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COLUMN ONE

A watcher sees across the divide

Max Kennedy patrols the U.S.-Mexico frontier as a volunteer. But this alienated man may be the most ambivalent of border warriors.

June 23, 2007|Christopher Goffard | Times Staff Writer

By 11:30 p.m. it's clear that the operation is lost. The border-jumpers have evaded capture, at least for now -- slipped into the east or back into Mexico. He turns the key in his truck and rolls down the hill. "It's really more of a protest than it is an operation," Kennedy says. "It's my only way to give Bush the finger."

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AT midnight he's keeping warm in CzechStan's camper in Minuteman Village. It's not long before Kennedy is railing about Gilchrist -- just a politician living a comfortable Orange County life, he says, not a man you see at the border. And what about those missing funds?

CzechStan says that neither of them have seen the organization's books, so how can they judge?

"If you can't talk without screaming, you can't be leadership," he tells Kennedy.

"I don't want to be leadership."

"You get upset for nothing."

"Don't tell me what I know about my organization."

Soon, Kennedy is back in his truck, rolling out to another lookout. It's 1 a.m. He talks again about Alexander Hamilton, whom he considers a hero of freedom, and of Che Guevara, whom he considers a hero of the poor, and of the occupation of Iraq, which he considers a profit-driven assault on the world's powerless, and of his bone-deep, nearly uncontainable hatred of Bush. His brain teems with names, connections. He believes he can hold his own against a lot of college-educated types.

"And no one wants me!" he says.

He scans the desert. Nothing stirs.

Later that night, parked at Minuteman Village, he climbs into the back of his truck, unrolls a thin mattress over a rubber pad and squeezes into a frayed nylon sleeping bag.

Sometimes, desert rats climb through the holes in his floorboard. The temperature has plunged nastily. He knows it will not deter the border crossers. He knows they will crouch in the cold mountains for hours, watching for their chance.

He pulls his sleeping bag up to his chest, leaving it unzipped despite the chill. He wants his arms free, in case he has to grope for the Ruger he keeps loaded on the wheel well.

Of late, he's been thinking of a change. Maybe going east. Maybe joining the antiwar movement. Maybe finding something else on the border. He has skills -- electronics, mountaineering, survival. He's heard about a volunteer group called the Border Angels. They are vocal opponents of the Minutemen. They are the enemy. They supply water to immigrants who risk their lives in crossing. He wonders if they can use a man like him.

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christopher.goffard@latimes.com

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