The other is Wal-mart.
I do most of my shopping at Grocery Chain. Grocery Chain is open from 6:00 a.m. to midnight 7 days a week and shopping there is fairly pleasant if you can tune out all the old Christopher Cross tunes they pipe in to ruin your shopping experience. Some days I can't tune out the muzak at all and those are the days I can be seen barreling down the aisles with my teeth bared and my brows knotted in a scowl of rage, but those days are few. Most shopping experiences at Grocery Chain are good shopping experiences. Also, their produce section is lovely, even if they do appear never to have heard of shallots.
I like Grocery Chain, but Grocery Chain's hours are, believe it or not, not always compatible with my goofy work schedule. Though not without its bargains, Grocery Chain also charges more than I am willing or able to pay for some things. Plus, Grocery Chain is unwilling to sell me a deep fryer. Last week I had a vision, a vision of me owning a deep fryer, a vision I abruptly cut off when it got to the part where I not only owned a deep fryer, but weighed 400 pounds. I ignored that part and bought myself a deep fryer anyway. At Wal-mart.
Man, I really wish this post were going to be all about the terrible awful delicious things I intend to fry hell out of with that deep fryer. Instead, it's going to be about why Republicans have been so successful at making slurs like "liberal elite" stick: It's because a thing only has to be true some of the time in order to convince enough people that it's true most or even all of the time. And some of the time, some conscientious Wal-mart objectors get on the internet and they write things like this:
Later I sat in the car and wondered why I had to be such an elitist asshole, why I had to want the people in these towns to want something they clearly don't want. They don't want to stop shopping at Wal Mart. They don't want to stop eating at McDonalds.
Yes, that's exactly the problem: Desperate to participate in their own economic subjugation, poor people throughout the heartland can't get enough of Wal-mart and McDonald's. They just don't want to stop doing business with either of them. Their simple, rustic hearts swoon at the little yellow smiley face, they melt for the Golden Arches, they're just head over heels in love with this crap, because they're mysterious, inscrutable creatures--who can fathom the ways of yon country folk?--whose wants and needs are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM YOURS.
This guy isn't an elitist asshole for hating Wal-mart. Oh, no. Wal-mart is very hateable, from the shenanigans they pull with their employees, to the way they drive out local competition, to the sweatshops they import their cheap crap from, to the way they seduce me with their dazzling arrays of super-affordable deep fryers, toaster ovens, and coffeemakers. I admit it's the way they treat their employees that galls me the most and if I had my druthers, I'd shop at Costco. This would please my conscience no end. Unfortunately for my conscience, in this town there IS no Costco but there ARE two whole Wal-marts.
No, what makes this guy an elitist asshole (his term, not mine) is that smug conclusion that people in Nebraska and Iowa and everywhere else in flyover country want to shop at Wal-mart and that's why you can't get 'em to quit doing so. Whereas I would venture to guess that you can't get 'em to quit shopping at Wal-mart because there is no motherfucking organic cooperative consumer alternative in Podunkville, Kansas, and even if there were, what in the name of nongenetically- modified, certified organic corn (plus a recyclable cupful of fair-trade coffee) makes you think someone earning Podunkville, Kansas wages could afford to shop there?
As for McDonald's, I admit it, I eat there on occasion. I eat there because I would rather pay $2.49 for a Big Mac that is going to taste more or less what I expect it to taste like, i.e. Big-Mac-cy, than pay $8.49 for four ounces of chicken breast glazed with balsamic vinegar on crusty ciabatta with fresh mozzarella di buffalo, baby greens, heirloom tomato, and an insouciant chipotle aioli, garnished with a sprig of fresh tarragon. Don't get me wrong; it's not that I wouldn't like the chicken sandwich. It's that I'm not paying $8.49 for the chicken sandwich, especially considering that no matter how stratospherically snobby the food, in this town, and in MOST towns, it is still going to be prepared by someone making minimum or even illegal, under-the-table, well-below-minimum wages, and that someone does not care about your precious artisanal chicken sandwich, and it's going to taste like that person does not care about your precious artisanal sandwich, so you know what, how 'bout I save myself the markup and just make myself pretentious artisanal sandwiches like that at home.
Is this that hard to understand? Am I being unfair to this guy? Why, why, why when people discuss Teh Poor do they never once think of maybe asking Teh Poor? To echo something Lauren said about herself recently, I am not really poor-poor. But it's a dead cert I'm spending more time shopping next to the poor-poor than this elitist asshole is, because let me let you in on a little secret: NO ONE truly LOVES Wal-mart. Don't let those squeals of delight you hear coming from the kitchen gadgetry section fool you. Wal-mart is a pit. A pit full of people who just plain look beat down by life or, vastly more depressing, like their trip to Wal-mart has been the best part of their whole day.
Of course, if you've been working a couple of jobs and the kids have been asking when they can have a movie, when can they have a movie mommy, and they're passing around colds and stomach flu and pinkeye and you live in fear that the person who watches the kids while you're at work (who is probably related to you because who can afford other childcare?) may one day not be there and then what are you going to do--if that's the life you live, then actually payday plus a trip to Wal-mart AND finding that whatever the latest Disney or Pixar family flick is has been marked down enough that maybe you can even buy the kids two movies, probably equals a pretty fucking good day, wouldn't you think? Except you'd have to do that "thinking" part first.
So fuck you and your condescending little tour of the heartland, elitist asshole, if this is all the thought you're willing to put into it.
Have a nice day!
UPDATE: You decide if it's relevant or not, but me, I can't get this out of my head:
There is the colonialism issue. How did the Chinese of Hong Kong really feel about being ruled by England? It's a complex question. Or, as a number of Chinese people said to me, "No, it isn't." Being an American, and an Irish-American to boot, I was, maybe, told certain things that the English didn't hear. "We hate the English," for instance.
When a Chinese friend said that, I said, "Wait a minute. I was in Vietnam not long ago, and nobody seemed to hate Americans. If the Vietnamese can forgive Americans for napalm, carpet bombing, Agent Orange, and what-all, surely you can forgive the English for the odd opium war and some 'Land of Hope and Glory' karaoke."
"It's a different thing," said my friend. "You just killed the Vietnamese; you never snubbed them."
It is so easy not to snub; you just bite your privileged tongue a minute until the fever passes. So why lose the rural vote over penny-ante elitism? Remember when the Democrats used to own the rural vote? That was before they discovered latte.