We may as well steel ourselves for the unthinkable now.
Applying the "common sense and sound judgment" that he says should prevail, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull will have no choice but to cancel the soon-coming Crucian Christmas Festival and quite possibly the 50th anniversary V.I. Carnival in the spring as well. And if the nationwide terrorism crisis isn't under control by next summer, the St. John Festival (a.k.a. July Fourth Celebration) may also have to go.
That is the only "common sense and sound judgment" conclusion one can reach from the governor's decision on Oct. 24 to direct the commissioner of Education to order the Joseph Sibilly School principal to tell the Parent Teacher Association and the parents and guardians of all the pupils that the annual PTA Halloween party, set for Oct. 26, was canceled.
The party, on the school grounds under the direction and supervision of parents, teachers, the principal and other adult volunteers, has been one of the biggest annual events at the school for years — and the major vehicle for the PTA to raise funds for school projects. Dozens of volunteers had put in countless hours over at least a month preparing for the event, which traditionally features such attractions as children's games and contests; hamburgers, hot dogs and sodas; music; and, of course, a haunted house.
Quarter by quarter and dollar by dollar, the prices for these indulgences have added up to $2,000 to $3,000 each year, according to PTA president Sam Charles. Not much by Education Department budget standards, but ask anyone with experience at the school, and they'll tell you the money has gone to good use. Like getting the Joseph Sibilly Sun Rays steelband back in business after Hurricane Marilyn mashed up the drums and flooded the storeroom, for instance. There was no Education Department money to do that.
But, the governor pointed out in a release, these are times "when many persons are experiencing increasing fears and security concerns due to the acts of terrorism and biochemical attacks and threats." And, his release noted, "in recent years there have been numerous serious incidents and inappropriate and dangerous pranks surrounding Halloween activities." He said it was "better to err on the side of precaution than to run the risk of incidents or criminal acts that might escalate the anxieties and potential dangers Virgin Islanders are presently experiencing."
The governor also said he "fully endorses" the message put out earlier by Police Commissioner Franz Christian that this year Halloween partying and trick-or-treating should be downplayed "to prevent Halloween from becoming 'Devil's Day' as has been done in the past."
Hardly anyone would disagree with the view that children in this day and age should not be out on the streets alone going door to door in unfamiliar neighborhoods begging for candy on Halloween night — or any other night, for that matter. But that's a far cry from a well-planned, well-organized, well-supervised, and traditionally popular event on school property that serves multiple good purposes.
But what's done is done and cannot be undone, and it's time to look ahead.
Yet, memory persists — of the stabbings and shootings and, yes, the killings that have taken place at carnival events on more than one island in recent years, and of the annual escalation in domestic violence and alcohol abuse that occurs at those times of year.
Out of anxiety about such incidents and out of a belief that bacchanal is "Devil's Day" doings, whatever the time of year, many Virgin Islanders choose not to take part in carnival festivities. No one would question their right to make that choice. But neither would anyone suggest that perspective as a rationale for canceling the events and sending everyone else home for "family day" activities instead.
Editor's note: Jean Etsinger is senior editor of the Source newspapers.
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