Few people have heard of North Carolinian Oscar Scott Woody from Roxboro, a mail clerk on board the Titanic.
Oscar and four other mail clerks (three Yanks and two Brits) were last seen below deck in the mailroom, trying to get 200 sacks of mail to the upper deck as they stood in two feet of water. You can read all about this humble mailman on the website of the Person County Museum of History in Roxboro. But, according to the Chamber of Commerce, no one has erected a lasting monument of Oscar in Roxboro, though he was quite comely, quite heroic (just doing his job while the band played on), and observing his 41st birthday as the Titanic broke in two.
One truth I glean from this sad account is that mail people are mighty important and that most of them are serious about their work. Postal workers are about as American as you can get! They sort and deliver mail amid hundreds of complaints – my package is wet; why don’t you leave my package at the door; my mail carrier is lazy; my mail carrier is stupid. I should know because I am guilty of saying these things. My bad.
So now we have an American president who wants to destroy one of our most sacred American institutions – an institution that affects every American. Prisoners (some may even be white) in a penitentiary depend upon the mail. College students receive scholarship checks through the mail (I just mailed six checks out on behalf of an organization I’m in); military personnel receive mail, often the only way they can hear from loved ones back home; some elderly who aren’t computer savvy and don’t do electronic banking receive their government checks by mail (I received my first unemployment check for a suspended summer job through the mail three months ago). Everybody gets mail. It’s a universal thing.
Trump, however, has done everything in his power to undermine the U.S. Post Office and to begin the privatization of this government institution. At present, the postmaster general is Louis DeJoy, a shady North Carolina businessman whose past business activities include persuading employees to contribute to the Republican party, then reimbursing them with bonuses. Presently DeJoy has overseen the dismantling of high-speed sorting machines.
Never mind all the absentee ballots that will be held up, think about the mail in general – checks, important letters, contracts, important information about Medicare and Social Security, etc. And even though a federal judge issued an injunction last week to the USPS to reverse the process and called the dismantlement a blatant effort on the part of Trump and DeJoy “to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state and federal elections” (the judge’s words, not mine), once sorting machines are taken apart and parts cannibalized, the machines, like Humpty Dumpty, can’t be put back together. Even the man in the White House blatantly admitted he meant to sabotage absentee ballots. So much for fairness and probity.
How can anyone vote for a candidate who wants to damage one of the most important institutions in our republic? More to the point, how can voters even think of supporting any candidate who is clinging to the coattails of Trump to secure a victory? These actions against the post office will affect all Americans. It’s like climate change: if Miami goes under water, we are all likely to feel the effects. The post office is just the tip of the iceberg.
Which brings us back to the story of Oscar, our valiant mailman. Days later after that horrible night, his bloated body was recovered in the North Atlantic. The only way authorities could identify him was by the letter found in his pocket, a letter he penned to his bride, knowing he would die, no doubt written as he stood in the icy water of the mailroom. I like to think that a postal carrier brought that letter to Mrs. Woody – a final token of affection, tangible evidence that Oscar’s last thoughts were for her.
Cynthia Faircloth-Smith is a former English instructor at the University of West Florida and a retired adjunct English instructor at Southwestern Community College.