Going Postal: Violent Video Game Raises Questions
David Berkowitz aka 'Son of Sam'
Where there's smoke there's fire, the cliché declares.
As with all clichés, there may be something to that, but, in the words of a great old song, it ain't necessarily so.
The smoke we speak of today refers to the great plumes that have been billowing above the United States post offices since August 1986 when an Edmund, Okla., postal worker killed 15 colleagues. Incidents of "crazed mass violence" have been occurring at an alarming pace over the last decade.
Violent Incidents Hit Home
These incidents hit home with me because of my hometown, Yonkers, N.Y., (David Berkowitz -- better known as "Son of Sam") and my present abode, Darien, Connecticut (remember the bra strangulations of area prostitutes, with religious overtones?) Each had postal employees who were accused of heinous crimes. Present and former Yonkers residents remain fascinated by the fact that they lived near "Son of Sam." Even the apartment buildingwhere David Berkowitz lived has changed not only its name but its street number.
Also, my late brother was a former Darien (Conn.) and Pompano Beach, Fla., letter carrier, and my daughter (Beth) who once worked for the Portland, Maine, post office.
Going Postal Computer Game
All this came to the front burner recently when the Associated Press reported that a computer game called "Postal" drew the criticism of outraged post office workers.
In the game, a disgruntled, raincoat-clad man takes to the street, shotgun in hand, and shoots down police, pedestrians, a marching band, church-goers. As men and women fall, bleeding, the shooter mutters, "Going Postal." Only the title and the muttered phrase liken the game to mail carriers.
One union official pointed out that it's unfair to depict postal workers as "violent terrorists" and referred to a planned national boycott of the video game. Postmaster General Marvin Runyon worries that the game perpetuates a stereotype and does a "grave disservice" to postal employees.
Postal Service Policies Questioned
Certainly, the U.S. Postal Service cannot be held criminally liable for the sins of its employees. There is, however, a whole lot of smoke, and it's probably a good idea for the top administration to look into its policies and management /hiring practices (Just look at the machinations within the Internal Revenue Service.)
I vividly recall the angst of a local letter carrier who told me on several occasions in 1970 about management practices that involved, for example, supervisors timing his route to compare their estimates to the time it took him to complete his rounds. Sounds good, but it's the kind of thing that doesn't leave employees with a feeling of good will.
Unfairly Maligned Postal Workers
Postal workers are often unfairly maligned for everything ranging from late mail deliveries to poor window service and bad manners.
"Postal," the game, is not only unfair to post office workers but it adds to a flood of undesirable video games, television shows and movies that negatively influence our nation's youth.
Sure, violence and gore sell! But that doesn't mean responsible people have to use it to make a buck. Not only is it something that wastes our youngsters' time, but it prevents them from pursuing more fruitful and uplifting activities.
Wouldn't it be a good idea for the House Judiciary Committee, after completion of its review of the IRS, to take up the policies and practices of post office management?
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Nov. 29, 1997.