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A Tale of Two Cities

By: Chris Newman, Mountaineer News Contributor

Posted: February 27, 2020 | 11:11PM EST

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Dickens penned these opening lines to what many regard as his magnum opus 161 years ago. And yet when comparing almost any two modern cities, his characterization of London and Paris and his lifelong endeavor to champion the poor and the downtrodden easily translates and seamlessly applies. Dickens had a habit of seeking out a social injustice and shining a spotlight right on its dark core, and of deftly describing the typical unsavory characters that always tend to appear at that core when the light appears.

I won’t be writing about London and Paris today.

Today I hope to shed some light as a champion of social justice a little closer to home. I’ve had two real homes in my life, if you don’t count the years I spent away in school. My first home was Buckhannon. My current home is Fairmont.

I don’t have the prowess of a Dickens and my homes don’t have the grandeur of London and Paris. But here in the internet age (the age of wisdom) I find myself confronted with an age-old injustice that makes me wonder if this truly is the age of foolishness.

A few short weeks ago, social media was abuzz with news of an airstrike that killed an Iranian general. People debated the action, people debated the consequences, and people disagreed, as people always do.

A recently elected city councilman for my new home city of Fairmont named David Kennedy was one of the many who offered his opinion on social media. In the course of his lengthy and often off-color remarks, he called Asian people “gooks” and Middle Eastern people “towel-heads”.

His words triggered a series of events that is both completely inevitable and completely predictable. In America we are free to speak our minds, but we are not free from the consequences therof. Local television media and local print media covered the story, and then national media followed. The city council voted to censure Kennedy and then asked for his resignation. The public is currently circulating a petition for a recall election, which is close to its goal of signatures (20 percent of city voters need to sign in order to recall the election). The city is spending time and resources on correcting this issue that could be so much better spent elsewhere, if the councilman were not a bigot.

For his part, Kennedy says his words were genuine and that he is being targeted by communists and political hacks.

For my part, the political hack is the guy who won a city council seat and didn’t know he shouldn’t be posting ethnic slurs on Facebook.

But this is a tale of two cities. And so I can’t help but think of my first home: Buckhannon. I miss it. I love it. I hope to move back.

But I fear for it.

Because when I look at social media, I see certain candidates for Buckhannon city council posting and reposting the same type of ethnic discrimination and bias that is currently costing Fairmont’s taxpayers thousands of dollars – and potentially a recall election that would cost even more.

I don’t intend to get into a religious or philosophical debate. Discrimination is wrong, and there’s no justification for it. But that’s only one of many reasons why Buckhannon shouldn’t elect someone who is littering social media with posts about which religion she opposes.

Here’s the plainest of them.

Buckhannon can’t afford a person on the council who is a bigot.

That bears repeating. Buckhannon can’t afford a person on the council who is a bigot. Against any race, religion, or any other group. Especially a group protected by federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Buckhannon is largely a conservative town. That’s not at issue here. But any fiscal conservative can see a waste of money coming when it’s obvious and apparent. And electing a bigot is exactly that. Deciding to elect someone else in the first place is much cheaper than removing one. Just ask Fairmont.

And remember to vote.

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