mysterious post cards, letters and brown paper packages; my brother’s draft notice, Columbia House records, and college acceptance letters; Dad’s news and trade magazines, and another more racy monthly; seeds and sundries and such for Mom; gifts and gimmicks, decals and stickers for me; and once a year, the Sears and JC Penney Christmas catalogs (Penney’s actually called theirs a “wish-book”).

No matter who you were, or how old, Stan seemed to always have time stop to chat; I recall him talking earnestly with me during my teen years for nearly an hour curbside, while the motor just kept running. And I will never, ever forget that wonderful, interesting smell of ink, canvas, paper, cardboard, tape and glue, coming from his vehicle, as singularly evocative as the smell of your elementary school. And I will remember Stan’s huge feet, clunky shoes and white socks, his old-school USPO hat cocked on his bald pate, and a strange amalgam of keys on a huge chain, until I myself pass on.

Stan was a binding agent, a watchful shepherd, a constant, comforting presence in the lives of everyone in our neighborhood, and I’m willing to bet anyone who spent even a brief time living there would remember him just as fondly. So it is both through this nostalgic lens and with very clear eyes that I find myself absolutely irate about Donald John Trump’s efforts to euthanize the USPS to rig his election, and enrich his puppet-postmaster, who would stand with others to quintuple massive personal fortunes if the Post Office were “out of the way.”

In 1970, the US population was 205 million, Stan had 548,000 fellow employees and they delivered about 85 billion pieces of mail per year. Today, the USPS has 496,000 employees delivering nearly 150 billion pieces of mail to 328 million folks, 38 percent more than in 1970. It is an agency uniquely hamstrung financially, forced to subsist almost entirely off of its own meager revenue, and to have on hand funds sufficient to cover retiree legacy costs projected 10 years into the future, a burden unlike any other government or private entity in the US.

And though the GOP has been hungrily trying to kill it for decades, the USPS is the medical, financial, familial and spiritual lifeline to millions of Americans in all 50 states and US territories, and all deployed US personnel, with an approval rating north of 92 percent. Our Post Office is a service (not a business) ensconced in the Constitution, dates back to 1775, and despite bellyaching and Agenda 21 conspiracy theories, together with our use of interstate highways and hard currency, it’s about as physically close as most Americans get to the evil Federal Gub’mint.

Valkie and I are well familiar with our letter carrier Eric, he routinely gets a holiday tip, and we use our local post office frequently to ship care packages to adult children and Valkie’s relations in the Keweenaw. While Valkie is the shipping clerk in our household (her dear Mum was the post-mistress in their tiny Village of Toivola), I do have occasion to get in there myself, and when I do, I am hit with that same scent; ink, canvas, paper, cardboard, tape and glue. The smells of democracy.

America’s Moms
Shifting gears to the new-paradigm DNC convention, on night-one former First-Lady Michelle Obama was uncharacteristically somber in an honest evaluation of the country under Trump, stating “Whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy.”

Speaking directly to the experience of the young in America, she opined “They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else. Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation. That’s not just disappointing; it’s downright infuriating.”

Delivering heartfelt concern and sincere empathy, Mrs. Obama sounded every bit like a disappointed mother or teacher, and her thorough assessment is best captured in her remark “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”

Even two Fox TV folks had to acknowledge the power of the address, and while you could call it a bravura performance, it was far more than that; the petrifying, disappointing truth from a Mom whose deplorable detractors truly and only reject her because of her race.

Last night featured Vice-President Biden’s wife Dr. Jill Biden, Ed.D, an educator by trade and a healer by nature. Sounding a hopeful theme of amity, Dr. Biden stated “There are those who want to tell us that our country is hopelessly divided, that our differences are irreconcilable. But that’s not what I’ve seen over these last few months. We’re coming together and holding on to each other. We’re finding mercy and grace in the moments we might have once taken for granted.”

Speaking more specifically to her husband’s suitability for these times, Biden continued “Joe’s purpose has always driven him forward. His strength of will is unstoppable. And his faith is unshakable—because it’s not in politicians or political parties—or even himself. It’s in the providence of God. His faith is in you—in us.” Far from endorsing a radical-left turn toward Godless communism, Dr. Jill concluded her remarks by opining “We’re seeing that our differences are precious and our similarities are infinite. We have shown that the heart of this nation still beats with kindness and courage. And that’s the soul of America that Joe Biden is fighting for now.”

And speaking of Godless communism, those incurious folks prone to snake-oil who wrote off the Biden ticket as too radical may have been surprised to see GOP bogey-woman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reduced to one-minute of speaking time, in which she flatly stated “Out of a love for all people, I hereby second the nomination of Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont for president of the United States of America.” You see, far from being the evil angel of death perched on “Sleepy Joe’s” shoulder, AOC is one of FOUR women in a Democratic caucus of 232 who are reviled by the entire GOP and treated skeptically by a healthy swath of moderates and independents. To say she is of tiny scale compared to her menacing shadow across the millions of tiny minds is a gross understatement.

Debunking the myth of AOC’s Lenin-like supremacy over the entire Democratic Party, the Dallas Morning News wrote “Unlike House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a frequent GOP target, she’s not passed a bill, much less a major one. Unlike Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a favorite heel for Democrats, she’s not led a congressional chamber. Unlike Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent often lumped into Republican’s ‘socialism’ attacks, she has not run for president.”

Put simply, a gargantuan AOC is one of the latest in a series of childish mythologies constructed by a GOP bereft of any sound public policies of its own, and that, friends, mercifully leads us to the last leg of this week’s drive.

Throw the Dummy Switch
On the evening of May 1, 1931, a flailing President Herbert Hoover pressed a button at the White House which illuminated every light inside the Empire State Building in New York to dedicate the newly completed building. Of course the dummy switch in DC was connected to nothing; men in NYC waited for a hand signal and threw on the lights for a structure Hoover had nearly nothing to do with.

Similarly, next week Donald John Trump will throw multiple switches at the RNC convention, in a desperate attempt to activate and animate the prejudices, propensities, and propaganda of his pathetic party. A once proud party of Lincoln, Teddy and Ike, now so morally and intellectually bankrupt it stands for nothing but greed and ignorance, and has abandoned all principles in submission to a tin-pot moron. And pardon me, but you know your side is in deep do-do when the entire theme and purported message of your convention has changed three times in the last three weeks.

At the end of July, the theme of the GOP convention was to be “Make America ______ Again! Inserted into the blank on each successive night were to be the the words “safe,” “work,” “first,” and “one,” but they could’ve saved time, money and ink by just saying “white.” Then on August 4, the theme changed to a direct lift from Sinatra, promising “The Best is Yet to Come.” I can hear Francis Albert shouting “questa è una merda (this is shit)” from his grave.

Ronna McDaniel (no longer using Romney) and Co. are finally settled with a direct lift from 1950’s-era Walt Disney: “Land of Promise,” “Land of Opportunity,” “Land of Heroes,” and Thursday’s climactic “Land of Greatness.” And despite what would on face value feel like an endless loop of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, I fully expect what we’ll actually take in is four nights of nonsensical white-grievance, victim-hood and dummy-switch bullshit.

Why? Just this week the RNC announced that the charming McCloskey’s of St. Louis, the couple who’ve been charged with felonious assaults for waving weapons at peaceful protesters passing by their house, will be featured speakers. This is so wrong on so many levels we’ll run out of gas soon, but let me just note how outrageous it is to endorse criminal behavior by letting defendants acquit themselves and spoil a jury pool from a national stage. And any Trump or RNC staffer with a law license facilitating this should be disbarred as it violates every precept in our jurisprudence and canons of ethics.

Another featured speaker will be Nick Sandmann, the former Covington Catholic High School smart-ass whose purported “de-escalation” with a Native American elder in DC was captured on video that went viral, Andrew Pollack, the father of a Parkland school shooting victim who says more guns in schools are the answer, and anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who previously and allegedly worked at a Planned Parenthood.

In other words, utter and complete “War on Christmas, American carnage, caravans of rapers(sic), forced gay marriage, woe-is-me, coming for our guns” crap that lowers the national dialogue ever further, if that is even possible. These are reliable hot buttons, or dummy switches because they’re not connected to anything tangible, just manufactured grievance, Wall Street cynicism and mental illness. And if true democracy smells like the post office, this lot smells like a dirty diaper. Look for the QAnon signs.

So speaking of signs, this is our exit. Until next time, keep the shiny side up, dirty side down, and we’ll see y’all again soon.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.