Donald Trump has never made an order from a seed catalog. He’s never sent in a Box Top or clipped an ad from a comic book. He’s never waited to see whether the mailman would bring a birthday card, or a valentine, or a letter from a friend. Never in his life has Donald Trump lingered near the window or hung around the lobby waiting for the mailman to approach. He’s never known the joy of seeing the postal worker pull open his mailbox and slip something inside. He’s never known the disappointment of seeing that carrier move past without pausing. Donald Trump does not know the sound that the mail truck makes as it comes along the road on a day when you’re waiting for—hoping for, aching for—news from a parent who is far away, or a friend who once was so close, or a child on the front lines.
And it goes both ways. Trump has never gone down to the post office with a package to be weighed and sent on its way to distant relatives. He’s never sat down in front of the TV and put stamps on a stack of Christmas cards. Never struggled to find a few words to add to a note of sympathy. He has never, not once in his whole life, raised the little red flag that means that he has something to mail to someone else.
Trump has no idea what the United States Postal Service does. Or what it means. For all his wealth, on this topic he is pitifully impoverished.
Every item or message or bit of information valuable to Trump, in his whole life, has come courtesy of someone bringing it to him in person. Trump famously doesn’t even use email because, why should he? Someone else can deal with passwords and all that difficult reading. Trump has certainly had items in his life that traveled through the mail rather than by private courier. Items such as long-delayed payments to contractors. Or child support. But even when those reluctant checks were dropped, it happened at some point in the chain that was far removed from Trump.
For Donald Trump, the Postal Service is something that other people use. Mostly it’s something that benefits Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, which frequently reports unflattering—and true—information about Trump. None of the 600,000 people who work at the Postal Service are of concern to Trump. None of the 100,000 veterans are on his radar. Neither are the 327 million Americans who absolutely depend on the Postal Service to bring both the money they need to live, and the items they purchase from stores that—for now at least—they can’t visit.
The Postal Service isn’t just a vital lifeline for 99.9% of all Americans—it’s a lifeline wrapped in moments as shining as a college admissions letter, and as heart-stopping as a draft notice. The Postal Service predates the Constitution, and no invention of the 20th century (or the 21st) has made it one whit less vital. The heartland of America isn’t in Minnesota or Kansas. It’s in the mailbox.
The mailbox isn’t just something that sits on a pole at the end of the drive. It’s a shrine to hope and fear and dreams.
Donald Trump doesn’t know that. But he will.