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Meet Doug Hughes - The Rebel Mailman Who Landed on The Capitol Lawn
Great Aviators in History
Orville and Wilbur Wright, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Chuck Yeager - all of these are great names in American Aviation that you know and recognize. They are all noted for being pioneers in the field of aeronautics, for breaking barriers that seemed impassable at the time. These fearless aviators operated aircraft that were considered pioneering, technological marvels in their own right, in an era when man was taking baby steps toward the clouds and then toward the stars. They are considered American heroes and they all have their faces on postage stamps.
Then aviator Doug Hughes came along, just a humble letter carrier from Ruskin, Florida. Doug flew a simple, 250 pound Gyrocopter, more of a safety hazard and an offense to passing songbirds than a technological marvel. His aviator skills do not rank among the giants of history who have flown marathon flights across thousands of miles of ocean, crashed through the sound barrier, or landed a spacecraft on the moon. As a man indicted on federal criminal charges it is unlikely he will ever get his face on a postage stamp. But he did shatter a barrier in successfully penetrating the airspace defenses of Washington, DC to land his little Gyrocopter on the lawn of the US Capitol, and to many he is considered a hero for using this diminutive rotor bladed apparatus as a vehicle to shatter political barriers and deliver a powerful, undeniable message to Congress that takes it to task for the corruption and cronyism that exists on Capitol Hill.
Wednesday, April 15th, tax deadline day was when Doug took off from an airfield in Gettysburg Pennsylvania, the place where Lincoln made his immortal speech that included the words "...this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." It was only fitting that a mailman keenly dedicated to the rebirth of freedom should choose this place to launch his special delivery to the Congressmen and women he perceived as a threat to Lincoln's, and America's sacred ideal. Flying from Gettysburg to DC at 45 miles per hour over approximately 90 miles of restricted airspace, Doug somehow evaded the radar, ground based missile systems, and fighter jets of the most sophisticated air defense system in the world, this after telling everybody he was coming way in advance. Hughes described the sputtering lawn mower engine vehicle that was able to run the deadly gauntlet of the Washington DC defenses as a "flying bicycle that could be shot down by a boy scout with a BB gun."
Doug was not the initiator of any secret plots or conspiracies. He informed practically everybody of his plan long in advance. His mission and flight plan were announced beforehand in the Tampa Bay Times. Secret Service agents had already spoken to him twice, even banging on his door at 1 AM to make sure he was not a dangerous kook. He sent an email to Barack Obama before he took off just to say he was on the way. All the same, to everybody's complete surprise, Doug's gyrocopter breached the DC skyline about 1:20 PM, leisurely rounded the Washington Monument, then landed in front of the Capitol building unopposed. Here our flying mailman, dressed in what looked to be a somewhat faded postal issue raincoat, was quickly surrounded by authorities that were completely caught with their pants down, despite the painstaking efforts Doug took to eliminate the appearance of a surprise attack.
Violence was not Doug's agenda. There were no bombs attached to his tiny Gyrocopter, nor he did not intend to hurt anybody or crash his flying bicycle into any public buildings in order to cause mass human casualties or panic. The only weapons Doug had on board were his powerful words, packed within 535 stamped letters addressed to 535 members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
As a postal employee, I have to confess that when I first heard about Doug Hughes landing on the Capitol lawn, my immediate reaction was "swell - there goes another psycho letter carrier to give us all a bad name." It has been a while since a deranged mailman has gone shooting up a post office, I thought, but something like that was bound to happen sooner or later. When the story slowly unraveled that Doug was not a terrorist, that he was not carrying bombs or bullets, only letters addressed to each member of Congress, I assumed that the letters were filled with half baked lunatic rants.
Turns out Doug is not a raving madman, after all, but a citizen on a mission, and a man who wants to make a difference in a positive way. Some of us claim that we want to get involved, that we want our brief lives to count for something, but our impassioned vows to save the world never get far from the bar stool where we make them. Or else, as writers trying to make a difference we compose some fiery manifesto and publish it online it a fit of enraged passion, only to watch in sadness and frustration as the entire world releases a collective cyber yawn and people stay away from our enlightened exaltation by the millions.
The difference with his Doug Hughes is he got his butt up from behind the computer and decided to make a statement in a risky, daring way that people would be forced to pay attention to.
This was not an impulsive, spur of the moment exploit. Doug carefully planned this feat for 2 and a half years. Jolted by the death of his son in an automobile accident, Doug became painfully aware of the fickle and fragile nature of life and decided to commit a shocking act of civil disobedience in the nation's capital that was bound to attract attention to the cause he had dedicated himself to, which was to reform democracy by exposing the corruption shamelessly practiced by the office holders on Capitol hill.
The road to Doug's historic flight began when, together with his friend Mike Shanahan, he developed a political concept called Civilism that was enumerated in four short articles called "The Civilist Papers." In Doug's own words, the Civilist Papers are "...an action plan, not to make the country more liberal or more conservative, but to restore democracy - rule by the majority."
Doug and Mike considered mailing their proclamation to the members of Congress, but understood it probably wouldn't make it past the desks of scrutinizing Congressional aides weeding through mountainous stacks of mail chock full of letters from ranting malcontents across the fruited plain. Doug understood that "...The idea was a good one - the trick was a method of delivery which made the problem and the solution so clear and the principle so politically volatile that no member of Congress (or candidate) could avoid taking a stand." In other words, the message was already out there - Congressmen and women were simply using to ignore it because, to quote Doug again, "...Congress loves the individual benefits of corruption and (generally) has no intention of changing (the) damn thing."
On his website thedemocracyclub.org, Doug expresses his view that mounting discontent with the government will cause the "damn thing" to be changed eventually, and probably by forces seeking to impose their vision upon us through "...violent revolution and domestic terrorism." Because he was, and is a fervent advocate of non-violent, peaceful change, Doug considered his flight to the capital to be a race against those who would introduce change through methods that engender hate, fear, mistrust, and dissension.
Music to Gyrocopter By
The potential deadly contents attached to the landing gear of Doug's gyrocopter - deadly, that is, if you are a Congressman who enjoys the unfettered perks of a lifetime of lobbying on the corporate tab, consisted of 535 stamped letters addressed to each office holder of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although a bomb detecting robot was photographed timidly sniffing around the edges of Doug's whirlybird, not even the combined resources of the most efficient bomb squad in the world could defuse his explosive words.
As a mailman, Doug was naturally fastidious about affixing the proper postage to the letters, so his expenses for this special delivery flight to Capitol Hill included a 261 dollar postage bill. Apart from his unauthorized entry into national defense airspace, of course, nothing that Doug did smacked of illegality or of a desire to rob or harm the taxpaying public.
I have posted a link at the bottom of this article where you can read Doug's concise but powerful message to Congress for yourself, but in summation Doug's stamped envelopes contained a list of options Congressmen could choose from to react to his call to reform. This list reads as follows:
1. You may pretend corruption does not exist.
2. You may pretend to oppose corruption while you sabotage reform.
3. You may actively participate in real reform.
To those legislators falling under "head in the sand" option one, Doug's wake up call accusation of an unholy alliance between Congress and corporations consisted of several parts. First of all, he pointed out that dozens of corporations do not pay taxes because of the millions they pay to lobbyists to fight for special legislation. Secondly, almost half of the legislators leaving Congress get jobs as lobbyists afterwards, a position that pays 14 times more, on average, than a Congressional paycheck. Doug's third allegation was that junior Congressmen are assigned the task of lobbying from party headquarters for four hours a day to avoid the illegality of doing this from their government offices. Finally, Doug reminded corrupt Senators and Representatives of the people they are really paid to serve, even though they are currently in the back pocket of .the wealthy, influential .05 of the population. In Doug's exact words "As a member of the US Congress, You should work only for the people.
1. Not yourself.
2. Not your political party.
3. Not the richest donors to your campaign.
4. Not the lobbyist company who will hire you after your leave Congress."
These are not the lunatic ramblings of a mentally disturbed person. These are the intricately conceived and precisely formulated words of a completely sane, intelligent individual who has thought long and hard about the tailspin his country's government has headed into and the remedies necessary to right its off kilter course.
Tweaking the Dragon's Tail
What is to be the outcome of Doug's bold frontal attack on the enemies of Democracy, an assault made in broad daylight directly against the front door of the men and women who have corrupted the legislative process for personal gain?
Doug says: "The last thing they're going to do is give me the medal of honor...I am tweaking the dragon's tail as hard as I can. I'm going after them very directly and very confrontationally, and I don't expect they are passively going to accept it."
Doug was initially charged with knowingly operating an unlicensed aircraft and violating national defense airspace. Since his initial booking additional charges have been trumped up, and the estimates of his potential incarceration period range from 4 to 9 years. In addition, he has also been placed on paid administrative leave by the United States Postal Service, on the grounds of "unacceptable conduct."
When Doug gets his day in court to answer to these charges, he plans to use the necessity defense, meaning that he committed this act because he perceived that a genuine threat existed and his actions, though illegal, were necessary to stop an imminent harm. Most of the time the necessity defense just doesn't fly in court, but hopefully Doug's defense will also serve as an impassioned plea that makes the ordinary Joe take notice of the damage that institutionalized corruption is doing to our American democracy.
A reporter asked Doug if he considered himself a patriot for doing what he did. "No, I'm a mailman," he answered. Indeed, Doug Hughes is not some testosterone fueled star spangled aviator who performed intricate aerial stunts around the magnificent marble monuments of Washington, but just a simple mailman delivering a message that every American must stop and pay attention to - in order to protect democracy for ourselves, but most of all for our children.