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A Mailroom Manifesto

by Michael Colby

The unknown purveyors of bioterrorism have now sent their potent blends of Anthrax to numerous U.S. locations, targeting, for the most part, elite figures of the government and media. But what they haven1t apparently realized is that in our heavily classist system, these elites never come close to their own mail. In fact, the task of mail opening is way down the totem pole of privilege, usually relegated to some dank basement in the swanky towers of power.

Tom Brokaw didn’t come close to his mail. Tom Daschle didn’t come close to his mail. And even though the Anthrax-laden letters were addressed to both of these men, it was dozens of their underlings who actually became contaminated. And now there isn’t an executive in this nation who will dare wander down to the mailroom anytime soon.

But in every groovy office place in the nation the big bosses are issuing crocodile tears to their mail-opening staff, trying to make it seem like they “care” but not sticking around long enough to risk being contaminated themselves ? either by the Anthrax or the mail-opening ruffians.

I happen to know several people who-unfortunately–have as part of their job description the task of opening corporate mail. And they1ve all reported to me about how their bosses have made overtures toward their safety in the last few days. There have been offers of masks, gloves, and condescending lectures about how to 3be careful with any suspicious mail2 (no shit), all delivered in a way that assumes the folks in the mail dungeons aren1t even aware of what the hell1s been happening in the nation for the past month or so. You know, kind of like “Mr. Roger1s comes to deliver a safety warning.”

But offers of 25 cent plastic gloves, two dollar masks, and worthless lectures aren1t what the people in the mailrooms of this nation need right now, especially since those who felt they needed such items purchased them long before their bosses came waddling into their cramped spaces. And not one of the mailroom folks who I know have been offered what they1re truly looking for in these difficult times: a frigging raise. Nor, for that matter, have any of them been offered the same benefits package as those who are up on the “top floors.” No, the bosses will keep their offers confined to cheap gloves and masks because it always comes back to the “bottom line.”

In this instance, the offer of such contrivances like gloves and masks in the face of something like Anthrax amounts to little more than guilt reduction on the part of the bosses. In this new spirit of faux-patriotism, they feel like they have to “do something,” even though any reasonable person should know that the Anthrax would make its mark with or without such protection. It reminds me of the 3duck and cover2 days of the 1950s when our government taught our citizenry how to climb under their desks and cover their heads in case of a nuclear attack. In other words, good luck.

In the new bioterrorism war we1ve found ourselves in, the mailroom workers are on the frontlines. They’ve unwittingly become our Marines, and they certainly didn’t sign up for this tour of duty. Worse, they1re not paid nearly enough to take on such risks.

Which all leads me to suggest that if the Bushes, Brokaws and Daschles of the world want to keep pushing us deeper and deeper into this nefarious war, why don’t they put themselves on the frontlines for a while. If Bush wants bin Laden dead so badly, give him a gun, knife and bayonet and let him go do the dirty work. It1s one thing to sit up high in their chairs and talk about the “moral imperatives” of killing people, but it’s quite another thing to put your butt within the range of danger. And they can start by opening their own mail.

Mailroom workers of the world: Unite! CP

Michael Colby is the editor of the Food & Water Journal.

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