Benedict Walker

Californian John Walker Fought for the Taliban. Does This Make Him a Traitor to the U.S.?

JOHN O'SULLIVAN
Age 42
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Restaurant business

Is John Walker a traitor? No. I think he made his own choices and ultimately he's responsible for that. I've read snippets about him in the paper, and while I don't mind the headlines shouting "Traitor!" I really don't like regular Americans calling for him to be hanged. I might not break bread with him, but I give him credit for living by his own standards.

What should the U.S. do with him? 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.

Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology? I was raised a Catholic and forced to go to church with my brother. Later I realized the hypocrisy in my mother's insistence that we go. She herself never went to church. 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.



AIKO SAITO
Age 42
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Photographer

Is John Walker a traitor? We don't have enough information to determine whether or not he's a traitor. The government is hiding so much. Unless Walker is really stubborn, eventually I think he'll start coughing up information. As long as he's still connected to something here, whether it's his family or just American society, I think he'll talk.

What should the U.S. do with him? He should be tried here, because he'd have a better chance of getting a fair trial.

Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology? I was raised a Buddhist, but I never liked organized religion. There are good people who practice the faith, and then there are evil people who use the religion to their own ends. At some point I met a Catholic priest and my connection to him changed my life. I converted to Christianity. I go to church every day. In the first days after the World Trade Center attacks, you had this sense that people were really connected. Almost immediately, the Trade Center site and the prayer circle at Union Square became tourist attractions. That pure feeling of common humanity lasts a very short time.



PERRI PIVOVAR
Age 32
Resides Brooklyn
Occupation Filmmaker

Is John Walker a traitor? 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.

What should the U.S. do with him? He needs psychological help, not a prison sentence. What's this new thing with storage containers? Why are people being kept in them? It's mob justice to call for his death. Once again, we've learned nothing from this experience.

Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology? I've always been interested in Buddhism, but I was raised a Presbyterian. I never really followed a particular ideology, although I suppose you could say that growing up in Pennsylvania, I had a romantic idea about the life in New York City. Then, I pictured Factory-style living, with drugs and all kinds of parties and everyone dressed in fabulous costumes.



SADAF K. MIAN
Age 20
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Student

Is John Walker 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 the patriotism that's sprung up lately is commendable, but it means that issues are painted in black and white, and the media caters to the public's desire for that.

What should the U.S. do with him? 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.

Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology? No. I'm a practicing Muslim, and Pashtun. I went to Catholic school, and it only made me stronger in my faith. I thank God I was born Muslim.



JOHN SALINAS
Age 32
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Retail sales

Is John Walker a traitor? I think he is, because he was fighting for the Taliban's cause. He's an adult, not a kid, and he knew what he was doing when he went to Afghanistan. He may have fallen in love with fundamentalist Islam, but I don't believe he was brainwashed.

What should the U.S. do with him? He should face the consequences of his actions. He should be put to death. If he had just been over there fighting the Northern Alliance, it would have been one thing. We wouldn't have cared. The World Trade Center attacks make him a traitor to the U.S.

Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology? I was raised a Catholic. I once went to a Buddhist service with a friend who was a practicing Buddhist. Some of their teachings appealed to me, but I came back to reality and realized I was a true Catholic. I was raised in Berkeley, which is very open and liberal and everyone is into all different kinds of things. John Walker's from California. I know where he's coming from.



MARGARET LANZONI
Age 25
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Photo editor

Is John Walker a traitor? 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.

What should the U.S. do with him? 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.

Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology? I was part of a Christian youth group when I was younger. It was very mild. We just ran around and told people to love each other. In America, we live in an open society with no premium on ideas. We have horrible organizations like the KKK in this country. They exist because we protect things like freedom of expression and religion.



JOSE FERREIRA
Age 32
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Corrections officer

Is John Walker a traitor? 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. They're going to pursue his case to the limit.

What should the U.S. do with him? They should try him, and operate as though he was innocent until proven guilty. 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.

Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology? 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.



LUNA LOUIS ORTIZ
Age 29
Resides Manhattan
Occupation Teacher

Is John Walker a traitor? Even though his beliefs are his beliefs, I think he's probably a traitor. Even before September 11, we knew Osama bin Laden and the Taliban were terrorists. At the same time, I doubt John Walker knew that much about the attacks on the Trade Center.

What should the U.S. do with him? Does he want to come home? He should be held as a prisoner of war, then tried just for the information that a trial would provide.

Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology? I was supposed to be a Catholic, but I was never religious. In general, music and movies are my religion. I'm a Hollywood-obsessed person. I'm obsessed with Marlene Deitrich, even though she's long gone. I love Greta Garbo. And Bette Davis. I just got All About Eve on DVD. It's beautiful. I'm also obsessed with Lena Horne. I wouldn't want to forget her.

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