Monday, October 31, 2011

Guest Author Martin Limon

I first read Martin Limon when his publisher sent me a sampler containing first chapters from a number of their authors. His work impressed me so much that I immediately went out and bought all of his books.

His next one, Mr. Kill, will be his seventh, and it's scheduled for release in December. I can't wait!

Martin has studied both Mandarin Chinese and Korean and usually sets his stories in Asia, where he spent ten years of his life.

But, today, he holds forth on something entirely different: the United States Postal Service.

Leighton - Monday

The Last Full Measure
Martin Limon

            When I started writing I lived and died by the mail.  I would send out an article or a short story to some unwary publisher and wait day-to-day for their response.  For years the response was always the same:  a photocopied rejection letter.  One publication received so many of my short stories that when I finally received a small envelope from them stuffed with more than one sheet of paper, I figured it was a bill for all the man-hours they’d wasted reading my stories and rejecting them.  Instead, it was a contract for my first published story “A Coffin of Rice” in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.
            During all those years of mailing manuscripts out and having them returned to me, I never once lost a story.  In fact to this day I can honestly say that the United States Postal Service never once let me down.  Still, for some reason, there are some politicians who are determined to murder the United States Postal Service.  This is no mystery.  Their motive is clear.  They claim it is losing money.
            But the Postal Service is not actually losing money, not year to year.  The reason they appear to be losing money is because of the Congressionally imposed accounting requirement that they set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to fund their retiree health care benefits for seventy years in the future.  That means they have to budget for people who haven’t even been born yet.  And all this from a Congress that is constantly blathering on about getting government off the backs of business.
            What is Congress’s real motive?  We all know the answer.  Their goal is to privatize the U.S. Postal Service.  Why destroy such a venerable and successful institution?  That answer is also clear.  Because a few of their country club buddies want to form shipping companies and make fortunes charging us poor starving authors ten times as much to mail our manuscripts.
            The U.S. Postal Service was established in Section 8, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution.  Our founding father realized that an honest and efficient postal service was important to the growth of our nation.  By enshrining a postal service in our primary legal document they thereby mandated that it should be a public utility, available to all.  I’m old enough to remember when many things that are now privatized were public utilities.  I remember when television was free.  I remember when radio had to broadcast both sides of a political issue.  I remember when telephones were plugged into walls and--miracle of miracles--they always worked.
            Those days are gone.  I mourn them but I cannot bring them back.  But I do think it is time that Congress stop undermining the U.S. Constitution and stop trying to destroy the U.S. Postal Service.  I also think it’s time people stop bad mouthing our government.  One Republican president famously said that government is not the answer to the problem, but rather that government is the problem.
            I prefer to quote the first Republican president.  He was dedicated to the proposition that our “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
            We the people must control our government and the instruments thereof and not let a few slick-talking “job creators” talk us out of what so many died to preserve.  Let us not betray those men and women who “gave the last full measure of devotion” so that our government would survive.  Let us not turn this cherished legacy over to corporations whose only “last full measure of devotion” is to lining their own pockets with profit, no matter how ill-gotten their gain.


  1. Five minutes before reading your piece I saw this in a Greek newspaper article addressing the threat to its system brought on by favoritism and lapsed character. It quotes Jan-Werner Mueller, an Assistant Professor of Politics at Princeton:

    “Indignation suggests that some social actors -- a government or elites in general -- have violated shared norms or moral understandings. If so, the people on the squares of Madrid, Athens and New York are not so much demonstrating against those in power -- give or take a few anarchists -- as demonstrating to those in power that they should feel ashamed for having reneged on supposedly shared commitments.”

    You put it so much more succinctly! Thanks, Martin.

  2. I'll take the less erudite perspective. How many of us have saved letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent through the mail? How many of us have printed out the notes and greeting cards that have been sent through email? It just isn't the same.

  3. I'm so glad to see you here, Martin. As I said (repeatedly, I think) at Bouchercon, you're among my very favorite writers.

    Regarding badmouthing the government, in my opinion, the government's fine. It't the people in it who stink. We've bred a kind of politician in both parties whose idea of long-term planning is the next election cycle and who thinks of the 24-hour news cycle as short-term planning. And what we need most right now is consistent, courageous, longterm planning.

    And I'd love to know where those 70 years of postal pensions actually are at the moment. My guess is that, like the Social Security fund, they've been spent and replaced by a Treasury IOU. That's probably why the Senate and the House cling to the plan, because it brings in cash.

  4. Perhaps George Sueño and Ernie Bascom should look into this.

    If we were to get rid of the USPS where would all of those people who work there work in this economy?

    The government could sell the real estate holdings and the vehicle fleet easily but who would deliver the mail?

    Since Al Gore invented the internet perhaps we don't need physical mail anymore which, I'm sure, those in this government would like to expand in name from email to environmentally-sustainable mail.

    I got one card for my birthday but lots of Facebook messages and an email or two. So without the USPS what happens to the greeting card industry? Can you imagine Christmas cards not being delivered?

    So a welcome to Murder is Everywhere which could be expanded to include the USPS.

    As an aside, thanks for bringing Tongduchon into the literary world. As someone who was stationed there (Camp Casey '65-'66), it brought back many good memories as do all of your Korea-based books. Did I mention that you are a terrific author and that people should rush out and buy your books?

  5. Just read Martin Limon's book Mr. Kill. Really enjoyed it and I'm hoping to read his other novels. What a wonderful writer!