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THE BEAR FACTS — WELL, THEORIES, ANYHOW

We're worried about the polar bears.
We're afraid they're going to become the pariahs of the Caribbean as a result of what happened when the well-meaning V.I. Carnival Committee tried to bring them and their little circus to St. Thomas.
What happened, of course, was that animal activists — also well meaning but bordering, some of them, on fanaticism — launched a campaign to prevent the six hapless bears from entering the Virgin Islands.
Although most of the activists were not from here, plenty of Virgin Islanders joined in the outcry that was splashed all over the media. Quite by coincidence, undoubtedly, the commissioner of Planning and Natural Resources determined that the "aggressive" polar bears posed a potential threat to the safety of the people of the Virgin Islands and thus announced on Monday that he had denied the circus's application for a permit to bring them to the territory. Then, with a plea for "peace," the Carnival Committee announced that the circus had agreed to come minus the bears.
Too bad. The bears might have enjoyed their visit here, if our plans had been followed.
Our idea was that between performances at the ballpark in Frenchtown on St. Thomas, the polar bears could cool off across the street at the air-conditioned comfort of Alexander's Cafe. Owner Alex Treml is an animal lover and would surely have welcomed them. And there's no colder interior in the territory than Alexander's.
If a bear had wanted to go swimming and enjoy a snack, all he would have had to do was lumber around the corner to the Quetel fishing center, grab a yellowtail from a table when no one was looking, and jump into the crystal-clear water of the Charlotte Amalie harbor.
The Frenchtown fishermen could even have trained some of the bears to catch and retrieve fish. Those bears aren't dumb. A little lazy, maybe, but not dumb. Do this, and everybody wins, as Fungi used to shout in those lottery commercials.
But none of this is going to happen, thanks to the activists and a cowardly government.
Mentioning the government reminds us that more than 2,000 years ago, the emperors of Rome, eager to pacify the populace, would hand out free bread and oil and wine to the people and invite them to amphitheaters where heavily armed humans fought and killed wild animals, unless, of course, the opposite occurred.
Available records do not mention polar bears fighting in the Circus Maximus. But is there an element of what the poet Juvenal called "bread and circuses" in today's saga of the polar bears?
Our message to the animal activists and their vocal supporters in the Virgin Islands is simple: Are you going to turn your attention now to the cruel and bloody cock fights and dog fights that are standard fare on Saturday nights here?
As for the bears, they continue to perform in Puerto Rico. But as a result of the wide publicity about the aborted attempt to bring them to St. Thomas, they might find themselves stranded there — no other Caribbean island being willing to welcome them.
We can see them now, six mangy polar bears, out of their element surely, trudging from small town to small town in Puerto Rico, looking for work and some ice.
All because of the pressure brought to bear in the Virgin Islands.

Editor's note: Frank J. Jordan is a radio commentator in the Virgin Islands and a former University of the Virgin Islands journalism professor.
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