November 16, 2011

Things to wonder about while standing in line

by Lorraine Collins

I was standing in line in the Post Office the other day and things were moving rather slowly as one of the computers had broken down. So I had lots of time to think about various things, including the post office. My relatives in Wyoming had recently told me that their post office is under threat to be closed and of course they were very unhappy about that. We've heard the same story here in South Dakota.

One thing I've never understood is why we should expect the post office to make a profit when we don't demand the same of the army or navy. Our founding fathers certainly thought it was just as important as those services and Benjamin Franklin, himself, was the first Postmaster General. Oh, I know the post office is now regarded as a business but isn't it really a service to the people? As such, isn't it as worthy of subsidies as airports, highways, railroads and other entities deemed important for holding together the fabric of the nation?  If we subsidize farms, energy companies, scientific research projects, schools, well, what's so different about the post office?
Before I'd gone much further with this rumination, my eye was caught by the stack of brochures for young men to register with the Selective Service System. I picked up a brochure and was advised that failure to register at age 18 is a felony. So of course I got to wondering about that. The draft was ended in 1973. So why do we still have mandatory Selective Service registration for young men? And why don't we require the same registration of young women, many of whom serve in all branches of the all-volunteer military? Has anyone recently been punished with fines or imprisonment for failing to register?
Those questions were sufficient to send me to my computer when I got home to look up some answers. Apparently the last time anyone was prosecuted for failing to register was 1986 because unless a fellow confesses, it's hard to prove that he "willingly and knowingly" failed to act. As for women, back in 1981 President Clinton did look into the matter of having women register, too, but the courts appear to have ruled that since women were not allowed in combat, they didn't have to register. I do believe that events in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated that these days "combat" can be anywhere a suicide bomber or an IED can be found and many women soldiers have been wounded or killed. If we are going to keep the Selective Service, I'd say women should register, too.
I found out other interesting stuff, such as the fact that Selective Service registration was actually suspended in 1975 but reinstated in 1980 when Russia invaded Afghanistan. There's still a fellow who has the job of Director Of the Selective Service. He's the 12th to head it and his name is Lawrence G. Romo. I also discovered that even young men in this country illegally have to register and they don't need a Social Security number to do so. In 1973, President Jimmy Carter pardoned all the men who failed to register for the draft during the Viet Nam War. Theoretically, there are still local Selective Service Boards, but so far I haven't been able to discover whether there's one around here. I could apply online to become a member of such a board, but that seems a rather extreme way of finding out whether there is one hereabouts. Anyway, I could find out all sorts of things about the Selective Service, except why we still have  mandatory registration 38 years after the last draft. Do you suppose it's just the inertia of government? Why doesn't somebody do something about it?
There are many other things I think about while standing in line at the post office or the supermarket or at the polling place on election day but unfortunately I always come up with more questions than answers. Nevertheless, I do think it's important for me to think about things and ask questions instead of just dumbly standing there like a sheep waiting to be fleeced.

Lorraine Collins is a writer who lives in Spearfish. She can be contacted at

No comments: