By Ken Stern 

Tainted mail, poisoned elections

From the editor


November 15, 2023

What is more American than the post office? The post office is older than the United States, established the year before the Declaration of Independence, in 1775 by perhaps the wisest and most practical of the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin. He understood that to knit not only each community – say a town like La Conner – together but to forge a new nation, we had to be in communication – connected – with each other, from Rhode Island to Georgia.

What leads this week’s page one news? The terrorist attack on the Skagit County Elections Office. A saboteur used the U.S. Post Office to deliver to county election staff and volunteers – perhaps neighbors or even your family – an envelope with a white powder with trace amounts of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid up to 50 times stronger than heroin and deadly.

The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating. Not much is known, though the Secretary of State’s office reported elections offices in King, Pierce and Spokane counties received similar envelopes. So did elections offices in four other states. Is it better or worse if we find out that this assault on democracy in Skagit County came from outside of Skagit County?

But whether this terrorist is home grown or comes from Idaho, Texas, San Francisco or elsewhere, the norms of society are under attack. And whether it is a single person or an effort carefully group-planned, consider the message that the mail delivered: We do not believe in your system of government. We will disrupt it. We will scare and harm the people who conduct your elections. And we do this anonymously. You do not know who we are, where we are or what and when we will strike next.

Consider now your response and what you expect of everyone in your community, perhaps most particularly those on the other side of your political divide. Our post office was used to harm our election process and the people who carry out that work. Is it naïve to thinkthat this affront will bring people together, rally all citizens in protection of our defining, most fundamental right: the right to vote?

Voting is as American as the post office. Either we face up to those in our midst who are poisoning us – and drugs through the mail is not the most frequent or deadly addictive substance – and talk this out among ourselves – or we fail to confront the grievances, pain, hate and self-hatred that lead some of us to think killing others of us is a good idea.


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