America’s Newest Dystopian Horror: Warehousing Children In An Old Walmart

The irony is horrific on many levels

By Emily Peck
The HuffPost (6/22/18)

When the news broke last week that migrant children from Central America are being housed in an old Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, it was just the latest indication that the U.S. is fast turning into some kind of dystopian hellscape.

Walmart has long been a symbol of some of the most dehumanizing and ruthless inclinations of American capitalism. The multibillion-dollar retailer relies on a low-wage workforce to peddle cheap goods to many people who are just getting by. Walmart’s recently made an effort to both improve conditions for employees and support manufacturing in the U.S. But over its history, the company has helped hollow out main streets across the country, driving domestic manufacturers out of business, outsourcing more work to overseas suppliers and fueling the kind of globalization that Trump supporters purport to detest.

“If Walmart can prohibit their old locations from becoming adult video stores or bar nightclubs, then it can surely prevent former locations from being used to jail children.”

And now, thanks to a morally bankrupt White House, one of Walmart’s old buildings has become a symbol of the most ruthless inclinations of an increasingly authoritarian federal government.

‘The Irony Is Horrific On Many Levels’

Over the years, vacant Walmarts have been turned into churches, hospitals, even libraries. But it makes a kind of sinister sense for a former Walmart to become a detention center ― a cold, soulless place where children are essentially corralled like animals.

“The architecture itself is not unlike a panopticon kind of situation,” said Julia Christensen, the author of Big Box Reuse, a book about what happens to former Walmart and Kmart buildings after the companies depart. Though not perfect circles with guards standing ready in the middle, the stores are institutional spaces perfectly optimized to control their inhabitants. …

“Broadly, the irony is horrific on many levels,” said Christensen, an artist and professor at Oberlin College. …

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(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to )

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