On May 25, 1948, a former U.S. Army flier entered the U.S. Embassy in Paris, renounced his American citizenship and, as astonished officials looked on, declared himself a citizen of the world.
In the decades that followed, until the end of his long life last week, he remained by choice a stateless man - entering, leaving, being regularly expelled from and frequently arrested in a spate of countries, carrying a passport of his own devising, as the international news media chronicled his every move.
His rationale was simple, his aim immense: If there were no nation-states, he believed, there would be no wars.
Garry Davis, a longtime peace advocate, former Broadway song-and-dance man and self-declared World Citizen No. 1, who is widely regarded as the dean of the One World movement, a quest to erase national boundaries that today has nearly 1 million adherents worldwide, died Wednesday in Williston, Vermont. He was 91, and though in recent years he had largely ceased his wanderings and settled in South Burlington, he continued to occupy the singular limbo between citizen and alien that he had cheerfully inhabited for 65 years.
“I am not a man without a country,” Davis told Newsweek in 1978, “merely a man without nationality.”
Whether Davis was a visionary utopian or a quixotic naïf was long debated by press and public. His supporters argued that the documents he issued had genuine value for refugees and other stateless people.
His detractors countered that by issuing them - and charging a fee - Davis was selling false hope to people who spent what little they had on papers that are legally recognized almost nowhere in the world.
What is beyond dispute is that Davis’ long insistence on the inalienable right of anyone to travel anywhere prefigures the present-day immigration debate by decades. It likewise anticipates the current stateless conditions of Julian Assange and Edward J. Snowden.
In old age, Davis was far from idle. Last year, he had a world passport delivered to Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
Just weeks before he died, Davis had a world passport sent, via Russian authorities, to Snowden, the fugitive former national security contractor accused of violating espionage laws, whose United States passport was revoked in June. NYT