Watching for WalMartians

They’re poster people for a country in trouble

The author is a frequent contributor to the CN&R.

One of my neighbors makes a habit of sending me pictures taken at Walmart stores, photos that create a frightening sense of what many Americans are starting to look like. If you haven’t seen these pictures, you can Google the word “WalMartians” and you’ll be given a link to some disturbing photographic images of your fellow citizens. First, you’ll gasp, then you may laugh, but ultimately it ain’t funny. These are poster people for a country in trouble.

Some are so obese that the electric carts Walmart provides for them to ride can barely bear their weight. A 300-lb. woman who wears a thong to go shopping, with her haunch displaying a tattoo that says “Daddy,” could stand a lesson in the finer points of socialization. A morbidly obese man in a tank top that rides up to reveal his distended belly is in serious need of something more than low prices on goods made in China. An emaciated and toothless tattoo-covered wretch who looks like he escaped from a sideshow is in need of things not to be found at any Walmart, no matter how super that superstore may be.

There were dozens of incidents of violence in Walmart stores on Black Friday, the day set aside for shopping frenzies in which American consumers camp out all night, then battle to save a few dollars on gifts for the season of peace on earth, good will toward men. One lady WalMartian at a store in Los Angeles used pepper spray to drive competing shoppers away from the stuff she wanted.

Arrests and injuries were reported throughout the land, all to the greater glory of the Waltons, far and away the richest family in the world. Taken together, the Waltons of Bentonville, Ark., are worth more than $90 billion, a figure equal to the total wealth of the bottom 30 percent of Americans combined. The people fighting and even dying on the sales floors of Walmart are at the bottom of the bottom, struggling to save a buck or two.

If Charles Dickens were writing today, he’d have to scrap Scrooge as the main character in his famed Christmas fable. Compared to the Walton family, ol’ Ebenezer wouldn’t qualify for membership in the middle class. Or what’s left of it.

It’s tempting to feel superior to the WalMartians, especially for those of us who neither work there nor shop there. But we’d better not sneer too soon at those pictures of the human specimens found at Walmart. What separates most of us from most of them is only the thinnest shield of middle-class money. And, with unions shrinking, and more jobs leaving these shores, that shield gets thinner every day.