A few years ago, my friend who works as a mail carrier clued me in to the fact that the postal service was not supported by taxpayers, but by stamps and mailing services. Yet it is the most trusted of federal agencies, especially by rural residents. If you read Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, you know that she sent supplies for her journey to small post offices all along the route of her now-famous trek.
I grew up living above a store in the business district of our town. The mail came through a slot in the door, so when I spent the humid Illinois summers at my grandmother’s house on the Fox River, “getting the mail” was a new and anticipated ritual. I was an avid letter writer, so putting up the flag on the gray metal box with our address numbers on it was something I did often from June to Labor Day. Today, in the time of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, my trip to my mail box—a black metal box with red signal flag mounted on a post across the street—is something pleasant that breaks up the day.
Even before the flood of “Save the Postal Service” petitions started to arrive in my email, the importance of this service had been on my mind. It began with an article published in The Bohemian back in 2013 by commentator, author and former Texas commissioner of agriculture Jim Hightower, and another by actor Danny Glover, “My parents proudly worked for the US Postal Service. Don’t destroy it.”
Glover’s point is that his family, and many families of color, had a path to the middle class through this institution. He wrote “African Americans have the most to lose from Postal Service cuts and the most to gain from innovative reforms that help the poor, like postal banking.”
The Trump administration’s intent is to sell off the postal service to for-profit corporations (to say nothing of Trump wanting to undermine Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s relationship with the USPS, totally out of political revenge for Bezos-owned Washington Post’s criticism of the orange-faced man himself). A presidential task force plan to move in that direction calls for privatizing parts of the service, reducing delivery days, closing post offices, and jacking up prices on most package and mail deliveries.
You can read about the reasons the postal service is in trouble in two segments on Democracy Now in an interview with American Postal Workers Union president Mark Dimondstein. Also hear or read why there is such an outcry to prevent the post office’s demise, which, without an infusion of money, is predicted to be bankrupt by this summer. Prominent congress people are demanding support for the Postal Service in the next piece of rescue legislation. (Email cannot deliver our prescriptions!)
Aside from the benefit to our nation’s “haves” to privatize everything from health care to education to water, they have another reason to wish for post office closures: disruption of democracy. During this pandemic, it is bad enough that meat processing employees (who cannot telecommute) now have to choose between money for their families and risking COVID-19. Should people be forced to choose between voting in person and risking the disease, as they did in the recent Wisconsin primary (thanks to the Supreme Court)?
There is no reason not to be making extensive preparations to vote by mail in November. Voting machines are more easily hacked than paper ballots, and there is no end to the lies tRump is spewing about the dangers of mail voting. Here’s an opinion piece on that from The Hill, “Let’s put the vote by mail “fraud” myth to rest.”
Read up, sign petitions, call your representatives, and use the post office when you can. I like to quote the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who said that this is a time of “we” not “me.” Maybe you haven’t bought a stamp in years and get all your bills online and paychecks via direct deposit. But this is not the case for many of the “have nots” in America.
History will measure our greatness by the word WE not ME.