When the Marines in Afghanistan took custody of John Walker, they knew they had a lot more than just another POW; they had a media event. As an American fighting for the Taliban, he has become the source of not only a lot of media attention, but also controversy.
Essentially, two choruses have erupted, one calling for us to spare the young Walker and another demanding his head on a platter. One group calls him a "misguided youth," the other calls him a "traitor to the nation" and both are demanding justice.
But the solution is painfully simple; let the legal system handle it.
You see, the very point of a legal system is to create a definition of right vs. wrong for a group of people and establish punishments for offenses. Our legal system has been molded over hundreds of years to do exactly that and, while definitely flawed, is a system created by this nation to deal with questions of what is and is not a crime.
But does this mean that John Walker, a "good kid" from California, could possibly be executed for the crime of high treason? Of course. But then again thousands of "good kids" are put in prison each day and hundreds are sentenced to die each year without the world or the media lifting an eyebrow.
Could this also mean that Mr. Walker, a "murder and a traitor," could be treated as just another POW and outright released when the conflict is over? Of course. But once again, murders and rapists get set free everyday on technicalities and no one cares.
The fact is that it's easy to let the justice system go about making it's mistakes and passing judgment on countless lives when the defendants are nameless and faceless. But we all know Mr. Walker's name and we have all seen his face on the news. It now hits home, like it or not. No matter if you're "Free Walker" or "Kill Walker" the only reason you probably care is because of how high profile his case is.
So if we're going to go easy or hard on him; we need to change the law to do so. That way, we can re-apply the law to others who come later. After all, justice is blind and we are all supposed to be equal on her scales. If we make an exception for Mr. Walker and don't apply it to everyone else, then we crack the very foundation of our legal system and risk toppling our entire concept of justice.
For example, if you think we should go easy on him because "he was raised better than that" or that "he got mixed up in the wrong crowd," then every teen who does a drive-by shooting deserves to get off easy. The only thing he has to prove is that his mother told him otherwise and he just happened to fall in with the local gang.
Also, if you think we should throw a heavier book at him because he "joined an organization that is against everything America stands for," then everyone who joins an organization that doesn't like America, no matter how peaceful they are, should be convicted of a crime or have their offenses punished more sternly.
I can't think of a single reason to make an exception for John Walker that I am willing to apply to the rest of the nation. If the rules some seek to change for him were changed for all, then the entire nation would be thrown into chaos and the very reason this country came into being will be tossed out the window.
So let's kick back collectively and let the system that is in place deal with Mr. Walker. It may take a long time to get results and many people may not appreciate the outcome. But it's the system we've designed and no matter what you think about it, we have to let it do its job.
In a free a free country equal protection under the law isn't just a right, but also an obligation. And it's an obligation that we owe Mr. John Walker whether we like it or not.
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