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Postcards from the Edge of Doom

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

For a while now I have been writing twenty postcards a month to twenty people I don’t know in places I never heard of. This will continue until the election, unless I throw myself under a bus before then. Which I probably won’t do, thanks to the postcard project.

For years, I listened to NPR every morning, but I gave it up when I found myself in despair at the state of the world before I’d even finished breakfast. Our species, I believe, evolved to cope with the joys and sorrows of the immediate tribe or village—we are not equipped to confront upon awakening the disasters occurring across the entire planet. Thinking that print would give me more control over my exposure to horror and injustice, I switched to reading The New York Times. But when the news about Ukraine, Gaza, the Supreme Court, climate warming, and the political scene started to feel like punches in the gut of my psyche, I limited myself to reading the headlines. Now, just scanning the headlines brings on what Germans call Weltschmerz (world-pain).

They say that people are most traumatized by disasters when they are unable to take action—to dig their neighbors out of mud slides, clean up neighborhoods flattened by tornadoes, or tend to the war wounded. Impotence threatens our psychological well-being, and one reason that even my most optimistic friends feel like they’re walking around under a dome of doom these days is that there is little most of us can do to mitigate the evils around us.

This is where the postcards come in. Every month I get (well, actually I buy, but it’s such a bargain) a package from Flip the Vote containing twenty postcards and stamps, a list of names and addresses, and an “approved” text to write on each postcard, urging the recipient to register and vote.

I wrote postcards in 2016, with disastrous results, and then with better outcomes in 2020 and 2022. I’m hoping that my postcards will help to save democracy in 2024, but in the meantime, at least I feel that I’m doing something, and staving off that feeling of impotence that threatens my sanity.

Postcarding (thanks to the endless malleability of the English language this is now a word) sounds trivial, but it isn’t. Having given up the pen in favor of the keyboard some thirty years ago, I have since written nothing by hand other than grocery lists and the occasional birthday card. And here I’m having not only to write, but write legibly, the same message twenty times. This is not easy, and it reminds me of those old-time elementary school punishments, where you had to copy a sentence over and over. The hand holding the pen suddenly lurches and makes ungainly scrawls, the fingers cramp, and the mind rebels against this self-imposed tedium. But sitting at my writing table, the fish Tristan on my left, the cat Telemann on my lap, I persevere. Who knows? Maybe this one postcard will decide one voter to vote, and will save not just democracy, but Western civilization.

To keep boredom at bay while I copy and recopy the text, I try to imagine the people who will get my postcards. Many of the mailings have been going to Arizona, to places with names like Ajo, Lukachukai, and Dennehotso. I envision my recipients in the desert, living in adobe houses surrounded by cacti, battling drought, huge spiders, and appalling heat. I wish them well as I scrawl my signature (Lali C, volunteer) and affix the stamp. I hope with all my heart that they will vote.

(Fish training update: Tristan the Betta is now touching my fingertip with his mouth to get his fish flakes every morning. If he’s come this far in just a couple of weeks, what future feats are in store? If you missed my earlier posts about Tristan, you can read them here and here.)


12 Responses

  1. What a lovely, positive thing to do.

    I’ll go check it out – it may be something I can do, too, with a deadline after which it won’t be important – the perfect kind for me.

    I hope your cards reaching people makes them remember the huge privilege it is to be ABLE to vote, and have so many people dedicated to counting it properly.

      1. I have the opportunity to do it here, at our retirement community, but I’m a little reluctant to promise to do something knowing how limited my energy has been lately.

        I may try one set, to see how it goes.

        I’m reluctant to do another thing: political contributions. My experience has been that if you ever give them your email address and money, you can’t get away from the constant barrage of begging in your inbox, and they pass your email address along to everyone and their dog, and the junk proliferates. I’m sure it’s frustrating for the fundraisers, but it takes energy I don’t have to deal with the aftermath.

  2. Lali, this is so well done, including your dear art. Might you consider offering it to others who “postcard” but may not have access to your blog?
    Best desk wishes to you and Tristan!

  3. Our local Missoula democratic group meets once a month to write postcards for our candidates, like Senator Jon Tester and now our congressional candidates and state wide candidates, especially Jesse James Mullen for Secretary of State and Ryan Busse for Governor.

    1. Greetings, fellow postcarder! I’m aware of those important races in Montana. Perhaps in the coming months our group will be sending postcards your way.

  4. Lali: Once again, you’ve used your gift for language and art to evoke images and experiences universal. You have identified how so many of us feel with our hands cramped and writing, but also hanging on to the hope that just one of those postcards will make a difference. And feeling not so guilty about tuning out the vast news media. My old 60’s mantra: think globally and act locally. That’s what we can do in these very scary times. Janice

    1. For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse…We are the nails keeping the kingdom (well, democracy) from being lost. Thanks for reading, Janice.

  5. You speak for many, Lali. Thank you for expressing it so well. I, too, appreciate the opportunity to do my part and thank all who make it possible.

    1. Helen, it takes a village. In addition to our own Gail White and WR postcarders, there are all the invisible minds and hands that figure out where postcards are needed, gather names and addresses, draft the message, assemble the packets…I am grateful to them all, and to you for reading.

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