An Inclusive Litany


In a "Mad on the Street" poll of December 14, the Village Voice asked eight New Yorkers whether John Walker was a traitor. Five said no, two said yes, and one said maybe. Some responses:
No. I think he made his own choices and ultimately he's responsible for that.... I might not break bread with him, but I give him credit for living by his own standards.

I think he's a mixed-up kid. I've been trying to filter through the news to get the real story, but I think he's being used as a symbol. On the one hand you have this CIA operative who died for his country and is a "hero"; on the other hand you have the "screwed-up weirdo" John Walker who fought for the Taliban and is a traitor.

How can he be a traitor? In America, we practice freedom of speech and of religion. John Walker is expressing his opinions, and we only care about him because of the events of September 11.

I think it's ridiculous for us to call him a traitor. He joined the Taliban when the U.S. was not at war in Afghanistan.

I think he was caught practicing his beliefs at the wrong time. He's just unlucky. Maybe he was brainwashed. He shouldn't be targeted because of what he believes. He's now in a lot of trouble because the government is going to work to affiliate him with the terrorists.

The following are responses to the question, "What should the U.S. do with him?"
He needs psychological help, not a prison sentence.

Why would they want to try him? What did he do? I didn't vote for Bush, but I think he's doing a great job. At the same time, I don't think we should have dropped bombs on Afghanistan. Not one of those suicide bombers was Afghan. Most of them were from Saudi Arabia.

We don't know that he killed any Americans. If he killed soldiers from the Northern Alliance, they should put him on trial in Afghanistan. Americans are easily swayed by the news they read. If they dug a little deeper, they'd respond with the open-mindedness they're rightly famous for. Get in a cab in New York and the Tunisian or Bengali drivers are listening to the BBC. That's where the real information is.

He should be questioned and released. The government should warn him that because of the current military situation, he's going to be watched very carefully. I think the whole thing is bananas. John Walker hasn't broken any laws, so he shouldn't stand trial for anything. I also don't think Osama bin Laden should be tried in the U.S. The E.U. countries won't extradite suspects to countries who practice capital punishment.

Maybe he was just there. If that's true, they shouldn't go after him. If they can prove he actually killed Americans, maybe that's something else. I think they will "find" evidence even if it isn't there. This reminds me of the Red Scare of the 1950s. [The interviewee is 32 years old.]

The following are responses to the question, "Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology?"
When I saw the movie The Mission, it put me off Catholicism, but I'm still a spiritual person. My wisdom has grown as I've grown older. Lately, Scientology has piqued my interest because of their ideas on health. They promote saunas and niacin for total cleansing of the body.

No, but when you're young, you experiment. I'm religion-free right now, although I believe in God. I never obsess about anything. Whatever's cool is cool.

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