Fight the power
Jim Hightower misses one important point in his excellent overview of all the good reasons to "boycott Wal-Mart" [May 8]. That is, the urgency of preserving what is left of the local economy. Too many communities in the United States have already lost their equivalent of Sutton's, the Regulator, or Knight & Campbell Hardware thanks to Wal-Mart's predatory practices.
As American consumers rush to the low prices of Wal-Mart and its ilk, we are increasingly sealing our own fate to become part of the low-wage, no-rights economy that those parasitic businesses promote around the world. Particularly disconcerting in that regard is the inability of our local Chambers of Commerce to distinguish between businesses rooted in the local economy and those here only to suck profits away to distant shareholders with no concern for the consequences of their corporate activities.
Other than suggesting we fight individual Wal-Mart stores, Hightower is short on solutions. Reading his article, we understand that shopping at Wal-Mart is a political act. Concerned citizens ought to act politically to take away the many advantages Wal-Mart obtains from the kind offices of our elected representatives. These range from zoning concessions that welcome Wal-Mart's predations into our communities to international trade regimes that countenance the kind of worker exploitation that Hightower so vividly describes.
In a sidebar to the Hightower piece, Carolyn Fanelli describes her efforts to live "chain free." The best way to join her is to support the newly organizing N.C. PLENTY ("Piedmont Local Economy Tender") local currency. The local currency movement, with over 100 participating communities in the United States, creates a currency that is only used in local businesses. It provides a foundation for a broad community commitment to local merchants, producers, craftspeople and service providers. Learn more at www.ncplenty.org.
Finally, don't be shy about talking with people, educating them about the problems associated with Wal-Mart. After all, it is not our fault that we live under a global economy that masks the suffering of others while mollifying the American consumer with easy access to cheap goods. Between the "streets" of Southpoint and the anarchist party on Ninth Street there lies a just and sustainable economy rooted in the needs, capabilities and aspirations of the people, respectful of community and of the earth. If we try, we just might find our way there.
--DAN COLEMAN, CHAPEL HILL
Thank you for the enlightening article about Wal-Mart ["Boycott Wal-Mart," May 8]. Jim Hightower did a great job and it makes you wonder why "the press" hasn't paid more attention to the atrocities that business brings to a community. It was so validating and well-written, and well ... scary. I have always had a big resistance to shopping there; the sales clerks have never seemed particularly happy or interested in helping me find what I was looking for, I didn't enjoy the "ambience" or the quality of the shopping experience and I literally could not find my way out of the store on more than one occasion. Some might blame that on me, but that's never happened to me before!
I solemnly swear that I will not shop at Wal-Mart ever again. Spread the word.
--CINDY DAVIS, GRAHAM
Getting gas religion
Thanks to Gary Govert for his absorbing article on the sermon which included references to SUV drivers [First Person, "Sermonizing in Suburbia," May 1]. I wish I'd been there to hear it. Sorry to say I have not heard any sermons that would have been that inspring lately.
It is amazing people can get so worked up about their choice of vehicle. If only they would get so energized by the hunger, injustice, ignorance and hatred in the world.
Incidentally, for anyone interested in obtaining a bumper sticker which says, "Driving a Gas-Guzzler is Unpatriotic," you can get one by sending a business sized SASE to: Stickers 23, 4509 Interlake Ave., N, #115, Seattle, Wash., 98103.
--HAROLD NORMAN, RALEIGH
At one point in David Fellerath's review of the Stephanie Black documentary Love and Debt ["Balance Sheets and Bananas," May 8], he writes "viewers may walk away [from this film] wanting to attend the next summit meeting of international financiers with their pockets stuffed with rocks and wearing bandanas over their faces." I found this extremely disturbing because it indirectly promotes violent behavior and law breaking. I understand Fellerath's right to free speech and realize that, in this case, he does not abuse this right. But he comes dangerously close to doing so. Would the editors of The Independent continue to publish this sort of thing if they knew that one day people might stand outside their offices ready to hurl rocks through their windows simply because one writer disapproved of their publication? I hope this never happens, but it would be consistent with the kind of behavior that Fellerath promotes.
In other words, Fellerath's review sets a dangerous precedent. Please show more discretion in the future.
--CHRIS SPECK, DURHAM
Got something to say about an Independent article? Send no more than 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org; to P.O. Box 2690, Durham 27715; or fax 286-4274. Include your name, phone number and mailing address for verification; we cannot publish a letter without confirmation from the writer. We reserve the right to edit letters for length, style and clarity.