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Heart of the Beast 

I'm flying to Minneapolis-St. Paul nonstop from a half-built future international airport set amid vast, empty pastures. There are nonstop flights here to far-flung cities of the earth, and the ticketing machines are programmed to respond in Korean, Japanese, Tagalog, Mandarin, Cantonese. There is a mind-boggling list of cities offered on the destination menus of the four major airlines operating here. Beyond the unfinished terminal built for these airlines, there are hangars housing hundreds of corporate jets that will leave in the blink of an eye for any corner of the globe. Beyond the pastures that will soon be new runways and hangars, there is a swarm of quickly rising MacMansions serviced by mega-stores, mega-restaurants and mega-churches.

I'm at the Northwest Arkansas Regional airport, set inside a future corporate universe that is merging the cities of Rogers, Bentonville, Springdale and Fayetteville. This is the Heart of the Beast: headquarters of Wal-Mart. The land, bowing to the obvious will of the Empire, is rapidly losing all features of landscape: trees, cows, farmers, crops, bottomland, hilltops. The pastures, now worth jillions, are still warm from the bodies of volatilized farm animals and native crops, though parts of it had already been domesticated by Tyson, whose factories of pain mass-feed us millions of chemically raised chickens. With the arrival of the Wal-Mart Death Star, however, even the tormented lives of Tyson chickens seem like a bit of (sad) nature dying out.

The Death Star is making itself a city-fortress that will eventually bring to itself all the capos of the myriad of production units that supply it, expand it and annex new territories. Their restaurants, fueling stations and launch pads are being readied by armies of Mexicans and Central Americans who work day and night. The arriving capos will be of other nationalities, from countries where the products themselves are being assembled in smaller instant cities. The major local newspaper has a Saturday section titled "Religion and State," wherein a columnist rails against born-again Republicans, those not of the "true-blooded Republican faith," and I wonder, without being enlightened, what religion and what state is being discussed here. I know nothing, and I bet that most of us don't either, about the shadow wars between Moloch and State. On the airplane, a corporate wife is lecturing a Chinese rep on traffic in Beijing.

Andrei Codrescu's latest book is New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing From the City (Algonquin Books).

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