I don’t know if anyone is really awaiting with bated breath Santa Fe’s new Super Walmart, but at least we may rest assured that, among other attributes, it likely will be super secure.
Walmart shoppers will now be scrutinized by each other and by blue-vested Walmart employees with the same suspicious eye usually reserved for Transportation Security Administration screenings.
“Homeland security begins with hometown security,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will soon tell Walmart shoppers from a small video screen at each checkout counter (scroll down to see video).
This message, apparently, is why she’s stoked to welcome Walmart, yes Walmart—along with a host of malls and retail stores—as partners in DHS’ entirely questionable, useless, fear-mongering “See Something, Say Something” campaign.
SFR, like other news organizations in the country, suspected we were being punk’d when we received this news. This has to be a joke, right?
But no. Walmart really is now an official partner in preserving the homeland security of the United States of America. The obvious potential bonus is that Walmart is far better at maximizing efficiency, reducing costs and, arguably, oppressing its workers than the US government. Otherwise, this is the creepiest possible news imaginable.
Picture the scenario under which you’re forced to go to Walmart. You’re on a road trip and you run into car trouble—maybe you need some motor oil, or some duct tape and bailing wire to keep things rolling. Never mind the kind of interesting experience you might have by being forced to stop and hang out in a strange, small town while you wait for stores to open the following day. You thank the gods of corporate franchising and pull into Walmart, not stopping to consider that you are an unshaven, filthy hippy in the eyes of local Walmart shoppers and locals. Do people see something suspicious when you prowl the aisles at 2 am? You’re goddamned right they do.
The upside perhaps is that certain segments of the population—say Muslim Americans—may suddenly see the benefits of shopping local, rather than heading down to Walmart. Because if your option is to have all eyes slide toward you as non-Muslim Americans sidle up to the checkout counter, carts stuffed with turkeys and kitty litter, and are reminded that no value is more American than fearing fear itself, you may decide to patronize businesses that are not official Homeland Security partners.
In the wake of TSA agents searching babies and scoping out “hot chicks” for aggressive crotch pat-downs, all we need is for Walmart employees and, worse, customers, to start feeling entitled to make “citizen’s arrests” based on “suspicious” behavior.
And what if you’re genuinely suspicious? If you want to buy some batteries, a 2-liter plastic bottle, some hydrogen peroxide, a hammer and a nail (all objects that will probably never be considered suspicious, even when purchased together, especially at Walmart), you might decide to go to Tru-Value instead…just to avoid being beaten in the parking lot by vigilant Walmart shoppers.
The bottom line is this: If you can’t look suspicious at Walmart, where the hell can you look suspicious? Isn’t the whole point of the American dream—ultimately—the freedom to behave, well, suspiciously? Most cultures looking at us from the outside seem to think so. And at some metaphysical level, there’s very little difference between the monied douche bag who leaves a bad tip on a bad credit card at a fancy restaurant before racing away in a Ferrari, and the methed-up weirdo who needs—needs—to buy several jumbo-sized ice chests in the middle of the night.
Do waiters feel empowered to detain and interrogate bad tippers? Not so much. But discount stores are now deputized in the war on terror—and no one has yet realized how innately suspicious half of the country’s discount shopping customer base really is.
What’s most abominable about our new Department of Wal-land Security, though, is that money and initiative are available to make it happen. If some government bobble-head is going to be preaching to the citizenry about saying something if they see something, why can’t stores and malls also have messages about education, about energy conservation, about environmental awareness?
I suppose it’s because no one involved with any of those fields owns subsidiaries that produce and profit from check-out counter video monitors that can deliver their messages.
Attention, Walmart shoppers: Don’t be suspicious inside the store. Don’t be suspicious outside the store either. If we can’t bust you for compromising homeland security, at least the Santa Fe Police Department can nail you on a trumped-up panhandling charge. It’s your word against ours, and we’re partnered with the government.
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