If you grow up in the United States, there are certain public services that you might take for granted, but — when you stop to think of them — are actually a rather amazing privilege. Public libraries are one example. Fire departments? Definitely. Public schools. State parks. I would argue that in a better world, universal healthcare would be included here (er, correction, as I have have argued, over and over, such as in this Truthout piece), but for now, that’s not the case. Moving on.
One of the greatest public agencies in United States history, though, is the U.S. postal system, founded in 1775, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster. Since then, for centuries, the U.S. Post Office has maintained its role as a public service, connecting people from all classes, areas, and demographics. What makes the USPS so important, compared to private companies like UPS and FedEx, is that the USPS sends and delivers mail to and from every community, for the same flat and affordable prices, from packed condominium complexes to the most rural areas in the country. In fact, private delivery companies often pay USPS to deliver the packages they can’t cut a profit on. That’s how essential this service is, and why a private company could never take its place. And even in the 21st century, as Vox points out, there are shockingly huge parts of the country, textbook rural America, which still have no reliable internet connection, meaning that the post office plays a vital role in keeping these communities connected to the greater whole.
That’s why it’s so terrifying that now, in 2020, the USPS is under attack.
Attacks on the USPS are nothing new, as Jacobin elaborates. The post office has been under fire for decades, with greedy corporations and individuals anxious to take it over, privatize it, and turn a profit from it. The stereotype that the post office is “going broke” is itself a misnomer, since the agency’s money problems are the result of intentional sabotage, by unfair policies designed to break it down. If the USPS did become privatized, it would destroy everything that makes the USPS important — and in 2020, the year of the pandemic, a year where people of all parties and demographics should be rallying around mail-in voting as a way to keep vulnerable and immunocompromised populations safe, we are instead seeing this vital agency becoming politicized, slandered, and attacked.
So, today, standing up for the post office, and supporting it in any way possible — through speaking out, buying stamps, or whatever method is available to you — is also standing up for freedom, truth, democracy, equality, and the right to vote. The post office has always been essential, and this year, it’s time to recognize just how essential it truly is.