“Hi, welcome to Ben & Jerry’s. How can I sustainably help you today?”
“The coffee candy flavor … is that fair trade coffee?”
The young, liberally pierced man behind the counter, still sporting a circa-2017 man-bun, drew in a deep breath through clenched teeth and three masks: “It is not. I’m so sorry.”
The customer — wearing a more 2021-appropriate man-bun and sipping kombucha out of a Camelback with the long, flexible plastic straw wedged under his four N95s — looked the scoop-slinger up and down with a withering glance.
“Maybe I’ll go with a pint,” he said, working his way over to the freezer. “Do you have anything that’s, um, anti-Israel? Or maybe something dreadfully antagonistic to law enforcement?”
The Ben & Jerry’s employee visibly brightened at this. “Don’t worry, it’s all anti-Israel. ‘Occupied territories,’ we call them around these parts.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t know your preferred nomenclature for the apartheid state.”
“Totes all right. We all make mistakes. Lessee, though … cop-hating. Cop hating…” his voice trailed off as he worked through the freezer. Then, he pulled up a pint with the same exuberance and triumphalism King Arthur evinced when he uprooted Excalibur from the stone.
“Yes — this’ll do.”
“‘Change is Brewing’?” our kombucha-swilling customer asked.
“Yes! It’s coffee-flavored with brownies mixed in, and –“
“Is the coffee fair-trade?”
“No — the company that produced it is black-owned, though.”
“Oh, black-owned. That’s very hot right now. That’s real in.”
“Exactly. Just unveiled this week. And it’s in support of Democrat Rep. Cori Bush’s People’s Response Act. That’s hot right now, too. So hot. ‘Squad’ approved.”
He could see the quizzical look in the customer’s eye, so he took out his phone and shoved it into the customer’s hand. “Here. Watch.”
“That’s great, but … how am I going to ‘divest from a racist criminal legal system’ by ‘digging in’?”
“Well, let’s see… it says here on our website that it’s a bill ‘that focuses on a health-based and inclusive approach to public safety. By investing in communities and ensuring that unarmed experts, rather than police, respond to mental health and substance use crises, it will strengthen our communities and save lives.'”
“‘A majority of Americans believe that something has to be done to change our system of policing,'” the employee continued reading from the website. “‘With its origins in white supremacy and slave patrols, American policing is violent, racist, ineffective, and punitive — it wasn’t built to ensure, and cannot guarantee, the health, safety, and well-being of all Americans. Together with a criminal legal system that criminalizes poverty and Black and Brown people, policing is tearing communities and families apart.'”
“I … don’t want to sound as if I’m questioning your lived experience, but that sounds a lot like a word-salad of liberal platitudes that won’t accomplish anything.”
“Oh, no, it will! But don’t believe me.”
And at that moment, Missouri Democratic Rep. Cori Bush came out of the back room.
“Hi there, Mr. Kombucha. I’m Cori Bush, Missouri congresswoman and member of the ‘squad’ of progressive lawmakers So let me read you some of my quotes from the unveiling of Change is Brewing. Hmm, here’s some from the Daily Mail” — she began reading off of her iPad — “‘I’m the St. Louis congresswoman and I’m proud to be the St. Louis congresswoman, to be someone whose work was born primarily out of the Ferguson uprising,’ I said. ‘For decades, our communities have suffered under the violence of intentional disinvestment and underfunding.
“‘Our healthcare, our education, our housing, our green spaces all left in shambles while our police spending per capita continued to increase to its present level as one of the highest in the country.’ Good speech, no?”
“Yes, but … I’ve heard St. Louis’ crime rate is way up. Didn’t your top prosecutor dismiss something like 36 percent of all felony cases in 2020? I heard that was a major …”
“You heard wrong,” Bush said, her tone turning curt. She composed herself. “Anyhow, this bill will bring about real change by defunding the systems that –“
“I heard your spiel,” Mr. Kombucha said. “What are the particulars here, though?”
“Oh, right. It’s a $10 billion bill that would ‘research and fund alternatives to incarceration and policing that will save lives in our communities’ via the Department of Health and Human Services. It’d also take money from police and give it to trained mental health professionals to deal with crime in our communities.”
“As I said in my news release when I introduced this back in June … [ahem] ‘Our communities deserve a better response to mental health and substance use crises — which is why this new Division would be tasked with creating a trauma-informed federal response unit that can be deployed to communities to support state and local governments in responding to emergency situations, substance use, and mental health crises.
“‘Our communities deserve a just response to years of disinvestment in our communities that have led to poor health outcomes and crime. We’re making it clear that justice is about investing in the resources our communities need. The People’s Response Act will create grant funding for the grassroots and community organizations that are doing the work to address housing, health care, economic injustice, and other inequities in our society.’ Thank you.”
“But that’s pretty much just defunding the police,” Kombucha said. “I understand how we believe armed police officers escalate mental health crises, but this also means communities won’t get the kind of policing they need to be safe, particularly in minority neighborhoods. It’s making people unsafe in the name of reflexively hating police offic –“
“Are you sticking up for them?” Bush glared.
“I’m just saying people have the right to be as safe as you did when you spent almost $70,000 in campaign funds on personal security between the middle of April and the end of March.”
“Excuse me?” the congresswoman said, flustered.
“Let me look for it … ah! Here: ‘I’m going to make sure I have security because, I know, I have had attempts on my life,’ you told CBS … ‘And I have too much work to do, there are too many people that need help right now, for me to allow that.’ Wasn’t the money you spent in security $20,000 more than the average household income in your district?”
Bush slammed the iPad shut. “Well, I think I’ve had enough here. Kyle, you didn’t tell me you were friends with a white supremacist.”
“I don’t even know this guy!” said the Ben & Jerry’s scoop-slinger. “Rep. Bush, you have to believe me.”
“And hey,” Mr. Kombucha said, hurt, “I’m not a … well, one of them. I just know a radical, cop-hating Democrat when I see one. This plan will solve nothing aside from making your constituents worse off because you chase away actual law enforcement in the name of community policing on woke steroids. I can’t believe you think this will actually solve anything. Ben & Jerry’s executives must have had a brain freeze when they came up with this one.”
Sweet justice! Today Congresswoman @CoriBush and @monifabandele were with us in DC as we launched our newest flavor, Change is Brewing! These chunks and swirls are working in collaboration with @Mvmnt4BlkLives to support the People’s Response Act. More: https://t.co/O7dwJNZu07 pic.twitter.com/HYPUcOFE17
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) September 20, 2021
Bush shrugged. “I’m off, Kyle. Have fun trying to find a suitably woke lawmaker now. You might have to settle for Rep. Pramila Jayapal — at best.” She walked out.
Kyle, dejected, chased Mr. Kombucha out of the store.
“We don’t like your kind here! And nobody really likes kombucha, you pseud!”
“Yeah, well … um … no one’s worn that man-bun in years, you ponce!”
“Are you bun-shaming me? That’s homophobic! That’s it — I’m calling the popo!”
“Didn’t you just want to defund them?”
“You … you … you whataboutist!“
That day, Mr. Kombucha’s man-bun came off, as did the three levels of N95 masks and the Camelback. He bought shirts with collars on them — and even learned how to tuck them in. He joined the Republican Party and a reformed nondenominational church in his neighborhood, all in one day. He realized “fair trade” coffee is just a rip-off.
He still kept on drinking kombucha, though. There’s still no accounting for taste, even if we can all sensibly reject “Change is Brewing.”
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