Do you ever wonder why the New Year doesn’t start around April 15th? Wouldn’t it be a logical time to start a new cycle, a new year? The holidays celebrated this week, Passover & Easter, are holidays about rebirth, renewal, and redemption. As one who was raised a Roman Catholic (April 6th was the 60th anniversary of my first Holy Communion!) Easter always seemed a more religious holiday than Christmas --- there wasn’t the anticipation of Santa bringing presents and all the attendant excitement. Our family wasn’t big on the Easter Bunny (at least that’s my recollection) and we’d get a basket with some candy (not much), the highlight being that large chocolate rabbit (always hoping it would be solid and not hollow --- which never happened). So, my recollection of Easter was and is, even as a long lapsed Catholic, that it’s about that whole crucifixion and resurrection thing --- symbolically representing a new beginning, right? And that always brings me back to the whole Jesus story and the notion we should be our brother’s keeper, good Samaritans, and trying to make the world a better place --- which ultimately leads to my mailbox.
What? How does Easter/Passover make it to the mailbox? Here’s the simple explanation: you know all that “junk mail” you get from environmental groups, humane societies, food pantries, veterans groups, cancer centers, Special Olympics, and the like? Most people, I’m pretty sure, don’t even open the envelopes. I do. I open them, I read them, and, all too often, I send them some money. I’m saying this as a way to get to my main point --- which will follow --- and not to make any claim to being a farm-league philanthropist. If anything, I’m just kind of a sucker for those pictures and pitches about those less fortunate. My “research” for this Blast was to look at my bank statements since January 1st of 2017 to see just how many of those pitches I’ve fallen for. Twenty two. Yup, 22 different groups have received anywhere between $8 and $30 dollars (totaling about $320 or so --- hardly impressive by “philanthropic giving” standards) and I realize that I’ve let this become a habit I need to rein in.
What really brought this to my attention was bringing in the mail on Saturday, April 15th. There were letters from the ACLU, the National Children’s Cancer Society, The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, Food for the Poor, Inc. and the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. Some of these are organizations I have given to, others are groups I have never even heard of! Here’s where we shift, ever so subtly, to examining the abolition of internet privacy recently passed by Congress and what the effects of that might be. While I recognize we don’t want our personal information sold to any Zuckerberg, Gates, or Harry, I would use my daily mail delivery as an example that the horse is well out of the barn. As another example, only yesterday the Lovely Carol Marie was looking up the Viking Hotel in Newport, RI, and, by her next click there was an ad with Norwegian flags hawking a cruise to Scandinavia! Our privacy, friends, is long gone --- probably once the Patriot Act was passed back in 2001 and the government began checking everyone’s email and phone logs, etc. So, while the whole “privacy” thing is distressing it’s probably not as apocalyptic as so much else that is going on --- not to mention what the future may hold.
One last note on Saturday’s mail delivery: as an alum of Yale I get a variety of mailings from the University and one brochure that arrives, with a certain regularity, is from “Yale Educational Travel.” These are generally one to four week tours of various places around the world with one or two Yale professors who are “experts” on wherever in the world they go. I received one Saturday for “Expedition to Antarctica aboard Le Soleal “ with the Director of the Program on Climate Change and a research scientist from the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Not something I’d ever want to do but reading the brochure created a stark contrast to the letters from the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen and the Food for the Poor, Inc. The Yale trip, scheduled for January 11-24, 2018 (apparently “high season” in Antarctica) costs a minimum of $11,745 for a “Category 8” shipboard cabin (“ocean-view, large window, shower”) up to $18, 845 for an “Owner’s Suite” (Two-room ocean view, expansive floor to ceiling sliding glass door onto large private balcony, two bathrooms, tub/shower and shower, large sitting area with sofa, two closets, writing desk and dressing table --- limited availability). You’ll be happy to know “Taxes, gratuities to ship personnel, and flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuala with return to Buenos Aires are included for all categories.” Apparently you have to get to Buenos Aires on your own but I’m guessing if you can foot the bill for the trip, the airfare to Buenos Aires is no big deal. The point here is obvious, right? While the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen and Food for the Poor, Inc. are hoping people will send them a few bucks to help fulfill their mission, there are folks who are shelling out $18,845 to sail down to Antarctica in January! I don’t doubt those people give significant sums to charities (though I’m also guessing some don’t) but here it is, Easter/Passover weekend, and my mailbox has delivered the Sermon on the Street, summing up where our vast inequality stands in 2017.
So, while you may be worried about your privacy being violated (and it will be, of course) also take note of what’s showing up in your brick-and-mortar mailbox and reflect on what little you might do to help someone who is a little less well off --- before you catch that flight for Buenos Aires.