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“They say you gon’ reap what you sow / There ain’t no love here in this place that I call home” — Lloyd Banks, from the album “All or Nothing: Live it Up”


The city of Charleston is now offering $5,000 for remote workers to move here, touting Charleston’s amenities and low cost of living. “Maybe you want to get out of the big city and settle in a place with fewer crowds and highways, and more mountains, streams, and four distinct seasons,” crows the Charleston Roots Initiative’s site. Charleston: Small-town charm — now with big-city HIV rates!

Perhaps they should include a bit about the city’s burgeoning HIV and hepatitis C crises, since Mayor Amy Goodwin and the Charleston City Council seem hell-bent on making a bad situation worse.

On April 19, despite Charleston having the worst HIV outbreak in the United States, the City Council voted, 25-1, to effectively criminalize harm reduction programs that are the firewall against such outbreaks. I guess science denial isn’t just for Republicans, social conservatives and geezers anymore.

To be fair, the folks running Solutions Oriented Addiction Response — the volunteer-based needle distribution program at the heart of the debate — could have done better. By all accounts, they pretty much just went into these neighborhoods and set up shop, and then seemed surprised when neighbors weren’t totally thrilled by all that needle distribution brings.

Let me be clear: I think SOAR is a courageous group of good people doing critically important work. They could, however, have done a better job of laying the groundwork and establishing rapport with the neighborhoods in which they worked.

But now, our mayor — who, as Cathy Kunkel pointed out in a recent op-ed, promised leadership on the issue of harm reduction, yet has been a veritable ghost — and our council members (including the youthful and the seemingly progressive), in a fit of reactionary provincialism, have screwed the pooch, and voted to stick our collective head even further into the sand than did the state Legislature.

When you outdo the state Republican Party not only in science denial, but also in closet puritanism and punitive, fear-based policymaking, well, that’s quite a feat. I’ll say this for former mayor Danny Jones: At least he was honest about disliking needle exchanges, and didn’t cloak his outright malice toward them in do-gooding tropes like our current mayor and council members have.

The Charleston Roots Initiative says, “... CWV welcomes your skills and expertise.” That is, unless you’re a harm reduction expert, in which case I’d sadly advise that your skills and expertise won’t be welcomed here.


“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7, KJV)

Hoppy Kercheval very recently expressed dismay in a column in which he marveled that state leaders are having one hell of a time motivating people to get a COVID-19 vaccine. “Why should [Gov. Jim Justice], or any state leader for that matter, have to beg people and lure them with a $100 savings bond so they will get vaccinated?” Oh! I can answer that for you, Mr. Kercheval.

In a recent CBS News poll, the question was asked: “If the coronavirus vaccine becomes available, at no cost to you, would you ...?”

How do you think Trump voters answered? Yeah, 33% of them chose the final option: “Never get one.”

Now recall that, as a state, West Virginia voted for Trump by a margin of nearly 3-1 in the 2020 election.

That is to say, nearly 70% of people here voted for a guy who said time and time again that climate change is a Chinese hoax, who sincerely and unironically suggested drinking or injecting disinfectant to fight COVID-19, who said that wind farms are “bad for people’s health,” who said that “environmentally friendly light bulbs cause cancer,” and who said that California wildfires could have been prevented if only they had “[cleaned] your floors, you gotta clean your forests.”

Trump, however, is far from the first GOP lawmaker to think he or she understands science better than scientists. Rep. Lamar Smith, who was, ironically enough, the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, claimed that a study published in Nature Climate Change “confirms the halt in global warming.”

Michelle Bachman said carbon dioxide is “harmless,” and that she believes in intelligent design, rather than evolution.

The late Herman Cain said climate change isn’t a “crisis.”

Rick Perry said “[intelligent design] ... should be presented in schools alongside the theories of evolution.”

For 23 years, the Dickey Amendment, named after Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark., effectively blocked all federally funded research on gun violence.

Rick Santorum called the idea of human-made climate change “just patently absurd.”

As Business Insider reported two years ago, “more than 100 current members of Congress ... have expressed skepticism about climate science, or concerns about the cost of more regulations. All but one are Republican.”

According to the Center for American Progress, there are now 139 climate change deniers “[comprising] 52% of House Republicans [and] 60% of Senate Republicans.”

As far back as 2015, Trump was repeating the thoroughly debunked claim that vaccines cause autism.

Why are Kercheval and Justice at all surprised that a huge swath of West Virginia residents don’t want to be vaccinated? The Republican Party has sown science denialism in their base for decades. Now reaping the fruit of this foolishness, they shouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

Rafe Godfrey is a Gazette-Mail copy editor and a master’s student at Marshall University.

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