As with millions of Americans, I take a few days of vacation every summer to calm the nerves and recharge the faculties. This year, I endeavored to brave the twin storms of pandemic and civil unrest to take advantage of the abnormally-low rates offered by hotels desperate to attract travelers in the midst of these troubles, and so I loaded up the car and hit the road bound for Cape Cod, where I passed a few peaceful days at Hyannisport, gazing out upon the ocean and contemplating eternity. (Thankfully I did not, to the best of my knowledge, run into any members of the disreputable Kennedy clan – a blessing for which my gratitude knows no bounds.) On the way back home to southern Appalachia, I took a detour to the rust belt town of Schenectady, NY, to pay a visit to my old friend Tony Martell, working class author and advocate for everything that’s good in the world.
Schenectady was once a thriving town known as the “Electric City” in honor of being the headquarters of General Electric, which ran an enormous manufacturing plant there. The prosperity that it brought to the place is obvious in the houses, once magnificent but now run-down and neglected, that line its pothole-cratered streets. GE closed down nearly everything at the height of the outsourcing craze in the 1990s, moving essentially all of its manufacturing to China. It’s easy to point the finger of blame at them for doing so, but the astronomical taxes and choking regulations imposed by New York’s leftist state government made it a near-inescapable decision. Schenectady has been slowly decaying ever since. In the 00s, the Democratic mayor decided to try to reverse the decline via a concerted effort to attract as many Third World immigrants as she could into the city, because PBS and the New York Times told her they were industrious and an asset to any economy. The results were, to say the least, not what the Times promised her they would be. Moving away is a favorite topic of conversation among most of the remaining blue-collar white population.
We arranged to meet for dinner at a bar and grill on State Street popular with that very same working class demographic. I arrived first, staked out a table, and was a quarter of the way through a Sam Adams when Tony walked in.
He seemed almost to charge at the table, a grim look on his face. Not pausing to offer a hello, he said: “Have you heard about Bumpy’s? They’re getting canceled. Black Lives Matter is protesting them right this minute!”
This was quite an odd thing to hear.
Bumpy’s Polar Freeze Ice Cream Stand and Snow Plowing Service is a mile or so down State Street from the bar. It is, in many ways, an exemplar of the hard work and ingenuity behind the American Dream. Every year, Bumpy opens his ice cream stand in May, serves up cones and sundaes until Halloween, then closes it down and takes a week’s vacation. When he comes back, he hooks up plows to his trucks, and he and a couple of year-round employees (the ice cream stand is mostly staffed by students doing summer jobs) plow snow in driveways and parking lots until April (in this part of upstate, snowstorms are not uncommon well into spring). Then he takes another week off, comes back at the start of May, and opens the ice cream stand again. This deft balancing of two seasonal businesses has provided him with a prosperous middle-class living. And it adds to the life of his community – many a dinner with Tony over the years has ended with the two of us reconvening at Bumpy’s after our meal, sitting at the picnic tables by the parking lot with a cold treat, talking about politics or philosophy or art until it got pitch dark.
How, I wondered, was it even possible for Bumpy’s, of all places, to have incurred the wrath of the outrage mob?
Tony sat and, after our orders were placed, told me the story.
The trouble began right at the start of the ice cream season. Coronavirus-inspired mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing orders had been issued by the Governor of New York, an arrogant lout with a room-temperature IQ who (like his brother the CNN anchor) only got his job through the name recognition he inherited from his father, a rhetorically-gifted but otherwise-incompetent Governor from the previous generation. These orders are supposed to be enforced by business owners, who the governor seems to believe he can involuntarily deputize in order to impose his unconstitutional, undemocratically-enacted diktats. They are expected to refuse service to, and expel if necessary, any person not abiding by them. But this didn’t sit well with Bumpy, who figured that his customers are grown adults who can decide for themselves whether or not they want to wear a mask and how far they’d like to stand from each other. No one was paying him to be a cop, he had no interest in refusing money from anyone willing to buy ice cream, and anyhow, this was a free country and he could run his business any way he liked.
He was about to get a lesson in the workings of the Current Year.
It began when a woman customer (it is always a woman, in such cases) dropped dime and ratted Bumpy out to the county Health Department. The Health Department, acting in the vindictive spirit so common to petty bureaucrats, showed up at Bumpy’s for a surprise inspection. Much to their disappointment, they found the place clean as a whistle except for one minor violation; a water hose draining where it shouldn’t have been. This is the kind of thing that would normally be handled with a warning and an instruction to fix the problem as soon as possible. But because Bumpy had openly refused to do the Governor’s dirty work for him and police the actions of the grown adults who came there to do business with him, they instead slapped him with a closure order and a $1000 per day fine until the issue was resolved and they could find time to come around and re-inspect it.
This was, of course, an utter outrage, and Bumpy treated it as such. What right did they have to close down his business like that? He was a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen, and this was a bald-faced abuse of government power! And so, with his defiant spirit not yet broken, Bumpy ignored the closure order and opened up again the next day as normal. When the Health Department heard about this, they returned and announced they were enacting a second $1000 per day fine against his business until he obeyed them, closed down, fixed the hose, and then called them back for re-inspection.
Bumpy was now losing $2000 a day in fines, but even at that he stayed unbent and unbroken. He kept his business open, started making arrangements for the hose to be relocated, and continued to refuse to tell his customers what to do with themselves in reaction to the coronavirus.
The powers-that-be took notice of this refusenik. And this is where Bumpy would encounter the newest aspect of tyranny in the 21st century: the Public-Private Partnership between the government, the media, and the outrage mob in shutting down anyone who dares to get on their bad side. A few days after the Health Department visit, for no apparent reason at all, a posting was made on a local Antifa-affiliated Facebook group. It included a picture of Bumpy’s, centered on the “Thin Blue Line” flag that Bumpy proudly hangs from its roof, and the sentiment: “If you flying Blue Lives Matter, we’re coming!”. Here it is worth noting that Thin Blue Line flags are not at all uncommon in the parts of town that remain white and working class. Many local businesses fly them. So why, and how, was Bumpy’s the one targeted? One does not have to be of a deeply conspiratorial mindset to imagine the answer. Elements within the state government are themselves more than capable of dropping dime to non-governmental players and making sure that a certain enemy ends up in their sights.
When Bumpy got wind of this, he was understandably fearful. It was now the first week of June. Violent riots were sweeping the country. Businesses had been burned and looted by the dozens, by the very same people now targeting him. He tried to think of what he could do to de-escalate the situation. Perhaps a bit of placation might work – some show that might convince these radical leftists not to target him? It was worth a try. And so, this being the beginning of Pride Month, the rainbow flag and the pink-white-and-blue transgender flag went up next to the Thin Blue Line at the ice cream stand. Bumpy hoped this might be the end of it.
But of course, it wasn’t. Apologizing or trying to appease the leftist outrage mob never works. Just the opposite – it only makes them sense blood in the water, and they will escalate until their enemy is crushed and surrenders unconditionally. Since Bumpy had not yet done this, it was time for the next phase of action.
As with the Facebook post, a Tweet mysteriously appeared out of nowhere that included what was claimed to be a screenshot of a text message exchange between Bumpy and one of his managers. It centered around what seems to be a pay dispute involving a black employee. It also seems to show Bumpy calling the employee multiple racial slurs (including The Word That Must Never Be Said), followed up by stating unequivocally that he doesn’t hire black people. Despite it having been tweeted out by a random, unverified account with few followers, and despite these things being trivially easy to fake, several local news outlets immediately ran salacious stories of racism at Bumpy’s based on it. One might wonder how they could ever have found an obscure social media posting like this without being tipped off to it by someone. One also might wonder why the story was run without any verification of the claim made whatsoever, or without calling Bumpy for comment, or without a single one of our erudite journalist class wondering how exactly it could be that Bumpy was having a pay dispute with a black employee if he doesn’t hire black people. It didn’t matter – they ran the story anyway.
What came next was, in the current environment, predictable (and needless to say, absolutely intentional). The very afternoon I had arrived in Schenectady, a mob of Black Lives Matter protesters had made their way out of the city center and gathered around Bumpy’s. They stopped traffic on State Street, causing a large traffic jam. They chanted threatening slogans which intimidated away all of Bumpy’s customers, and even caused most of the employees he had working there that day to quit on the spot rather than face what was doubtless coming when the sun went down. Things got tenser as the twilight grew darker.
But here, Bumpy had his first stroke of good fortune. To what is surely the great surprise of anyone who has spent the last month watching the police cower on their knees in front of angry mobs to save their own skins while the cities around them were sacked and looted, the Schenectady Police Department turned out quickly and in force. Perhaps the Thin Blue Line flag had done Bumpy some good after all. The SPD set a perimeter around the gathering, with barricades placed on State Street to ensure both that passing drivers would not run over any of the mob, and also, as anyone who has watched the events of the past weeks understand, that the mob would not be permitted to give them any reason to. The mob stayed and menaced Bumpy and the remaining staff until just after dark, when, with any possibility of getting violent thwarted and a rainstorm beginning to pass through, they packed up and left. By the time Tony and I drove by after dinner, Bumpy’s was closed and all was quiet.
And so Bumpy’s did not burn that night, as surely some person or persons had intended, and as it surely would have had the police not acted as they did. Nevertheless, Bumpy’s troubles did not end there.
The next morning, as I gathered my belongings for the drive home, I turned on the local television news. As I feared but expected, every station was running breathless stories about how peaceful protestors fighting for civil rights had picketed a racist ice cream stand. They did this knowing that it would ruin Bumpy’s business. That’s precisely why they did it. The police might have been able to stop the place from being destroyed physically, but they couldn’t stop this.
Driving down State Street toward the New York State Thruway, I passed Bumpy’s. It was still closed, and remains so as of this writing. The problem now is not only the closure order, but a lack of employees. The ones he used to have are gone, and there’s not much hope of hiring any new ones. What parent in their right mind would allow their high schooler to take on the risk of accepting a summer job there now?
A day and a half later, I was back at my cottage in the mountains of Appalachia – and needless to say, I was greatly relieved to be there. My little country town remains beyond the power of the kind of tyranny that is wrecking the life of an innocent ice cream merchant up in Schenectady, and I will do whatever I must to ensure that it will remain so. I got in a good night’s sleep and, the next morning, picked up my phone to check in with Tony and ask about the latest news in the case. It was not encouraging.
Two days of heavy rainstorms had caused the mob to stay home, but on the 1st of July, they were back in even greater numbers. This time they showed up before noon and, with the place closed and no employees around, there was nobody to summon the police. One of the neighbors must have called Bumpy to warn him about what as going on, because he quickly showed up to try to protect his business. As he drove his pickup truck down State Street toward the mob, they showed the early signs of swarming it. He got out of the truck with what turned out to be a BB gun (almost certainly the only thing resembling a weapon that this peaceful man owns), at which point the mob cried out that they were being assaulted and (one might think ironically for a “protest” touched off by the presence of a “Thin Blue Line” flag), immediately called the police themselves, demanding that Bumpy be arrested. And that is what happened, though here again his pro-police sentiment may have helped him, as they let him go with only an appearance ticket for misdemeanor menacing. They even assigned a couple of officers to stick around and make sure that the ice cream stand wouldn’t burn while he was being processed. Thankfully, at present, it remains intact.
Once again, wild, unfounded smears against him started flying on Twitter, the most colorful of which was that Bumpy is “a registered sex offender covered in swastika tattoos”. Once again, a round of stories in local media warned parents of the Nazi ice cream merchant in their neighborhood, lying in wait to dispense racism-tinged frozen treats to their children. And now the government has re-entered the fray – the county Civil Rights Commission has issued a formal request for the state Attorney General’s office to open a civil rights investigation against Bumpy’s; meanwhile, the Health Department has announced that it’s seeking a court order allowing it to padlock the place, leaving it closed indefinitely. If it ever opens again, it will be only after months of legal proceedings and tens of thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of dollars in fines and legal costs laid at Bumpy’s feet.
At this point, Bumpy had best hope for a really snowy winter, because the ice cream part of his business isn’t going to be generating any revenue to help pay his bills for a long while. In fact, paying his bills at all now hinges on the off chance that the tyranny Partnership doesn’t decide to target his plow business, too (which they almost certainly will).
Or he might just close it all up, take whatever he has left, and leave town, as everyone else has been thinking of doing. If so, it will be two more productive businesses closed, and one more taxpaying entrepreneur run out of the state. But not to worry – I’m sure all of those dirt poor immigrants will pick up the slack any old time now.
That is where things stand for Bumpy’s right now, and as appalling as it is, I wish that were all there is to the story. But it’s not – with Bumpy’s safely crushed beneath their heel, the Partnership has turned its sights on another target that might, to sane people, seem even more innocuous – Grace Baptist Church, across the Hudson River in Troy, NY. Grace Baptist’s transgression was to encourage the right of self-defense amongst their parishioners by raffling off an AR-15 rifle (one of the variety that must be crippled in order to comply with New York’s assault weapons ban). Self-defense against the violent arm of the Partnership must, of course, never be allowed, so the mob was dispatched to the church’s doorstep, to express the opposition to violence that the gun control movement claims as the core of its beliefs by assaulting and beating churchgoers on their way into Sunday worship. That this actually made the case for AR-15 ownership rather than disproving it didn’t matter. No dialectic matters now – no reason, no logic, no facts, no persuasion, and no “truth bombs”. The Partnership is not here to debate anyone. Their message is one of force and power: Obey us, or one or more arms of the Partnership – official or unofficial – will be sent to destroy you. And don’t you even think about trying to defend yourself, because we’ll ensure that will only make it worse for you. Comply, or else.
If you don’t live in Schenectady, you have almost certainly never had ice cream at Bumpy’s, and you likely never will. But its story is not merely a local news item – Bumpy’s and Grace Baptist Church are canaries in the coal mine in this dark time in our history. Experiences like theirs – of innocents attacked by the mob, smeared by the media, put out of business by the government or woke capital, and prosecuted for defending themselves on their own property – have been repeated nationwide. And the Partnership shows no sign of slowing down. Someday they will come for me, and for you. We are all Bumpy.
I have not, however, told you this cautionary tale to make you lose hope. The Partnership can be turned back. There are ways to put yourself beyond its power, so that they can only rage impotently at you. There are even ways to destroy it – and make no mistake, it will be destroyed eventually. But in order to fight it, you must know what it is and how it operates. Allow yourself no illusions, and make yourself ready.