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Meet Doug Hughes - The Rebel Mailman Who Landed on The Capitol Lawn

Updated on July 14, 2015
Mel Carriere profile image

Although many are mystified by his mysterious moniker, Mel Carriere is a San Diego mailman who writes about the mail, among other things.

Humble Mailman Doug Hughes  parks his Gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn, meekly waits to go about making his delivery to Congress.
Humble Mailman Doug Hughes parks his Gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn, meekly waits to go about making his delivery to Congress. | Source

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.


The bomb squad could not defuse the explosive words packed aboard Doug Hughes' Gyrocopter
The bomb squad could not defuse the explosive words packed aboard Doug Hughes' Gyrocopter | Source

Surprise, Surprise?

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.

Flying Doug Hughes Delivers for you!
Flying Doug Hughes Delivers for you! | Source

The Backstory

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

Mailman Doug Hughes stamps the letters to be delivered via air mail to the members of Congress
Mailman Doug Hughes stamps the letters to be delivered via air mail to the members of Congress | Source

The Message

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.


Flying Doug Hughes tweaks the dragon's tail
Flying Doug Hughes tweaks the dragon's tail | Source

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.

Forever stamp commemorating Doug Hughes' historic flight
Forever stamp commemorating Doug Hughes' historic flight | Source

Do you support Doug Hughes, the flying mailman?

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Meet the Flying Mailman...

Doug Terrorizes Citizens from the skies above DC

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Firstly, great hub Mel. You never disappoint. Sometimes ordinary citizens need to take a stand for what is right even if the action they need to take is unlawful. Instead of bowing down to corrupt politicians and corporations who run our "world' not just one country we all need to show that 'the power of the people' is what democracy is meant to be and that it should be the majority whose wishes are adhered to, not the wealthy few. Hats off to Doug and brave men and women like him. To those with a guilty conscience, the truth hurts and they may change their ways...to those with no conscience Doug will just be seen a a deranged criminal and they will want him incarcerated. I hope justice and truth wins this war.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I don't put much hope in changing the minds of these foul men and women who were genetically deprived of a conscience, Jodah, but perhaps with our combined weight we can sweep the whole lot out and start fresh. Thanks for reading!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Doug is my new hero. I doubt he'll have much impact but man alive, I love his style. Great hub...this made my day.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I agree Bill that Doug might not have a lot of inpact - people are just too distracted to care about what is killing them. But maybe he can be a little push that gets a big ball rolling. Thanks for reading!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      And of course I was drawn into reading this because it is authored by the Marvelous Mel. A talent that brings reading to a level above mere pleasure to a superlative experience. And of course this article only fortified that truth. Enough of the platitudes let us get down to substance.

      I am appalled he could just fly on in to the capitol grounds. We owe him a debt of gratitude for that awakening at the very least. I do not think this matters one rat's ass to the corrupt officials that were the target of Doug Hughes' ire. But it matters to me. I hope it matters to many who vote and speak up.

      With the perfect storm one small spark can either ignite a conflagration or make the conditions even more susceptible to one. Hughes is a spark in a growing stockpile of kindling provided by the dead wood of our representatives. Even if his spark does not cause the explosion needed, it helps to heat the embers into ignition.

      Let freedom rein!

      Thank you for bringing me the education about this fine patriot and his cause.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 2 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      Doug is truly a man of courage. Many people have ideas on how to change the world. Too many people complain, there are not enough changes in the world; but very few will take drastic measures to make a difference. We need more Doug's in the world.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      I tell you, took some guts to do what he did. One of those stories just makes you shake your head and laugh.

      As always, wonderful journalism.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 2 years ago

      Mel - it looks like I didn't get notified when this one was published so I am late to the party this time. What a great hub you wrote. I had seen just small bits of this story on the news but never did know the details.

      We need many more citizens like Doug to stand up and take some action to get our country back. It is time we citizens were once again viewed as something other than just a source of money for the Politicians to squander.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Eric your analogy was a superlative one, to say the least, and very appropriate to the drought plagued state in which we live. Having survived the 2003 and 2007 wild fires too close to home, we both know that you get that one spark and boom - there it goes! Maybe Doug is that spark, or maybe he is just the Santa Ana wind blowing through and drying everything up, preparing the way. Thanks for reading and the great comment, my friend!

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Indeed we do need more Dougs in the world, Dana Tate, but the problem is that people are too darn comfortable and they don't care right now. By the time they start losing those comforts it may be too late. Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      Pat Mills 2 years ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      I hope Doug will have the chance to continue his activism.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      It is kind of funny Larry Rankin the way he just sneaked through the capital defenses without being detected. One thing that failed to occur to me as I was writing this is that on September 20, 2014 a real wacko managed to get into the White House fence with a knife, and I think he kind of stole some of Doug's thunder. When Doug landed in his gyrocopter the public was kind of just thinking "here we go again," so even though it made the news it was kind of like a been there, done that thing and people sort of ignored it. This was a shame for Doug because he really does have a great message that people need to be made aware of. Thanks for reading!

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Poolman this party goes round the clock so you are never late. The small bits and pieces you saw of this story were probably that way on purpose. There are powerful people who want to keep this out of the mainstream press as much as possible, because there is too much blood on everybody's hands. Doug has stated that he is not about being a liberal or being a conservative. He just wants the government to function the way it supposed to function, via the will of the people. Thanks for reading!

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Mills P Doug will get his day in court, which will serve as his platform for more activism, since he is using the "necessity" defense. This will give him a great opportunity to elaborate on why what he did was necessary. The question is whether the mass media or the American public will care enough to tune in. Are more Doug Hughes' theatrics in the making? Thanks for reading.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I wonder if Doug Hughes is the sort of "moral imperative" nonviolent rebel that Chris Hedges has in mind in Wages of Rebellion.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      I think this guy's a hero, and his photo should be enlarged poster size and placed in every US post office to show all mail carriers the possibilities of what they can accomplish. I also hope that he doesn't go to jail or if he has to, just for one day then acquitted for time served.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I'm not sure B. Leekley. All I know is rebellion always has a price, and rebels rarely live long enough to enjoy the fruits of victory. Thanks for reading.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you Mona. I doubt the US postal service will be putting up any posters, unless it's a wanted poster if he gets away. They are in the process of firing him. I think he will be sent off to prison as quietly as possible. Surprisingly, postal employees seem to take offense at what he did more than the general public here on HP. I appreciate you dropping in and sounding off!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting story that I haven't heard before. I admire Doug's determination to peacefully support a cause that matters to him, even though he must have known that the outcome wouldn't be good for him. I'll follow the case with interest now that I know about it. Thank you for sharing the information, Mel.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      You're welcome Linda. Doug's cause is a universal one, because politics throughout the so called free world these days is characterized by corruption and cronyism. Thank you for expressing your sympathy and if possible spread the word.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You bet I support Doug. He told the right people that he was going to do this, followed through on his plan, and delivered the most realistic message that he could. Perhaps THIS man should be on Capitol Hill steering what is left of the rusty assemblage. Awesome, up, and you better believe 'sharing.' And he deserves that stamp while he is living.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Poor Doug will never get a real stamp Deb, but you bet he deserves one. Thank you for voicing your support for this renegade and for sharing the message.

    • lyoness913 profile image

      Wendi Pembridge Skilling 2 years ago from Overland Park, KS

      I have to say, I don't think I've ever read a more original hub- Mind*Blown*

      So awesome!

      -Wendi

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you Wendi. I don't know where your politics lie, I don't really care, but Doug Hughes is trying to make a statement for democracy no matter where you fall in the political spectrum. I appreciate you stopping in.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 24 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Have to admit. Most Brits are annoyed that Guy Fawkes failed :)

      Good on Doug for doing something about protecting the democratic process in America

      Lawrence

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 24 months ago from San Diego California

      Thank you Lawrence. Unlike Guy, Doug wasn't trying to destroy any buildings or kill any loudmouth lawmakers, though some might deserve it. Thanks for reading and voicing your support.

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      Glenis Rix 24 months ago from UK

      Good on Doug! Dangerous mission though!

      Brought to my mind a Ryanair pilot on a domestic flight who some years ago ACCIDENTALLY landed his plane on a military airfield in Ireland.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 24 months ago from San Diego California

      I will have to look into that Glenis. Flight is apparently getting easier, and all kinds of people are trying to make a statement from the skies. Thanks for reading!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 24 months ago from SW England

      What an amazing bloke! Good for him! I can't see that they can prosecute him without hypocrisy when they were, in fact, conspirators because they'd been told he was going to do it! LOL

      Great hub. I'm a Brit but I can appreciate the feelings behind this as it's the same here.

      Ann

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 24 months ago from San Diego California

      I think its the same everywhere they put on the mask of democracy, behind which they shamelessly rape the voters. Thanks for reading and your voice of support, Ann.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 22 months ago from East Coast

      I understand his feelings, there was no surprise and unfortunately, many people do not listen to humanely voiced concerns but pay attention to stunts. He had to speak their language to get some attention however, once the stunt is complete everything returns to the way it was. Go figure.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 22 months ago from San Diego California

      Unfortunately Doug was upstaged by the lunatic who broke into the White House with a knife. By comparison there was a big collective yawn to what Doug did, like it was been there done that. Thanks for reading Express10.

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