I remember that I grew up thinking there was something special about the U.S. Mail — that once you put a stamp on an envelope and dropped it into the blue collection box, it entered a new realm; it came under the protection of the United States Government; it became, not sacred exactly, but something almost akin to that, protected by the ghost of old Ben Franklin and inspired by the creed that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” (That’s what it says on New York City’s General Post Office Building, which opened in 1914, and the rest is history.)
Hokey as that all sounds, it does seem to still be true that interfering in any way with any piece of U.S. Mail is a federal crime.
Unless, of course, you’re the Postmaster General, in which case it seems to be Job 1. President Trump, you see, has blessed us with a Postmaster General who donated big bucks to his last campaign, who owns tens of millions of dollars’ worth of stock in outfits that are in competition with the U.S. Postal Service, and who already in his short time in office has been interfering with the mail on a grand scale.
Dismantle hundreds of sorting machines and take lots of blue collection boxes off the streets? Yes, sir. Cut hours at small post offices? Ditto. Cut overtime at postal terminals? Of course. Punish drivers if they don’t leave on time, even if that means they have to go out without their full load, leaving the rest for another day? You bet!
Anything to interfere with the mail during an election year when we all know millions of people will be afraid to vote in person, lest they catch COVID-19 — the plague the President has spent most of this year pretending is no big deal but knows could be the key to his losing the coming election.
Another cornball idea I grew up with was that there was something special about the President of the United States. Not that he (or she) was sacred, or even royal, but that the President symbolized the sovereignty of the United States, that he somehow represented the people of the United States — all of us, back to 1776 — and therefore deserved some special dignities and gestures of respect that most Americans over most of our history have been willing to grant him, regardless of personal feelings or political party.
Well, it was a nice fantasy while it lasted.
And now I’ve got myself so depressed that I’m going to switch over to YouTube and listen to John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Ah, that’s better.
Still, it may be well to remember that this tune has been used for generations to discretely signal impending disaster during public events, as it was played during the Hartford circus fire of July 6, 1944.
And that’s the sense in which I’m using it here. The President has turned the White House into a partisan backdrop for his insatiable ego and is using the Postal Service — OUR Postal Service — as a partisan political weapon.
While I’ll probably vote in person on Nov. 3, I just hope all this malevolent fiddling with the U.S.P.S. doesn’t delay any of the prescriptions I’ll need to keep me going until then.
Reach Glenn Richter at firstname.lastname@example.org.