I am writing in response to your letter from "Falcon Forever" about the Cranston High School West prayer banner. Although I can appreciate your desire to stay neutral, I think that the voice of the current students needs to be heard.
My friends and I are students at Cranston West. For the past several years, it has been drilled into our heads that bullying is wrong; that bullying takes many shapes, and to be on the look-out to make sure that what we consider fun and games does not cross the line into bullying. Due to zero tolerance policies, we are all careful to be considerate of others. So why is it that Jessica Ahlquist can bully the rest of us with her non-beliefs? Whatever happened to the idea of majority rule or even compromise or arbitration? Her all-or-nothing attitude is what has everyone so angry.
Last year, I made my Confirmation (I am Catholic) and as a part of the preparation I had to go on a weekend retreat. It was then that I had a spiritual awakening, and I realized the importance of my faith in God. Up until this point, it wasn't something I really though about; I only went to church on holidays and never said formal prayers. I still don't say formal prayers, and I don't believe that any one religion is better than another; but my belief in God is now a part of my daily life - something I never saw happening. How can Jessica Ahlquist - who is a year younger than me - be so certain that she will not change her mind in a few years? Even "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade fame is now a staunch pro-lifer.
At our school, we have people of many faiths - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Wiccan, etc. and we all get along. Nobody made a big deal of the prayer banner because it wasn't a big deal until Jessica Ahlquist made it one. Now that the [feces] has hit the fan and is blowing back at her, she wants to play the victim. But what about the rest of us? Haven't we been victimized by her bullying?
Falcon Now And Forever
Dear Falcon Now And Forever:
I am printing your letter to give the a forum to the student voice, as you suggested. Quite honestly, when I printed the original letter as an EXTRA EDITION I did so because I thought the issue would be dead within a week. I had no idea that people felt so strongly about the banner; but the issue at hand does not appear to be just about a banner, does it? It appears to be about bullying and those who feel that the small minority is marginalizing the vast majority.
Although I stand by my original response - that I will not voice an opinion on the judge's decision and that I feel the reaction of the people mocks the very banner they seek to defend - I will add that I am very disappointed in Ms. Ahlquist's refusal to attend classes out of fear of bullying (death threats are another story; and Ms. Ahlquist has been afforded police protection ). True courage is not standing up for what you believe in, but in standing up to the face of adversity in order to defend your beliefs.
There is fault on both sides of the controversy, but now is not the time to assign blame. Rather, it is a time to work towards healing.
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