At a fundraiser for the hard-line Texas Minutemen, the talk is of an enemy culture, enemy migrants, and enemy pigs.
DENTON, Texas -- The potato salad was starting to turn under the scrub desert sun when the specter of the Hungarian-born billionaire appeared.
"George Soros is the communist-in-chief," declared a middle-aged woman, between bites of barbecue. "He wants everyone to have the same thing -- nothing."
"That's right. That's how communism works," another said. Everyone at the picnic table agreed that Soros is hell-bent on destroying America by pushing an open- borders policy.
"The May Day immigrant rallies had a budget of $1 million dollars," someone added. "They didn't get all that money selling tacos."
It was high noon outside a small airplane hanger in Denton, a university town some 40 miles north of Fort Worth, and 70-odd border activists had gathered to raise money for the Texas Minutemen, a group led by self-described "bail bond enforcement agent" Shannon McGauley. The fundraiser was headlined by Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the original Minuteman Project, who aligned himself with McGauley's independent outfit for "Operation Sovereignty," a two-month "border observation vigil" that began Sept. 11.
Along with soccer moms wearing American flag pins, attendees at the August barbecue included a half-dozen camo-clad men, including one goateed fellow lurking on the sidelines with a faded "HEIL" tattoo on the nape of his neck. The tattoo was not out of place. As late as this October, the Texas Minutemen's official blog boasted ties to "Stormfront patriots," apparently referencing a well-known white supremacist website. Glenn Spencer, leader of the American Border Patrol hate group, was also scheduled to speak at the fundraiser, but cancelled at the last minute.
After lunch, the crowd was ushered into a hanger housing the Texas Minutemen air force -- a single prop plane and a bubble-helicopter. Inside, a vendor from Night Vision Technologies, a Texas firm specializing in high-tech night-vision goggles and scopes, had set up shop. On his table: two M-16 assault rifles mounted with Litton AN/PVS-4 Night Vision weapon sights, the same system used by the U.S. military.
"Say you're out shooting pigs at night," explained the company representative, mock-aiming the gun, "you'll be able to tell if you hit them."
None of the afternoon's speakers mentioned pigs. They focused their fury on Spanish-speaking immigrants, their "enemy culture," and the deadly diseases they bring with them. One of the pilots for the Texas Minuteman spoke of purging the country's population and turning back the clock to a time in America when "people knew and trusted their neighbors and gays were in the closet."
In the most rambling and bizarre call-to-arms of the afternoon, Mexican-born Minuteman Ray Herrera spoke of maintaining America's "Anglo-Puritan" core.
Gilchrist spoke last. Clad in his usual assortment of patriotic buttons and an American flag baseball cap, the failed Congressional candidate launched into a broadside against two enemies: Bud Kennedy, an anti-racist columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and Chris Simcox, Gilchrist's partner-turned-nemesis, now leader of the rival Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.
"Let me make one thing perfectly clear," shouted Gilchrist, eyes ablaze and nostrils flaring. "Chris Simcox has nothing to do with the Minuteman Project! He is manipulating the Internet to drive people to fake sites and ask for money. Don't be fooled!"
As for the relationship between the Minuteman Project and the Texas Minutemen, Gilchrist clarified things.
"I'm happy to announce that the Texas Minutemen are now a state chapter of the Minuteman Project," he proclaimed.
During "Operation Sovereignty," the two groups, along with Glenn Spencer, worked side-by-side patrolling the border area around Laredo and El Paso, covering dozens of miles along the Rio Grande. They also shared media duties, with a well-rehearsed McGauley dropping tempered sound bites like, "If you're here illegally, you don't need to be here."
Gilchrist, meanwhile, stressed to reporters the legality of his non-confrontational tactics and the non-racist motivations of his volunteers, including the boys from Texas. Maybe he really believes that.
And maybe he believes that "Stormfront patriots" cited on the Texas Minutemen's blog refers to amateur meteorologists born on the Fourth of July.