Doug Hughes’s flight and landing on the Capitol lawn in his hobby kit gyrocopter was a bold gesture to call attention to the calamity of multi-billion dollar election campaign cycles and the peril that special interests have wrought upon our country. And he’s right. While most of us hang on till next pay day, bazillionaires wheel and deal to gain more control and make the laws to help them retain control. Even the most sincere officials are stuck in a catch-22. They need a lot of money to be re-elected. So, I have to hand it to Mr. Hughes. In an interview he said that he thought about how in a few years, when the country is completely controlled by the oligarchs, he didn’t want to look back thinking he may have done something to stop the corporate, special interest, and billionaire power grab. So he acted on his conscience. I applaud this modern day Jefferson and thank him for taking his shot in a non-violent, though questionable, manner. Maybe he can rally attention in a way that no one has been able to, yet.
But when I see stories, even stories like this one, I usually look past the first few layers for the manufacturing angle. And you bet there’s one here.
Maybe the surviving story is that Doug Hughes’s innovative protest calls attention to manufacturing and its importance to our economic welfare. Everywhere we look, from cars to cell phones, and from airport people movers to yes, gyrocopters, we see the accomplishments of manufacturing. Yet manufacturing is largely ignored, even by those who have the most to gain by it. I think I know why. For the most part, manufacturing is not where the big money is, like health care, entertainment, and finance. And it’s difficult to sensationalize, as the media loves to do.
But behind almost every story, like the gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn, there is a technology and manufacturing story. And the role of technology and manufacturing in the story and their relationship to each of us is really very cool. It is a story that needs to be told. Just think how much attention manufacturing would receive if media connected the dots. They do this once in a while, like when some guy fabricated a hand gun on a 3D printer. Now that story met the “if it bleeds it leads” guidelines of sensational journalism. But what about all the interesting stories that involve technology and manufacturing that get short shrift because everyone takes the manufacturing story behind the story for granted? Or more likely, they have no idea that manufacturing is even involved.
If it weren’t for manufacturing, innovation, and the engineering spirit (that I hasten to add played a huge role in the story of America’s founding), Doug Hughes’s call for reform might have been shouted from atop his horse.
But what if manufacturing received all the attention it deserves? I can see the story now. Some nut-case congressman drafts a bill banning gyrocopters and all the parts used to make them. On second thought, maybe manufacturing should just do its thing, quietly flying under the radar.