My mother tells me that when she was a child the entire neighborhood knew her father’s name.
For over thirty years, he would follow the same route in South Omaha, walking door to door with his bag of mail bumping against his hip. I never knew him too well, but to me, he was always “Grandpa the Mailman.” As a kid, I loved running to the mailbox to see if I had received the latest American Girl magazine, one of the many pinnacles of my childhood, or an invitation to a pool party. I would sift through my mother’s stack of stamps, pretending I was sending love letters to a distant friend. There was something soothing about hearing the paper rustle as you flipped through the pile of envelopes when walking from the mailbox back to your front door.
I loved the post office because of my grandfather the mailman. But now more than ever, we need to deepen our appreciation for the United States Postal Service before it’s too late.
The United States Postal Service has been the subject of news headlines after President Trump said that proposed additional funding for the USPS would be going toward fraudulent mail-in voting ballots for the upcoming November election.
“They want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”
There is an underlying danger, however, when framing the United States Postal Service as a conduit for political manipulation. The foundational services that the USPS offers this country is not rooted in political advances or affairs– rather, it is an essential public service that aims to connect businesses, artists, families, and friends with one another across the nation while providing employment opportunities for all individuals.
According to their mission statement, the USPS strives to “serve the American people and, through the universal service obligation, bind our nation together by maintaining and operating our unique, vital and resilient infrastructure.” That infrastructure has been built and adapted throughout the years in order to foster trusted communication and networks among those who utilize the USPS on a daily basis.
From day-to-day, it can be easy to overlook the significance of the postal service and how it affects the way we live, as receiving mail and sending out packages has become a second nature to many. But how often do you think of the journey a single envelope will take to arrive at its destination? Or of the many individuals who show up to work every morning with the intention of ensuring your package makes it to your doorstep?
The United States Postal Service employs more than 7.3 million people with 40 percent belonging to a minority. Those 7.3 million people are responsible for sorting and delivering 48 percent of the world’s mail. The USPS also helps bridge the gap between rural and urban sectors, along with economic and social classes, by providing direct channels of communication.
However, since the appointment of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a previous executive who donated large sums of money to President Trump’s campaign, there have been various changes to the way the USPS functions. Some of these changes include “eliminating employee overtime, removing mail-sorting machines from postal facilities around the country, and reorganizing or eliminating Postal Service leadership,” according to an article from The New York Times. These changes have resulted in delays.
Not only has this raised concern about how post offices will handle the influx of mail-in ballots for the November election due to COVID-19, but it has also put students, businesses, and artists in jeopardy. For example, despite the switch that classes have made to remote-learning formats, students are still having to worry about ordering textbooks for the semester. Also, many local businesses and independent artists rely on the cheap postage and packaging for sending out their products to customers. For many, their lives depend on the USPS, especially when living in the midst of a pandemic.
So, how can we support the United States Postal Service?
It can be as easy as sending more letters, buying more stamps, utilizing your local post offices to send packages and even being more vocal about the importance of the USPS with your peers and family members. Aspects of our lives depend on the USPS, and we need to realize that they depend on us too.