There’s so much in life we can’t control that any time we get a chance to take back our power, even a bit of it, we must seize it. That’s what writing postcards to get out the vote did for me.
This was even before the Amy Coney Barrett hearings, which I couldn’t bear to watch, since I am impotent with rage at the unfairness of it. I am furious that this has been forced on us by the party who prevented the hearings of Merrick Garland but is pushing through the confirmation of a Handmaid’s Tale candidate less than three weeks before the General Election under a dictator who most likely still has Covid.
And there is nothing we can do about it. We can – and should – write our representatives to beg them not to allow this but it feels like a fait accompli. Even before this hearing, I found myself anxious and despairing over what felt like the death of democracy in this country. What to do when we feel powerless?
I tried helping others who might be in worse shape than I am. I sent out postcards to the underserved – people who aren’t being represented, people whose votes have literally been thrown away. Many of these potential voters are, unsurprisingly, people of color. My postcard project took place in the halcyon days before the hearings when we only had to deal with isolation and all the challenges it brought – to our livelihoods, our families, our sanity – as well as all the outrages this government committed hourly. You could eschew the news and still not avoid having some of the poison seep through. A walk through your neighborhood might even be enough. I’ve written a post on this blogsite about how my anger at seeing a Trump flag in my neighborhood spurred me to action. One of the actions I undertook was phone banking for the local Democratic Party to get out the vote. A natural extrovert, I didn’t mind making the calls and in fact, found people friendlier and, frankly, more receptive than I had been to such callers.
But writing postcards was something I could do when I woke up panicked about this country at 4 am. I could hardly make phone calls to get out the vote at that hour. The organization I wrote postcards for, Reclaim our Vote, had given us careful instructions to stick exactly to their script, but encouraged us to be creative, to use different color markers, to draw stars or anything appropriate on them, avoiding images of dogs and the American flag, just in case there were bad associations for some. We were not even to use American flag stamps. My husband, Rick, and I ordered postcard stamps with images of sea life, odd but innocuous.
I have such good memories of sitting at my dining room table at 5am, slightly woozy from the smell of Sharpies, mind bleary from the repetition of the phrases, hand cramping from the effort of writing.
I remember one recipient whose name was the same as a criminal who had played a determining role in another election. I wondered if he had ever gotten any reaction from people over it. There were names of certain streets, avenues, and lanes I wish I written down – they were so whimsical. I imagined the houses, the mailboxes, the people in these areas in Texas, Georgia, Florida. And these thoughts made my limited world feel a bit bigger, more like a community.
I got Rick to join me in writing cards. I “encouraged” (read guilt-tripped) a friend to do some. She generously offered to do more than twice what I’d thought she might do. She also printed out address labels and informational stickers for us and then taught us how to do it ourselves – give a woman labels, you set her up once; teach a woman to make labels… etc. I could imagine hosting or attending postcard parties if Covid had not locked away most of my friends. Between the people we had, I’d estimate that we sent at least three hundred cards. Postcards seem less annoying than texts, less invasive than phone calls, although I still encourage these actions. What do we have to lose? An election. Our democracy. Our country. Would people just throw the postcards away? I asked myself. Maybe. But they are colorful, handwritten, almost child-like in their innocent appearance.
Someone took time to do these carefully, someone was reaching out. I can only hope the people who received them reached back – at the ballot.