This Undercover Reporter Traveled To The Border To “Hunt Mexicans.” Here’s What He Saw
“What are you doing down here?” the police officer asked. “Hunting Mexicans,” Yota replied.
When Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer joined a militia, he did so to find out what was fact and what was fiction. What he found was that many facts of militia life are heavily rooted in the fiction of a warped reality, extreme nationalism, and the search for some kind of meaning. For the most part, militiamen seem to come from blue collar backgrounds — “roofers, electricians, heavy-equipment operators, welders” — each one looking for more out of life than living paycheck to paycheck. Organizations like 3UP, the militia Shane Bauer joined, offer this outlet, giving many of its members the sense of purpose they lack in real lives.
“For others,” Shane explains, “the militia provides a justification for violent fantasies of insurrection.”
From an outsider’s perspective, the militia experience looks like one big role-playing experiment. Adults dressed in camouflage, wearing face paint, playing hide-and-go-seek in the desert, excited for all out war with mythic enemies. Those who are attracted to this lifestyle tend to have a raging suspicion of federal government. People who lack their worldview are referred to as “sheep.” People who want to join are first subjected various torture-like scenarios to test their mettle and mental awareness. Many militias have a strict policy: “No crazies and no anarchists.” All of those who join the militia seem to share this common idea: The world is on the brink of some great catastrophe and they want to be ready for it.
“Some might believe what is happening is something biblical right now.”
But no matter how much they prepare for excitement, there’s one thing that can’t be ignored: Border patrolling is kind of a boring existence. Lots of time is spent staring into the distance, looking for signs of cartels that may or may not even exist. They tend to be one step behind coyotes and migrants; their collective experience falls into the “dollar short and a day late” column. Any sign of life is cause for excitement. Once a militia followed a group of people who turned out to be scientists that were out counting bats. For now, these kinds of tepid misunderstandings tend to be the extent of their border patrolling. They live in an environment of “anything can happen,” though nothing usually does, and when the weekend is over, it’s back to their normal lives, where they wait.
Shane Bauer’s article is a great piece of insider reporting, and definitely worth a read. Check it out over at Mother Jones.