By Alex Escué Limkin
— The reason I haven’t been able to write about my opposition to another Walmart being built at Coors and Montaño is because in order to write about this plan, I have to think about Walmart. And thinking about Walmart depresses me. I would rather scrub dirty diapers in the toilet bowl with my bare hands than think about Walmart.
But even while scrubbing diapers, Walmart’s plan is on my mind. Another store at Coors and Montaño. It’s hard not to obsess about it. So close to the Bosque. Stores already exist 2 miles in either direction. I think of all the trash and the congestion and the sad ugliness of yet another big box superstore. Shit.
It’s natural to think about shit when scrubbing diapers, since it’s right there in front of you. All the colors ranging from mustard yellow to lime green. Until switching to cloth, it was a simple matter of throwing the diapers in the trash. That’s what we do in this culture. We throw things away. We buy things built for pennies in China (that Walmart then sells to us for dollars), and when the stuff breaks, we just throw it out and buy more of it.
Buying disposable diapers at Walmart is poetic, because Walmart specializes in throwaway products, products so cheap that repairing them never enters our minds. Every aisle is lined with disposable items, plastic trash. To stretch the metaphor just a little further, it’s as though Walmart itself, the empire of stores mushrooming throughout the country and world, (responsible for the death of more small business than can ever be measured) is no more than one giant disposable diaper, complete with a surprise filling.
I used to shop at Walmart. Like everyone else, I used to think, “Hell, it’s the cheapest, and it’s all under one roof. Why go anywhere else?” But every time I went, it was a nightmare. While it’s obvious that Walmart desires our business, it’s also obvious that there is no concern for the customer. Why else are there so few checkout stations actually manned by employees? Because Walmart knows that we will put up with any degree of customer care, even the absence of customer care, in order to get the cheapest crap around. Maybe we will even be appreciative of the long wait because it is precisely this type of scrimping on employee hours and resources that enables them to “roll back” the prices and give us the greatest deals under the sun.
And if they manipulate the hours of their employees to avoid manning cash registers, or providing health benefits, or paying them a living wage, maybe we are conditioned to see their business model as acceptable, since we are conditioned to understand business through the following prism: Does it add pennies to my pocket? Yes. Then get out of my way. I need new televisions.
But don’t forget that while you’re pushing your cart around Walmart, saving a few pennies, you’re adding billions of pennies to the pockets of the Walmart clan at the top. But no one wants to question a handful of Sam Walton’s children accumulating more wealth than nearly 40 percent of this country’s families by selling them Chinese-made trash. So back to cloth diapers.
I’m using cloth diapers because I know that Walmart is one huge disposable diaper with a surprise filling, and cloth diapers somehow represent to me the anti-Walmart, which is what I am. I am anti-Walmart, just like I am anti-war. War is human carnage. Walmart is planetary carnage. Until enough of us realize that the Walmart way (low wages, low prices, bribery of government officials in Mexico and others, bludgeoning of local competitors and small businesses, market saturation) represents nothing less than an assault on the dignity of human life, than we will blunder on, feeling the bite of four or six or eight plastic bags of the most pitiful thinness in our hands and fingers and think, “This is how you carry the shit you buy.”
Alex Limkin served on active duty and with Reserve and National Guard components in Military Intelligence, Field Artillery, Infantry, and the JAG Corps. His last tour of duty was in Iraq from 2004-2005. He received a B.A. from New Mexico State University in 1997 and a J.D. from the University of New Mexico in 2004. He blogs at warriorswithwesthusing.org.