They live in the suburbs of Tennessee and Indiana. They fought in Vietnam and Desert Storm. They speak about an older, better America, an America that once was, and is no more. And for the past decade, they have come to the U.S. / Mexico border to hunt for illegal immigrants. Who are the Minutemen? Patriots? Racists? Vigilantes?
Harel Shapira lived with the Minutemen and patrolled the border with them, seeking neither to condemn nor praise them, but to understand who they are and what they do. Challenging simplistic depictions of these men as right-wing fanatics with loose triggers, Shapira discovers a group of men who long for community and embrace the principles of civic engagement. Yet these desires and convictions have led them to a troubling place.
Shapira takes you to that place - a stretch of desert in southern Arizona, where he reveals that what draws these men to the border is not simply racism or anti-immigrant sentiments, but a chance to relive a sense of meaning and purpose rooted in an older life of soldiering. They come to the border not only in search of illegal immigrants, but of lost identities and experiences.
This book is outstanding. It's an evenly balanced, keenly insightful ethnography of border patrol. It's an outstanding example of sociological ethnography. Unfortunately, the reader is intent on undermining everything of value the book has to offer. The whole point of the book is to ask us to unthink our preconceived notions of what and who the Minutemen are. The point is to challenge our stereotypes. The narrator, on the other hand, seeks to reinforce these stereotypes. Every Minuteman who speaks is given a Gomer Pyle Southern Accent that is targeted to make them sounds stupid no matter what they are saying. Members of opposing border groups that seek to give shelter to those crossing the border are given winy liberal accents, despite the fact that they are from Arizona. If this book is about making us think, the narrator seems to want to us to be unthinking morons. An unfortunate and deep disservice to this book.