Whose land is this anyways?

Mr. Kruschev, meet Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Simcox, meet Mr. Delgado.

OK, maybe the posturing that’s going on between the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps of Texas and the Brown Berets isn’t anywhere near the nuclear standoff between the U.S. president and Soviet premier, but it sure has people worked into a tizzy.

Chris Simcox organized the Minuteman Project to address the illegal immigration issue. He and a group of like-minded folks assembled along Arizona’s southern edge to do what they say the Border Patrol doesn’t do well enough — patrol our border.

They didn’t catch anybody, but nobody should have expected them to. After all, many illegal crossers make it into our country despite the efforts of trained Border Patrol agents and their awesome array of high-tech gadgetry that includes motion sensors, heat sensors, aerial surveillance and night-vision goggles. It’s safe to assume the crossers wouldn’t be inclined to show up anywhere near a makeshift posse of John Waynes sitting in lawn chairs as Toby Keith music blared from one of their pickup trucks.

Organizers said they didn’t intend to actually catch anybody, they intended to make a statement. Had they seen any activity, they would have called the Border Patrol to make the arrest.

Now the group plans a more ambitious exercise in October, posting groups across the four states that border Mexico, including Texas. It’s been holding organizational meetings across the state, most recently last weekend in Falfurrias.

Enter the Brown Berets and Pablo Delgado, who late last month came to the Rio Grande Valley and announced that they considered the Minutemen to be a group that spreads racial hatred, and suggested its leaders rethink their plans for October. If they do come to South Texas, Delgado said, the Berets will be waiting for them.

That brought a few rapid — and interesting — events. The same day Delgado issued his warning, original Texas Minutemen president Bill Parmley abruptly announced he was quitting the group, saying that the Minutemen, or at least many members, were exhibiting “racist tendencies,” and weren’t sufficiently organized.

Score one for the Brown Berets.

Other Minutemen officials quickly announced they still plan to carry out their October patrol. But they wanted to make it clear that they would come unarmed, and they might not even come to Brownsville after all.

Score: Brown Berets 2, Minutemen still waiting for their turn at bat.

Most interesting is the flurry of accusations that are now flying back and forth between the two groups and their supporters: That group is a threat, each side says; that group is racist; we’re only trying to protect our people and our country, both say.

Both groups see themselves as defenders of their people and their homeland; the Minutemen want to stop an unwelcome invasion of from the south, the Brown Berets want to stop an unwelcome invasion from the north. Each group believes it is defending its country from those who would do it harm.

That is, each group has the same ideals, the same motivation and the same perception.

Only the perception of each is blurred by its group’s biases. The Minutemen are looking to put a stop to unwanted immigration, ignoring the fact that immigration is what has brought the nation its strength and its very greatness. The Brown Berets see themselves as defenders of their Hispanic brothers, ignoring the fact that some of those brothers chose to break the law, and convenience is no reason to defy any law.

Are the Minutemen racist? There’s no reason to doubt that some members really are focused on the thought that our nation’s security is compromised as long as we can’t keep people from coming in undetected. But we’ve dealt with enough people who tried to cloak overt racism in a thin shroud of concern for immigration, and it’s safe to assume that at least some of these people wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to join the Minutemen. The group itself isn’t helped any by some of the material it distributes. For instance, one of the links on the Minutemanhq.com Web site presents a report that accuses immigrants of infesting our great land with such horrible diseases as malaria, leprosy and the plague. I guess our nation’s clinics and hospitals have all conspired to keep that information, defying laws that require any cases of such diseases from being reported to their county health departments.

Are the Brown Berets racist? Certainly. It’s just as racist to promote one group over all others as it is to campaign against one group.

But, whose land is it anyway? As a country and a concept, it belongs to both groups, and to every other American.

On a more basic level, however, the land belongs to whoever owns it. Most of South Texas is privately owned, and neither Minuteman nor Brown Beret has a right to step onto any property without the owner’s consent.

That’s one thing neither group seems to have taken into consideration: the people who actually live on the border and deal every day with its complex issues, and who will still be here once their little show is over and these couch commandos go back home.

Each group will find supporters here. Some will really believe in their selected group’s principles, and some will just like the excitement of playing Rambo for a few days. But many more will simply choose to go about our daily routines and give both of these groups the attention they deserve, which is nil. After all, both simply assume they need to come down here and champion the unwashed natives who can’t defend ourselves. What an insult.

The truth is, we haven’t built up our own battlements because we see no need to waste our time battling straw monsters.