Earlier this week, one of the more dramatic, attention-grabbing acts of public protest in recent memory went down at the U.S. Capitol, and it landed Doug Hughes in hot water. A 61-year-old mailman from Ruskin, Florida who wanted to send a message about campaign finance and corruption, Hughes landed his tiny aircraft on the west lawn of the Capitol building, intending to "deliver the mail" to Congress. And now, his spouse has come out in public support — gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes' wife considers him a "patriot," as reported by WFLA.
Luckily for Alena Hughes, Doug got to head home after being arrested, though not before receiving a felony charge. According to the Washington Post, he'll be facing a preliminary hearing on May 8, and until then he'll have little more to do than hang around, having been ordered to remain in his home.
Basically, he's enduring exactly the process that you'd expect for flying an unauthorized gyrocopter onto the Capitol grounds, the consequential burdens that high-profile protests often take on. In his pre-flight comments to the Tampa Bay Times, he acknowledged that his dramatic landing could put him in some legal peril, and based on what Alena told WFLA, she was aware of that too — she told them "he broke the law."
Whether or not you agree with her assertion that her husband is a patriot, his explanation for why he did what he does somewhat speak to a patriotic streak. As detailed by Democracy Now, the letter he intended to deliver to Congress — that is, with literally one letter for every member of the House and Senate — is a call for a sort of salvational embrace of reform. Here are some excerpts:
The popular perception outside the DC beltway is that the federal government is corrupt and the US Congress is the major problem. As a voter, I’m a member of the only political body with authority over Congress. I’m demanding reform and declaring a voter’s rebellion in a manner consistent with Jefferson’s description of rights in the Declaration of Independence.
... There are several credible groups working to reform Congress. Their evaluations of the problem are remarkably in agreement though the leadership (and membership) may lean conservative or liberal. They see the corrupting effect of money — how the current rules empower special interests through lobbyists and PACs — robbing the average American of any representation on any issue where the connected have a stake. This is not democracy even if the ritual of elections is maintained.
... The various mechanisms which funnel money to candidates and congress-persons are complex. It happens before they are elected, while they are in office and after they leave Congress. Fortunately, a solution to corruption is not complicated. All the proposals are built around either reform legislation or a Constitutional Amendment. Actually, we need both — a constitutional amendment and legislation.
In short, whether or not you feel sympathetic to what Hughes did, why he did it, or the tact and philosophy behind his letter, it seems hard to argue that he's guided by a sense of obligation to his country. It'll be interesting to see what fate ultimately befalls him, although he can apparently count on Alena's continued support — she told WFLA that she'd "support him no matter what."
Image: Tampa Bay Times