Meet the guy who flew a gyrocopter onto the Capitol Lawn to send a message, save our democracy

Doug Hughes, a 61 year-old U.S. Postal Worker, landed a gyrocopter on the Capitol Lawn on April 15th, giving “two thumbs up” to Washingtonians as he flew by. After landing his small, early-Wright-brothers-esque flying machine with a Postal Service emblem painted on the tail, he was immediately arrested. In what may come as a disappointment to those of us who applaud his efforts, he will, in fact, be driving a car to his arraignment tomorrow (Thursday, May 21).

Though some paid little attention to the story of a strange, old postal worker crash-landing a makeshift helicopter on the Capitol Lawn (maybe chalking it up to senility?), many recognized this show of defiance for what it was–a last-ditch attempt by a frustrated man to let it be known how greatly he fears for the future of this country.

For his part, Hughes called the incident a peaceful protest, saying: “The most important requirements were met: No one was hurt, no property was damaged and the message was delivered. It was a message Americans agree with.”

The message Hughes carries with him in his gyrocopter is simple: the massive amount of money in politics is drowning out the voices of the people. It’s not an unknown fact. In a recent Gallup poll, frustration with the government was cited by respondents as the number one problem in the United States, with more than 90 percent identifying the root cause of the problem as the detrimental impact of a huge influx of money into the political system.

Hughes carried with him 535 stamped letters to the men and women of Congress–the epicenter of the systemically corrosive impact of money in politics, solidified by Citizens United. In those letters, Hughes expressed a simple desire: to live in “a 21st-century democracy where everyone has a right to know who is influencing our government, everyone has a voice, everyone participates, everyone plays by the same set of commonsense rules and everyone is held accountable if they break faith with those rules.”

Before writing off Hughes’ action as caused by senility, insanity, or whatever else is being said, maybe Americans should listen to his message. It is, after all, supported by sixteen states and 650 cities. It’s a message for which Hughes was willing to give up his freedom–wanting all of us to realize, in the process, that maybe it’s time that we reclaim ours.