Somerset Perry

Monday November 6, 2006

Although an errant fire alarm went off 15 minutes into it, Wednesday’s speech at Georgetown University by president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps Chris Simcox was decidedly less heated than expected. Protestors outside the event held signs saying, “Simcox + Bigotry Not Welcome” and inside wore red shirts, ready to walk out if Simcox said anything that crossed the line, but the Minuteman kept his rhetoric relatively cool.

Simcox went through his life story–he was a kindergarten teacher trained in a “multicultural approach to learning” before he experienced a life crisis on 9/11–and explained the necessity for and methodology of his vigilante group, which attempts to police America’s borders.

“The federal government has abandoned its duty to secure our borders,” he said, and the MCDC are “nothing more than a neighborhood watch.” Funny, most neighborhood watch organizations aren’t encouraged to carry concealed weapons, but I digress.

Mainly, Simcox just stuck to his talking points: Immigration is out of control, we must militarize the border, and vigilante groups are the only way because the government hasn’t responded. He stayed away from the Minutemen’s infamous overtly racist rhetoric. Simcox also avoided proposing any plausible solution to the underlying causes for illegal immigration, like desperate poverty in developing countries.

The response from protestors during the speech was less organized and pointed than it could have been, failing to skewer Simcox in a few places where his logic and facts were off or call him on the nasty language he has used in other interviews and speeches. After the speech, a line of more than 20 people, many of them in the red shirts, formed for the Q&A session and thus I wasn’t able to ask any questions, but I’ll outline here what a few of them would have been.

Although Simcox said that the Minutemen “have never broken a law and never abused a human being on earth,” Simcox himself was arrested in January 2003 for illegal possession of a concealed firearm. Someone should have asked him about that.

Simcox dipped a tiny bit into his bag of stereotypes when he claimed indirectly that urban gangs in America are a product solely of illegal immigration. So another good question, considering how Simcox has claimed to be compassionate toward the people he reports to the border patrol, would have been why he once said this: “Those people don’t come here to work. They come here to rob and deal drugs.” Or this one: “I mean, we need the National Guard to clean out all our cities and round them up. They are hard-core criminals. They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughters and they are evil people.” These troubling statements needed to be aired in front of a crowd that may not have known to be skeptical of Simcox’s misleadingly friendly presentation. Instead many questions took the form of diatribes that were far less effective than hoisting Simcox by his own petard would have been.

Although he failed to show his true colors at Georgetown, Simcox’s previous statements show him to be racist, and it is disappointing he wasn’t questioned in a more meaningful way by protestors. Campus progressives should arm themselves with the facts on the rightwing demagogues who come to speak to them. In the end, the event was a bit more hot air than heated debate. Maybe all that smoke Simcox blew is what set off the fire alarm.