I finally got around to watching Independent America this evening. It’s the third documentary I’ve watched in the past week, and it’s the third time I’ve been motivated to DO something.
In the film, married couple Hanson Hosein and Heather Hughes — both successful broadcast journalists — set out on a 13,000-mile, 55-day road trip to find out what’s behind the recent backlash against big-box stores. Taking only secondary roads and spending money only at mom-and-pop businesses, they travel cross-country, interviewing everybody from a professional Wal-Mart shill to a couple of kids who organized a campaign to try to keep Hollywood Video from putting their local mom-and-pop video store out of business.
While Wal-Mart’s P.R. flack makes a valiant attempt to spin the story in her company’s favor, her efforts ring hollow in the face of outrages such as the company’s expensive push for a referendum on a Flagstaff ordinance that would have been detrimental to Wal-Mart’s growth in that city (the campaign — which ultimately succeeded — included a tasteless ad comparing city leaders to Nazis and claiming the proposed ordinance was anti-American) and Wal-Mart’s chilling effect on city leaders in Yelm, Wash., who banned the words “Wal-Mart” and “big box” from regular meetings, effectively silencing protesters who spoke out against a proposed Wal-Mart. City leaders cited fear of litigation as the motivating factor behind their decision to revoke citizens’ First Amendment rights during public meetings. (Apparently Wal-Mart only supports your freedom when it’s good for business.)
Wal-Mart isn’t the only villain in the film, but it comes across as one of the more egregious symptoms of a parasitic corporate mentality that seems to be infecting communities and killing its hosts all over the country.
Ultimately, though, Hosein and Hughes remind us that if we don’t like what big chains are doing to our communities, there’s a simple solution: Don’t fund them. Think about what you’re buying, where you’re buying it, and who’s going to benefit from your purchase. Take some responsibility for your purchases, and figure out what you’re underwriting when you shop.
It’s a simple solution, but it’s one a lot of people won’t take, because it’s easier to sit around wringing their hands and grumbling about how somebody should do something.
I value my freedom far too much to place control of what I see, hear, eat, drink, and enjoy in the hands of a few monopolistic corporations.
To that end, I am working up a new project, which I will unveil in the next couple of days. Stay tuned….