I’m writing regarding the article “You don’t got mail” by Lynn Yu in the Feb. 21 issue. While I certainly am an advocate for and user of the Berkeley post office, perhaps equally important, I’m writing in defense of the great institution that is The Daily Californian.
Recently, I’ve been moved and inspired by two pieces in the Daily Cal: Caitlin Quinn’s op-ed regarding harmful discourse was a clarion call about not only how we speak, but also of our own self-awareness vis-a-vis our position and lot in life; and Doug Taylor’s Op-Ed regarding the status quo spoke to me directly, since I could identify with the alienation he feels, as I am also a 30-year-old transfer student.
Yu’s piece serves as a lovely exemplar of what Ms. Quinn and Mr. Taylor were referring to. She writes off the “citizenry of Berkeley” as a bunch of rabble-rousing ne’er-do-wells, contriving their protests based on false assumptions and overeager fanaticism. This immediately defines an “other,” the interests of which Yu writes off as irrelevant to the current debate surrounding the future of the post office. This is exactly the sort of harmful discourse, in spirit and tone if not in word, which Ms. Quinn was warning against in her piece.
By attempting to turn the people of Berkeley into an “other,” Yu simply reveals her own status as an outsider. Many of us who attend this campus also live in parts of Berkeley other than the area directly adjacent to campus and feel a full integration between our city and university lives. Perhaps Yu has not yet had occasion to feel that integration, outside of the warm confines of the campus community. In the real world, people use the post office frequently. Berkeley has literally thousands of post office customers, myself included, for whom the post office provides a vital necessity: a place to retrieve our mail. But those people don’t exist at UC Berkeley, according to Yu. We are “zero people” and “nobody.” When I read those words, I immediately felt the stab of exclusion.
Upon reading the rest of her pieces on local government, I’m going to give Yu the benefit of the doubt and assume that her glib and dismissive tone are a part of an affect she puts on, a sort of Colbert-esque satire on local politics. However, without explicit knowledge as to whether this is true or not, her piece comes across as embodying the shunning, exclusive, myopic mentality that Taylor bemoans in his article, conscientiously ignoring the self-awareness of having a privileged position in life (in this case, the privilege of living in a neighborhood safe enough to leave packages at the mailbox or door).
And indeed, this greater debate about the validity of the concerns of the people of Berkeley hides a greater truth— that the corporatization of the Postal Service is not some whacko-Berkeley-townie conspiracy but an actual agenda item for the GOP. According to its 2012 platform, the party wants Congress to “explore a greater role for private enterprise” in the operations of the U.S. Postal Service, ostensibly in order to shrink budgets, but one can’t help but see a common ideological bent in the proposals to privatize Social Security, school funding, Medicare, Amtrak, etc. By choking the budget for the U.S. Postal Service, the GOP has given that venerable government agency no choice but to liquidate assets and seek the lowest common denominator.
The Daily Californian is one of the most revered student newspapers in the United States — and even the world: an independent newspaper run by students, with a rich history and publishing four days a week in a world in which actual newsprint is a rarity. I think that Yu’s jaded tone and overly simplified viewpoint is a disservice to both the readership of thisw newspaper, and to the reputation and legacy of the Daily Cal as an institution. There are standards to be upheld, and Yu’s piece does little to advance the integrity of those standards.
Neither the post office nor the Daily Cal benefits from a discourse full of banalities and generalizations, a discourse that doesn’t bother understanding or arguing the substantive points. The university and the people of Berkeley deserve better than that.
Patrick Donnelly-Shores is a UC Berkeley student.
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