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The always-entertaining Charlie LeDuff of The New York Times kicked off his series of “portraits of offbeat Americans” with a profile of a Minuteman in the far stretches of San Diego County.

The piece starts like this:

CAMPO, Calif. – Five miles past the paved road, up on a hill of no name, lives a one-eyed man with a one-eyed cat.

They sleep in a van parked against the patchwork fence that lines the border with Mexico. He is solitary, lean, trying to hold back a tidal wave of humanity. The cat is overweight.

Britt Craig describes himself as a 57-year-old Spartan, a decorated war veteran, a Buddhist, a damaged and lonesome man, a lover of books who can pull bits of philosophy from the corners of his confinement.

“The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made so and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself,” Mr. Craig says in the 100-degree heat, quoting John Stuart Mill almost perfectly.

He is a member of the Minuteman Project, a group of civilians dedicated to fighting illegal immigration from Mexico. He has done his part simply by standing here, watching, for 500 days.

The Minutemen claim 8,000 members, but that number is dubious at best. Consider that there are only two full-timers living on this 10-mile stretch of the 2,000-mile border now that the smuggling season is slow, the temperatures are blistering and the news media have gone on to other distractions.

The story goes on, among other things, to talk about Craig’s life, what led him to the border and the (sometimes violent) rivalry he shares with the other “full-timer” on watch out in his stretch of desert.

Read the rest of it here.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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