Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hercules prepares to wage war on Wal-Mart

SAN FRANCISCO (ap) -- The most popular of Greek heroes, Hercules has been celebrated in stories, sculptures, paintings, and even in the geography of the ancient and new worlds. He successfully performed twelve Labors, feats so difficult that they seemed impossible, but his current challenge may prove too difficult even for him.

Hercules, now an affluent Bay Area suburb, has declared war on Wal-Mart, the big-box retailer known for its hardball tactics. Victor of many price wars across the land, Wal-Mart may prove to have too much muscle for Greece's greatest hero.

In the past, Hercules had the help of Hermes and Athena, sympathetic deities who showed up when he really needed help. But many wonder if all the gods combined have the power of eminent domain to seize the 17 acres where Wal-Mart intends to build a shopping complex.

Opponents say Wal-Mart, like the nine-headed Hydra that terrorized the countryside, will drive local retailers out of business, tie up traffic and wreck its small-town flavor. "Wal-Mart does not hesitate to employ scorched earth tactics," one defender said.

But Wal-Mart says it is a misunderstood behemoth, and that it really is wanted. If not, a spokesman said, Wal-Mart has been successful at imposing its will on communities in the past, and is prepared to wage a full-on publicity battle.

"We've attempted to meet with Hercules and haven't been given return phone calls or e-mails," the spokesman said. "In a case like this you'd certainly hope to have some sort of dialogue" before the first public relations attack is launched.

Hercules was to hold hearings with his trusted advisors last night for guidance, but word from Apollo's oracle has not been made public yet.

Victory against Wal-Mart would make Hercules the perfect embodiment of an idea the Greeks called pathos, the experience of virtuous struggle and suffering which would lead to fame and, in Hercules' case, immortality.


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