the Free Association Press
The Ides of March enticed my being. I hopped on the first bus down to El Paso, TX with my bag loaded for a long journey and just a sleeping bag to call home. As I describe in posts to my website, I was out to protect others with nothing but integrity as my body armor.
As I detail on my blog repeatedly, I wasn’t expecting to find the courage in myself to do much more than “slow travel” the country, photograph the sights, and attempt to raise something for migrant refugees.
At first, that meant helping organizations such as Reporters without Borders, Journalists for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and most importantly, at the time, Texas RioGrande Legal Aide.
As I traversed the desert of Texas and New Mexico, and entered Arizona, I wasn’t expecting to find any opportunities to have a direct positive impact.
Maybe it was luck. Maybe it was the universe. Maybe it was karma. Maybe it God. Maybe it was the fact that I had wanted to do more and searched for ways that I could have a greater impact.
Somewhere near Phoenix, AZ, I had stopped into a library to do some writing, journaling, and reading. With a stack of Arizona Republic newspapers before me, I tracked down the news about the border and the reporters watching it develop with their keen eyes. One thing jumped out of the paper at me and helped guide me, like the full moon on a cloudy night.
Yuma nonprofits were given a day’s notice that Border Patrol was planning to release migrant families into the desert community to free up detention space. They weren’t going to be prepared or guided in any way, and weren’t being assisted through the legal hoops of citizenship and asylum.
I had to act. In the forefront of my mind I knew that they needed people to greet them with open arms as a friend and an ally. This couldn’t be more true, because I saw the hateful rhetoric, the violence, and the causes that were pushing, who I knew to be mostly women and children in my heart, to a strange country where they had little prospects and family. A hostile country, it would seem; I wasn’t having it.
In some way, I wanted to show solidarity, and a respect for the lives they live as people, as humans. It was to my eyes and heart a humanitarian crisis. I hoped that with enough support from similar stories and a few of my own, here and there on the internet, that we could change pessimism and trauma into healing and hope.
So I took a pause from sharing photos on 500px, because as far as fundraising goes, it was disappointing. I instead began seriously considering what kind of organization I could leave behind to continue working to ensure that the world is just, if not for something utopic, than for the basics: human rights.
I reflected on four things I found amazing about the world today in order to come up with the founding principles:
Digital Nomads — There are people that live everywhere, moving from place to place building an online “World Town,” a term I borrow with endearment from my favorite artist, M.I.A.. I find of these people, especially the women, they’re amazing, shockingly altruistic, and more grateful for life and the planet than anyone I’ve ever met living in a single area their whole lives. I’m proud to consider myself one, because to me, it’s no different than being an envoy of the United Nations; the goal is to “protect the world from devastation” and “unite all peoples [from every nation].” Yes, that’s from Pokemon’s Team Rocket, loosely.
The Associated Press (AP) — When the multinational nonprofit news agency began in May 1846 under the moniker NYAP, it was only five daily newspapers in New York City sharing the cost of transmitting news of the Mexican–American War. Since then similar organizations and resources have sprung up to assist in this global project, including the occasional fact-checking of fact-checkers at the AP and other news agencies. Being from New York and considering myself a journalist as well, I always held the organization high in regard.
“Free Association” — This one has two definitions, and both resonate with me. From Google:
In psychology, it’s “the mental process by which one word or image may spontaneously suggest another without any apparent connection.” Growing up and writing poetry, cracking puns and innuendos, and using it to succeed in Odyssey of the Mind competitions, I used to call it “Six Degrees of Separation,” which is another great theory of the interconnectedness of all humans, but not what I completely meant when I used. Although, looking back, the true definition may have also influenced me unconsciously.
It’s “the forming of a group, political alliance, or other organization without any constraint or external restriction.” This definition is how I operated as a student senator in university, an individual and friend in high school, and a loner in every other respect of my life. So yeah.
Voluntourism — This one is something I think everyone should do. However, there are some caveats. Here’s a Guardian story about one such problem. I believe less in acting as a rescuer and more as a learner. Rather than just throwing help at people; actually finding out what they would like to receive, and striving to not leave a vacuum in the wake of helping others, or creating side effect issues, and even making greater attempts to mitigate cultural impacts.
The mission, in a sentence, is this:
Travel sustainably as volunteers who teach each other and learn from everyone they meet, creating local newsrooms wherever they are needed and can safely grow, for the benefit of the public, and ensuring that the human rights of all are assured, protected, and flourishing.
This project could someday use faster methods of travel. Initially, I imagine, it would be a walking caravan of teachers, advocates, nurses, first responders, activists, journalists, and volunteers.
The founding values are based in those that I’ve picked up in the fields of journalism, activism, and public service:
While the AP believes firmly in rooting out political activity as a conflict of interest, it appears that such efforts to be nonpartisan have very large pitfalls.
In the United States alone, the Overton window, or what has become, contemporarily, politically acceptable in terms of government intervention has largely come to lean heavily to one side of the political spectrum, limiting the window to one side, and actually creating a harmful effect in policy-making.
The way I described in a post on Facebook:
“In the 60s & 70s the people called for a paradigm shift. What we got was a paradigm grift.”
A grifter, as defined in a Google search, is “a person who engages in petty or small-scale swindling.” Of course, however, if that becomes the dominant paradigm, or worldview, we end up with a conman as the President of “the free world.”
Therefore, unlike the AP, in such a political reality where one side is, without a doubt, causing harm to human rights, the environment, and, trust in the same media that has, for decades, strived for integrity, a new organization must be founded upon public service before its own longevity.
That said, I do dream of a day that a partisan news agency and advocacy group can become nonpartisan once again. This would only occur in an environment that widens the Overton window and allows for real unslanted debate. This atmosphere of honest discussion couldn’t possibly occur in a world that allows the abuse of human rights.
Before societies, we learned.
Before societies, we communicated,
and in so doing we created democracy.
Before societies, we lived sustainably.
Before societies, we healed our sick,
fed our families,
and, lived within loosely defined borders.
When grifters found power, in whatever way that meant, though always above others, these things stopped being human rights. That’s when I believe that journalists, scouts, or whoever acted as liaison between peoples failed the public.
“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — Lord Acton
Act. On. — An apt name for the British historian.
I also believe though, that we have the technology to make sure that such a case does not become of this planet again. And to be clear, that doesn’t mean that it should ever happen on Earth 2 either, nor does it offer a pass to environmental degradation.
On Future Amendment
All of this, and more — never less — with the inclusion of further discussion between partners in this effort, is always possible, wherever freedom survives.
In order to build the support for FAP, I’m starting small.
Recently, in Yuma, AZ, I volunteered with a shelter for migrant refugees released from Border Patrol.
While there, I met a young woman who dreams of being a veterinarian.
It would break my heart to know or see her studying and one day torn from her dreams.
Help me help this dreamer, and if you please, read my founding story, mission, and values for my own dream: the Free Association Press.