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The Anti-Immigrant Paranoia That Drives Shawna Forde to 'Patrol' the American Border

A powerful excerpt from David Neiwert's new book, "And Hell Followed with Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border."

The following is an excerpt from David Neiwert's new book " And Hell Followed with Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border" (Perseus Books, 2013), an inside look at the paranoid and  anti-immigrant extremists known as the "Minutemen" and the terrifying story and psychology of movement leader Shawna Forde.

Shawna and the Belgian documentary maker have been talking music. Grunge rock, specifically. Nirvana, even more specifically. Shawna has been telling him how she knew Kurt Cobain personally. As he films her, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” comes up on the CD player in Shawna’s Honda Element. They are sitting out in the Arizona desert. He asks her to name her favorite Nirvana song.

“I like a lot of them, but I love ‘Teen Spirit,’” she says. “I really do. I love ‘Teen Spirit.’ That was like his first hit. His big one, you know?”

She pauses briefly, thinking. “I like all of ’em. Because if you listen to the words behind it—and he always talks about killing himself or shooting himself—because he was always really infatuated with death. But he never thought he would kill himself. I don’t think he ever thought he was going to kill himself. But I think everyone knew he would eventually.”

Sebastien Wielemans had written to Shawna several weeks before organizing the trip from Brussels to Arizona. He was employed by a Canadian broadcaster making short documentaries and was intrigued by the idea of a border project. He arrived at Shawna’s camp south of Three Points in mid-October 2008.

As with the Nirvana talk, much of what Shawna says on the resulting video is pure bullshit, intended to impress her international audience. Shawna emphasizes her concern for rape victims and the women crossing the border, and she talks about how all the Minutemen want to do is “save the country.”

There is a rare glimpse of honesty from Shawna, however, when she talks about why she goes out on border watches: “It’s an adrenaline rush. You get addicted to it. It’s an addiction. I’m an addict. I’m an adrenaline junkie.” She giggles at that, then turns serious.

“So, you know, what do you say? I mean seriously. I think once you’ve lived certain ways, it’s really hard to go and be humdrum. OK, I’m just going to sit at home, or I’m just going to work my nine to five Monday through Friday and have my weekends off, and in the evening I’ll watch my favorite TV show and I’ll go to bed by ten p.m. I mean, who—I’ll never live that way. I’d rather die. I’d rather die. Put a bullet in my head. Because—forget it. Because to me, that would be death to me too.”

As it happened, her husband, John Forde, agreed. He had just filed for divorce from her that week.

After Shawna’s jaunts down to the desert in August 2007, John Forde had pretty much had his fill of his absentee marriage. He gave Shawna an ultimatum: either she started acting like a wife and contributing to their household instead of running off to the desert, or he would divorce her. Forde says he wanted to stay married, but it was up to Shawna to change things. And for awhile, she did; for much of the late part of 2007, she backed out of Minuteman activities.

In the meantime, she continued her pattern of getting into trouble and then claiming victimhood. “Every single time it was always somebody else’s fault,” John recalls. “It was never Shawna’s fault.”

Shawna worked for awhile at the Sears hair salon at the mall in Lynnwood. During that time, she kept coming home with Sears goods, including a large painting and various tools and gewgaws. John asked where she was getting it all, and she claimed it was all on the square.

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