Victory Garden 2.0

During the early days of Covid (y’all remember the early days of Covid, right?) I realized that if I didn’t do something I would get…a little frantic. I have a well managed tendency to anxiety, counterbalanced by the belief that running in circles flapping my arms and squealing does nothing to improve the situation. If I can do something–even a small something–to ameliorate an anxietous situation, I feel better. I think of this as tending a Victory Garden*, after the WW1 and WW2 practice of home gardening to reduce the strain on supply chains during the war.

During first couple of years of Covid I sewed masks for donation; hooked up with a group that provided materials and found recipients (health and day-care workers, etc.) and distributed them. And spending a few hours every week had the wonderful benefit of making me feel calmer about getting through the pandemic.

We are, as you may have noticed, in an election year.  And the world is a mess. At the state and local levels, not to mention the national levels, the stakes feel almost unbearably high. And my tendency toward anxiety (see above) has been ratcheting higher and higher. This is something that no amount of sewing is going to help. So what can I do to do something? I’m  not a good debater–for someone who works with words, when I’m confronted with the opportunity to discuss politics with someone of differing opinions I tend to get incoherent and arm-wavy and anxious, which convinces no one of my deeply-held feelings in the matter. I am conflict averse (read: I’m a big coward) and actually rather shy about approaching people. But there’s that ratcheting anxiety thing, which is only going to get worse.

Fortunately, during the last couple of elections I’ve found a way of helping that is A) within my skill set, B) does, I think, a good deal of good, and C) makes me feel better. I write postcards. Working with a group called Reclaim Our Vote, I hand-write postcards to voters who may be in danger of missing their opportunity to vote, either through lack of information or outright attempts to mislead them. What I like about these postcards is that they don’t endorse a candidate or espouse a particular platform. They’re simple and informational: “The election (or primary) is on X date. Your state rules say you can vote in the following ways. If anyone tells you you aren’t registered/aren’t allowed to vote, here is what you do. Your vote and your voice are important.” It’s about making sure that every voice is heard.

Writing out the full script (which varies according to the state the recipient lives in)–using multicolored pens (for impact) and my best handwriting–is hard on my increasingly antique wrists–I can do maybe 20 in an evening. So I start small, with a list of maybe 100 recipients. When I get those done, I order another set of postcards and addresses. It’s not exactly rocket surgery, but Center for Common Ground has evidence that post carding gets people to the polls, especially in areas where redistricting or other shenanigans has left many potential voters confused about where, how, and when to vote.

During the last Presidential election my brother, whose politics are, shall we say, entirely opposite to mine, was concerned about election integrity. So he and his wife did a smart thing: they volunteered as poll workers. Not only did they help the process, but they were able to report to their friends that they saw zero evidence of vote tampering, but considerable evidence that everything had been done to ensure that the vote was aboveboard. They felt less anxious about the process. I think sometimes that it’s the ground-level stuff that is most important: convincing people one at a time that the system can work.

So in and among all the other things I’m doing this spring, if you want me I’ll be writing postcards. Or icing my wrists.

If you’d like to get involved in post carding, check out the Center for Common Ground’s page.


*the irony here, of course, is that no one in their right mind wants me to actually garden. Plants see me coming and recoil in terror. In this case the pen, and the needle, are my wheelhouses, and I stay in them.

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