This topic always draws a lot of feedback. The thing is from the moment someone starts to talk, or write, you usually have a good idea what side of the fence they are on. I fear-and I’m speaking about myself too-that too often we are choosing what side of the fence we want to be on, and then just finding evidence to back it up. Maybe it’s cause you had a bunch of liberal friends, or you hung out with the grunge crowd, some external pressure just decided for you that you hated Walmart, and since then you’ve found all kinds of reasons why this is true. For others it’s their republican upbringing, their support of “Christian” values, or their love of low prices that swayed their decision and now they’ve found all kinds of reasons to support that choice. Honestly, I probably fall into one of those categories, but give me a minute to share with you why I personally avoid Walmart.
At some point in my movement towards maturity, I recognized the significance of personal responsibility. I realized that with any situation, regardless of the reasons behind it or circumstances concerning it, my involvement (or passive silence) would show my support for it. If something is against the rules, and I say nothing about it, I show my support for it. If my government, of which I am a part, makes a decision and I say nothing about it, I support it. I need to take responsibility for those things. If I am ever confronted on those things (and I have this strange feeling I might be), I will not be able to pass blame like Adam did, I will be held accountable for my decisions.
I’ve definitely made poor decisions in the past. I remember being in high school and seeing a sign posted above a drinking fountain in the hallway. Walmart and Sweatshops was the topic, and I passed it by without a second thought. Interesting that I can remember that now, but it had no bearing on me then. For a number of years I had been aware of this, and I did nothing.
At some point later, maybe after I had been exposed to some facts, seen some video, and been confronted a few more times, I realized that important lesson on personal responsibility. Suddenly, the weight of the responsibility was heavy on me. I never went through a research project of weighing the Pros and Cons of Walmart. To be honest most of this debate about whether Walmart is good or bad seems to miss the point for me. I’m not saying it doesn’t have significance, but it gets us into a balance game, and I’m not interested in that.
This is the one fact that disturbs me. Close your eyes. Think about the shirt you are wearing. Trace it back through the store you bought it from, back past being packaged, past being shipped, and to the place it was stitched and sewn together. I’m terrified when I do that and I see a small child, dirty and weary from 18 hours a day of labor, looking into my eyes and awaiting an explanation. What will I say to that little girl? What does taking responsibility mean for me there?
I cannot in good conscience buy from a store where I am aware that that is where the items came from. Does Walmart employ sweatshops? I’m not sure, but I’ve heard evidence of it, and the mere possibility scares me. Do other Stores employ sweatshops? Probably many other stores do, and as I become aware of them, my purchasing decisions and opportunities will become more and more difficult; But that in NO way allows me to disregard my responsibility. Do ALL stores employ sweatshops? I do not believe so. I know of a number of fair trade clothing stores whose goal and focus is to be sweatshop free.
I’m not advocating a boycott; I don’t know enough about economics, etc to make a strong decision on that. I do think that when a company like Walmart is in the news for bad practices, it should affect our spending habits. When Martha Stewart goes to jail our continued purchases send the message that we don’t care about her breaking the law. When we read that Coca-Cola has been polluting the water in India, our continued purchasing sends the message that we do not care. I long for someone with much more brilliance then I to come along and give me a plan for making choices and organizing in a way that will affect change for the good. Are you that person?
I leave you with this. As a friend, I want to admonish you. I am aware of some facts that might or might not be true about Walmart. Please stop shopping there until you have examined the facts. [facts to be found on your own, so as to avoid any bias on this site]