Raining On The Carnival Parade – Rogan Smith
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Raining On The Carnival Parade

It is a very difficult thing to speak in opposition to something the masses seemingly believe in or want. Considering this enlightenment period that Bahamians are in right now, criticizing almost anything is akin to walking a shredded tightrope with razor skates. 

It’s in that vein that I applaud the Bahamas Christian Council for its courage in publicizing its views on the recently ended Bahamas Carnival. This doesn’t mean that I agree entirely with the Council’s stance. But, it means that valid points were made. 

Days before the start of the now annual event, the Council released a statement that sent tongues wagging.

“Simply put, we believe that Bahamas Carnival Road Fever is a vulgar, sexually charged event which many believe is a serious ticking time bomb waiting to explode into a dangerous series of circumstances, especially as we as a nation seek to develop wholesome initiatives to correct so many of the social ills in our society,” the BCC said.

As news spread of the Council’s press statement, carnival organizers and enthusiasts fired back, accusing the organization of being out of touch and too preachy. 

Let’s be real for a minute because many people reacted as if the organization lied about what happens at this event.  

These are the facts: women do dress scantily, there is lascivious behavior; fights have ensued at the carnival (we have seen evidence via WhatsApp videos over the past few years), there is provocative dancing and there is lots of drinking. Those are the realities. Do they define the entire event? That’s for Joe Public to decide. 

Bishop Simeon Hall believes carnival should be a private matter – one where personal choices don’t eclipse public norms. While I respect Bishop Hall’s mind and his views, I don’t believe it should be a private matter anymore than Junkanoo or Regatta should be private matters. 

I believe people reserve the right to choose. If there are those who do not want to attend such events, they are free not to do so. And if there are others who want to attend, they, too, are free to do so.  

I respect the church and what it stands for. In fact, most Bahamians respect the church and identify themselves as Christians. However, I am not convinced that a few hours spent on a road march will lead to eternal damnation. 

We All Have A Choice

I, as an adult, am always mindful of my behavior when impressionable children are around. However, I cannot expect other adults to behave the way I want them to. Instead, I remind the children I have access to that certain behaviors are not acceptable. 

Does it bother me to see men and woman gyrating sexually in plain sight of the viewing public? Yes. Does it bother me that the carnival costumes seem to get skimpier with each passing year? Absolutely. But, what do I do? I stay home when carnival is taking place so that I’m not exposed to it. Simple. I do not say that an entire parade should be shut down because certain parts may be offensive to me. 

We also have to remember that there are many more people on the parade who are having good, clean fun. There are carnival revelers who jump in the line and comport themselves decently. They shouldn’t be punished. 

I know this may be hard to believe, but not every Bahamian subscribes to Christianity; therefore, they should not be held to the same standards. For those who do, I personally don’t think it compromises their belief system. 

Temptation doesn’t equal sin. Jesus was tempted many times and He did not yield. The goal shouldn’t be to remove temptation, but rather not to give in to it. That is evidence of true spiritual growth.

The Way We See It Vs. The Way It Is

There was much uproar and condemnation after many claimed the Council cautioned women about wearing provocative clothing. 

I read the statement and saw no such thing. This is why it’s important to read people’s original words. Here is what was said: 

“With a mixture of men and women flaunting near naked bodies, engaging in sexual contact with event participants and the open flow of alcohol, we stand with others who believe this event has the potential to lead to sexual violence, rape and other violent confrontation, most especially between our young men who may not be able to handle seeing their female friend in sexual contact with other men on the streets.”

There’s no victim blaming there. In fact, I think there is great merit to the Council’s admonition. Nudity (or near nudity) and alcohol make a potent and potentially problematic cocktail. The Council said it has the potential to lead to sexual violence. Guess what? It does.

Look, women reserve the right to wear what they want where they want and should not have to make an adjustment or risk being raped. Men do not have the right to touch, harass or rape a woman simply because of what she has chosen to wear. That would be like saying a woman shouldn’t wear a bikini to the beach because it may entice someone to sexually assault her. Men need to learn self-control and to know that they are not to touch that which is not theirs. 

That being said, we have to look at the reality of the situation. 

In fact, let’s take it away from carnival. Let’s look at it from another perspective. 

Every Christmas, police officers issue warnings to the general public, cautioning civilians not to leave their shopping bags or other valuables in plain sight in their vehicles. Instead, they urge them to put them in their trunks so that thieves are not tempted to break their glasses and steal their valuables. 

Really and truly, it is the thief that is at fault. He or she should not be breaking windows or stealing items that do not belong to him. But, the reality of the situation is, not everyone has a moral compass or is properly socialized. In fact, some people are just damned bad. Due to that fact, it is incumbent on the car owner to safeguard his or her property. 

That car owner should have the right to buy items and leave it anywhere in the car, if he or she desires. But, it’s a bad idea because the world is full of people who lack boundaries and a conscience. So, we do bear some responsibility for our behavior. 

I think we have to be willing to listen to both sides of this argument, for both have merits.

Carnival is now over and we can get back to our regularly scheduled program of being good, decent Christian citizens. That is until next May when we’ll shake, stir and repeat this process. Hey, it’s what we do. 

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