A postman took a flight from Gettysburg to Washington, D.C., bypassing the obligatory digital-rape from the TSA. He eluded not only handsy feds and naked-body scanners but three imaginary barriers restricting flight in and around the capital. For such offenses, a lawmaker believes law enforcement should have summarily executed the perpetrator of the victimless crime midair.
How soon until the flight of a paper airplane over the gates of the White House elicits a z-pattern of machine gun fire?
“He should have been subject to being shot out of the sky,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told Hugh Hewitt on his radio program. The solon’s hindsight was not the foresight of his fellow federal employee. Professional letter carrier/amateur aviator Doug Hughes told the Tampa Tribune, “I don’t believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 61-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle.”
The experience of 9/11 surely makes a shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach not terribly unreasonable. But as the gone-postal letter carrier notes, he commanded a flying bicycle and not a 747.
The scheme recalls the last great escape over the Berlin Wall. Two German brothers who had earlier fled to the West piloted ultralights over the wall in 1989 to liberate a third brother held against his will in the East. Like Mr. Hughes’s flying machine emblazoned with the USPS logo, the ultralight extracting the East German brother bore government insignia, albeit of a more ominous Soviet sort to serve as a shield. The low-tech, high-altitude contraptions ultimately landed on the lawn of the Reichstag.
Then as now, the aerial gizmos avoided any incoming. And in both cases, the reasons likely had more to do with incompetence than a lack of will.
Still, if “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” then the notion of Homeland Security, the Secret Service, and the Capitol Police stopping dedicated postmen in gyrocopters seems a bit far-fetched. Failing to kill the messenger—Hughes toted 535 letters for the elected representatives on the Hill—federal security agencies now seek to kill the idea that, despite documented calls to them and boasts online and in a large-circulation newspaper, they possessed any foreknowledge of the flight. CYA, even in the parlance of security bureaucrats, means covering their own hides rather than ours.
Surely a key difference between the unconventional air missions 26 years and an ocean apart involves motives. Whereas the German brothers sought to reunite a family inhumanely separated by a tyrannical government, Mr. Hughes aimed to raise awareness over… wait for it… campaign finance reform. A harebrained means often foreshadows a harebrained end.
Hughes outlines the problems facing America as “a sold-out Congress,” “a network of corporate clients and lobbyists prepared to generously reward Congress-critters who vote as they are sold told,” and “the network and cable media, who should be the safety valve in a functioning democracy, but is fully enlisted in the scheme.”
He outlines problems unleashed by big government and seeks to solve them through big government. The “solution” recalls Milton Friedman’s barking-cat analogy. The Santa Cruz-born Hughes wants a big government but not the corruption that inevitably follows from scoundrel interests seeking a slice of the expanding money pie. He misunderstands human nature as much as the person who wants a cat provided that it barks misunderstands animal nature.
A better way to combat corruption involves not reforming the way private interests finance politicians but the way politicians finance private interests. In other words, give the government fewer rather than greater powers. The very real corruption that Hughes decries would decrease when the dollars seized by the state decrease. Who bribes, through a bagman or a campaign contribution, when there’s no quo for the quid?
A Roman Republic Empire vibe surrounds recent events in the Old Republic. The former Secretary of State of a government that snoops on the emails of American citizens cites the privacy of public officials in keeping her official correspondence private. The IRS, aggressively harassing political enemies of the president for the minute details of their inner workings, destroys the electronic correspondence—through negligence it claims—detailing the political maneuvering of public officials engaged in a partisan effort. An elected leader of a government that incarcerates citizens for shooting other citizens for screwing around on their lawns deeming it a lapse that its agents didn’t shoot a citizen for screwing around on its (our?) lawn follows from this mindset.
That government officials contemplated killing the idiot in the eggbeater demonstrates not only the degree to which they fear the citizenry but seek a velvet rope protecting them from the great unwashed. If part of Doug Hughes’s ill-advised mission sought to break down barriers between governed and government, then he succeeded, if but for a few moments. Sometimes it takes an out-of-touch citizen to grab the attention of an out-of-touch government.