Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Feb. 18, 2002

Holy Trinity students write about Taliban, Walker

By Stephanie Gillman
HT Publications Teacher

At the time the first reports of the American Taliban member, John Walker, came across the news, there has been a great deal of controversy over what should be done with Walker.

Taking the situation at hand and using it as an extension for the publications class at Holy Trinity High School, the students were given two sources of information about John Walker, his background, and what the possible charges are that may be brought against him.

Before they read the information, the students were asked if they had heard about John Walker in the news and if so, what had they heard.

They then read an article from CNN's website, "American Taliban Could Face Treason" (Dec. 11, 2001), and also the Time article "The Taliban Next Door" (Dec. 17, 2001).

After they had read the articles they were told to try and take a different perspective of the situation, for example putting themselves in the place of new American citizens. Some students found this too difficult and chose to write from their own perspectives as teenagers who have been American citizens all of their lives.

Their angles differed, but most of the writings contained well-thought out ideas filled with emotion.

Amber Cafferty, senior, wrote, "In my opinion I can honestly say that I am disgusted by Walker's actions to actually go against his own country when he is a US citizen. I don't think there should be any consideration about thinking he was brainwashed, because it sounds as if he went over there on his own free will."

Another senior, Angela Gapinski stated, ". . . Being an American will be an excuse to get out of trouble instead of being an honorable (person)."

Some students wrote about their questions on parenting in this situation and Walker's age. Katie Thompson, senior, penned "First, why did his parents accept him doing all of these strange things [changing his name], and second, why on earth did they let him go to Afghanistan when he was only 16."

Angie Eurich, senior, wrote, "I am taking the perspective of John's parents. As his parents, I would be extremely upset. Upset with him, as well as myself. I would wonder what I did wrong to make my once innocent boy so cruel and evil. I would try and wonder if there were ever any warning signs that I should have noticed as he was growing up."

Melissa Schneider, senior, stated "First of all, I think that if you love your children you do not let them go into a foreign country at the age of 16 . . . they're still children and really have no experience to handle anything that may come up.

I'm not saying that it's wrong to let your children express themselves and follow the dream or religion or whatever it may be, just not at the age of 16 and on his/her own."

Brent Kucera, senior, expressed "John Walker was just a kid when he went overseas. He was too young to know what he was getting into." Junior, Jennie Hanson wrote "He was only 16 years old and wanted to leave the county to learn more about this religion that he thought would be cool to become a part of. I know that if I asked my parents to leave the country by myself to go to a place that I know nothing about and live by myself and practice a religion that they know nothing about, I am sure I would get a loud and clear NO!"

One senior expressed her view on how Walker made a choice and what should be done in cases like his. Melissa Williams stated "Once again, it's a matter of who John Walker considers himself to be."

The Chinese aren't persecuted under British law, so an Islamic follower should not be governed under the American government. We all have choices in life. Walker certainly chose what he wanted for his life and now, however harsh it may be, he is going to face the consequences like the man he so badly wants to think he is."

Another sentiment that came across in the writings was the type of punishment Walker should receive.

Crystal Rojina, junior, wrote "In my opinion he should be tried for treason for going against his country. I don't think he should be executed, but I do think he should be sent to prison for life without parole. That way he would have to suffer, every morning he wakes up he knows he can't go and do whatever he wants, or eat and sleep when he pleases. Instead he would be under the orders of someone else."

Senior Jeanine Roufs stated "If they do charge him with treason, they shouldn't give him the death penalty. Yet, they should put him in prison for an extensive amount of time. My personal view is that he wasn't brainwashed at 16. You can make some huge decisions at that age . . . he had free will to do what he did and he deserves to pay . . ."

The following are three other students' complete writings. Each one expresses concern about the situation and even what his family is possibly feeling during this time of turmoil in their lives.

The views of these students may reflect those of American society as a whole; different, yet all hold on to their American pride. This proves that our faith in the United States is still strong and that should make everyone proud.

Born in the U.S.A.?

By HT Junior Lauren Eggert

Until recent events, many U.S. citizens have taken their American pride and freedom for granted.

We are slowly, but surely, recovering from the Sept. 11 attacks.

Although our country is at war, our minds have some peace knowing that we have survived an unbearable time of terror.

I never thought I would turn on the television to watch updates on our country at war. However, every night I find myself listening closely to CNN to get the latest updates.

Recently, an American citizen was captured. Not by the enemy, but by us.

It seems that the American, John Walker, was fighting with the Taliban. When I first heard this, I went mad! How could anyone fight against his or her own people? I could not believe this!

In all that I have seen and read about the infamous John Walker, I have come to these conclusions: I respect the fact that he wanted to find his own beliefs and was extremely serious going about it. Although, I don't respect the fact that he went against his fellow Americans in such a hateful way. To me, he is no longer an American. I give him no sympathy whatsoever.

Some also plead that he is cooperating, and therefore should be shown mercy. Obviously any of us would cooperate, too, if our lives depended on it.

More sympathy is shown for his age than any other fact. They say he is too young and had to have been brainwashed. I find that many people from older generations do believe this and give him sympathy.

I am 17, and though I am not fully aware of life just yet, I can sense when something is unjust or wrong.

This brings to mind that he may not have had a proper upbringing. To me, that statement is not fair. Do we acquit a murderer because he was beaten as a child? No, we don't. We charge him for his cruel and hateful deeds. So, how different is this?

John Walker is a murderer. Whatever he has come to be, he is and must be punished for what he has done. I support the accusation of treason. He is no longer an American to me. He has crossed the line and has found his own people. In no way will I give him the title as an American citizen. I fully support an extremely strict punishment, as for all of the Taliban, as consequences to their disgusting, inhumane actions.

As a human being, I cannot and will not accept unrealistic actions in a realistic world.

By HT Senior Dana Rathmanner

John Walker, a 20-year-old of Fairfax, California, has not been a dedicated American and has been caught supporting the Taliban.

He was a student of Islam in Pakistan when he became involved with the Taliban. He and many other soldiers were taken as prisoners and were transferred to a prison near Mazar-e-Sharif.

Walker escaped, delaying the world's discovery of an American Taliban. After a week spent with no food in a basement deep below the prison, Walker and 85 others were flushed out when their dungeon was flooded with ice-cold water leaving them with no options. With John Walker, as an American citizen supporting the Taliban, the question is being asked "Should John Walker be tried for treason, murder, conspiracy and what should his consequences be?"

As a dedicated and supporting American citizen my feelings towards this are not sympathetic. I feel that if someone is going to harm their own country and the people in it, they should face treason.

I also feel that he should have to cooperate with United States authorities in telling where the rest of the Taliban, including Bin Laden, are located.

John Walker should face the consequences because there is no reason America has to suffer. I love the United States and there has been enough harm against us, we don't need more of it.

John Walker

By HT Junior Jessie Scherer

The events that took place on September 11 will forever remain in all of our minds and hearts.

I wonder, however, in what context that they are remembered in the minds and hearts of John Walker's parents.

How would you react if you found out your son was a traitor to your country's most hated enemy?

I'm not sure what I would do. On one hand, he's my son, so I can't hate him. On the other hand, I disagree with what he's doing so much it would hurt me to see him.

I guess if he were my son, I'd just want him to be OK, but it would be hard for me to have a good relationship with him since I strongly disagree with what he's doing I think his parents are somewhat more open-minded and forgiving. He's very lucky to have them.

I, for the most part, feel sorry for John Walker, just as I feel sorry for all members of the Taliban.

Anyone who believes in killing innocent people for the sake of religion deserves our sympathy and needs our prayers. So many people lately (Americans, too) are filled with such hate.

I do not blame people for their feelings, but we cannot let these negative emotions consume our lives. I commend Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker for their unconditional love of their son when surrounded by so many hateful feelings.

They are willing to have a son named John, or a son named Sulayman. Unfortunately for Walker, the rest of the world may not be so accepting.

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