A writer and an activist gaze into each other's eyes and see an America imperiled.
Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America's Borders
by Jim Gilchrist and Jerome R. Corsi
foreword by Tom Tancredo
Torrance, Calif.: World Ahead Publishing, 2006
Jim Gilchrist and Jerome Corsi make the perfect B-list conservative couple. Gilchrist, a decorated Vietnam veteran and retired accountant turned co-founder of the rough-riding Minuteman Project, is the tough guy of the pair. Corsi, a Harvard Ph.D. who made news in 2004 attacking John Kerry's war record as co-author of Unfit for Command, is the bookish researcher who, judging from numerous published photos of himself and Gilchrist on the Mexican border, enjoys posing with tough guys in the desert.
Together, Gilchrist and Corsi have produced Minutemen, a book that might be categorized as a stunningly self-important autobiography, were it not for the fact that it has two authors. The frequent and schizophrenic shifts between the collective voice ("we believe") and third-person paeans to Gilchrist's bravery ("Jim's courageous combat tour in Vietnam gave him the confidence that he could make the Minuteman Project successful") set the tone early for this utter mess of a book.
Once the super-patriotism of Jim Gilchrist has been firmly established -- he ran away from home to volunteer for combat duty in Vietnam at 18 -- the authors sketch an insider's history of the Minuteman border-vigilante movement, during which you can practically hear the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" playing off-key in the background. The book then swerves into a chaotic conservative primer to the illegal immigration debate.
The basics of the Gilchrist/Corsi argument are the same as those found in any number of recent books on the same subject, from Congressman Tom Tancredo's In Mortal Danger to TV pundit Pat Buchanan's bestselling State of Emergency. The main pillars are the threat posed by illegal immigrants to social services budgets, and hence the economic health of the middle class; increasing criminality in our streets; the Aztlan Plot, in which Mexico is alleged to be scheming to repopulate and then steal back the southwestern U.S.; and the threat posed by Muslim terrorists exploiting the soft southern border.
For Gilchrist/Corsi, the answer is swift deportation of the undocumented, strict border patrol enforcement, and a strong fence. The enemy standing in the way of these developments is "the Left," an entity that includes most Latino advocacy groups, the ACLU, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose attorneys, the authors write, are "socialists or communists, possibly even anarchists."
While most of this can be found more elegantly stated in other books, Gilchrist and Corsi do offer an original twist on the support of building interests for a guest worker program (opposed by the authors). Real estate developers welcome a "new slave class" not because it would keep down construction labor costs, they write, but because they want to "pack people in like sardines."
Such trailblazing analysis is regularly interrupted by inane returns to the theme of Jim Gilchrist's war record. One such passage comes during a sensationalist account of the Salvadoran street gang MS-13. In the midst of expounding on the gang's notoriously wicked ways, Corsi steps out of the narrative to once again breathlessly probe Gilchrist about Vietnam. In the Q&A format favored by the authors, Gilchrist holds forth on grenades: "All of a sudden, you'd hear 'Thump!' as [it] hit the ledge… . Then it would go 'BAM!'… and the sound would deafen your ears."
Gilchrist and Corsi (now speaking as one again) then turn to the reader and ask: "Has any MS-13 'tough guy' gangster ever experienced combat like this? We doubt it, although the Leftists would probably point to the brutality of the civil war in El Salvador."
That brutal civil war, according to the authors, was strictly the work of leftist guerillas; absent is any mention of the right-wing insurgency funded by the CIA under Ronald Reagan, a president both authors revere (notwithstanding Reagan's 1986 Immigration Act, which granted amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants). This example of sloppy and ideologically driven history is typical of Minutemen, which lurches between chunks of apparently random interview transcript, schoolgirl odes to Jim Gilchrist, and dime-store economic/cultural analysis so wild as to border on incoherence for most of its 300-plus pages.