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TWENTIETH-CENTURY communism had imperialism down pat. Red armies would occupy a country, uprooting the existing social structure. Propagandists would erase much of the captive nation's past from its history books. And the conquered people's future, much dimmed, would be defined by the all-powerful regime. Those given to analogy may think of all this as they behold mighty Walmart.
Studies suggest that when Walmart enters a community, many small businesses perish. Also, Walmart is at best indifferent to history, building willy-nilly against Indian burial grounds and on battlefields. And its pressure on U.S. vendors to deliver goods at always-lower prices forces those vendors to move their factories to places with dirt-cheap labor. (If Walmart were a country, says the AFL-CIO, it would rank as China's fifth-largest trading partner.) The resultant decline in good U.S. manufacturing jobs then creates more low-wage workers--Walmart's prime clientele.
Walmart, with its ethic of voracity, is unlikely to drop plans to build a mega-store where soldiers once bled during the battle of The Wilderness in Orange County--even though famed Civil War historian James McPherson this month called the coveted site battle-critical ground.
Indeed, the Goliath's course is, broadly speaking, legal. Also, despite the high-minded litigation to stop its Orange location, property rights must be observed. But all empires fall. In time, when the toll is seen in community, heritage, and quality of life, America will understand. Someone may then say, "Tear down this Walmart."