Jeff Goldberg's attack last week in Bloomberg Views on Alice Walton for building Crystal Bridges, which he calls a "moral tragedy," has gotten blowback from the futureofcapitalism.com ("Remind me if I ever get rich not to start an art museum. It seems to be just an invitation for attacks from the press," writes editor Ira Stoll, earning a "bravo" from freelance journalist Judith Dobryznski) and Lee Rosenbaum (culturgrrl) ("Jeffrey Goldberg has gone off the deep end.")
Like culturgrrl, I don't think Walmart's treatment of its employees (which Ira Stoll defends) is something the family can be particularly proud of, as lawsuits over gender discrimination and other issues attest. And the philanthropy of the Walton Foundation includes dollars to class-dividing charter schools, whose uneven education and promotion of segregation supporters turn a blind eye to.
You can't blame Goldberg for pointing out the obscenity in the Walton wealth and desire that Walmart would pay its employees enough that they didn't have to be on the public dole to make ends meet. But hey, those of us who love the museum are conflicted enough, already!
Here's the deal: This "moral tragedy" has brought a lot of joy to the people of Bentonville and Arkansas. It will bring more, as Pat and Willard Walker largesse brings in the kiddos to see Thomas Eakins, Alexander Calder and Dan Flavin. It was even the attitude of two women I spoke to at the opening that the Crystal Bridges is their museum, because they shop at Walmart. "We built it," they told me, without a trace of resentment. Are they slaves talking about the pyramids? If the slaves were proud of their handiwork and brought their kids to see it, maybe so. But should you shake a finger at them and tell them to they ought to know better than enjoy a museum built by ubercapitalists?
Goldberg blasts Crystal Bridges as "a compelling symbol of the chasm between the richest Americans and everyone else." I see it, instead, as "a compelling symbol" of the benefits of making our nation's cultural riches available to all...including Wal-Mart's workers, should they ever choose to make a visit.
So weigh in here, Candy fans.