It’s difficult to imagine a better example of how quickly information travels — and how that inspires folks to rush to conclusions and make judgments — than the May 31 announcement of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release by his Taliban captors.
Bergdahl, a Hailey native, spent five long years in captivity. His release has inspired an astonishing volume of reactions, on Twitter, Facebook and military-related blogs, as well as traditional news outlets such as CNN and Time magazine.
The narrative largely has taken a turn for the ugly. Some are saying Bergdahl deserted his unit and at least six U.S. soldiers lost their lives trying to get him back.
They use words and terms such as “traitor” and “Taliban collaborator.” The online publication of the Daily Beast ran a massive first-person account from a former Army officer who said he knew the details of Bergdahl’s June 30, 2009, disappearance and wrote: “He was a deserter and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.”
Politicians — it is an election year — have crossed swords about the deal President Obama cut with the Taliban to secure Bergdahl’s freedom.
Five former Taliban officers, all apparently with blood on their hands, left their prison cells. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, said he was “extremely troubled” by the swap. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, he of the possible presidential bid, agreed the deal was “very disturbing.”
That’s all heavy stuff. You know what else is heavy? War. Being young and in a foreign country with bullets flying. Heavy is the burden carried these last five years by Bergdahl’s parents, who could never be completely sure their son was safe, or even alive. Heavy is waking up every morning not knowing if this is the day your son’s captors tire of their game and put an end to it.
The truth is we don’t know the truth. We don’t know if Bergdahl deserted. We don’t know how those six soldiers died. We don’t know what was in this young man’s mind in the summer of 2009 or why. We have not walked in his shoes.
The truth also is that this rush to judgment will continue. The social media flood of information, once released, cannot be dammed. But, no matter what facts are eventually revealed, let us remember Bowe Bergdahl is one of us and that, in this country, we are innocent until proven guilty.
Because nobody else will, Idahoans should resist the urge to judge and instead celebrate that Jani and Bob Bergdahl have their only son back safe and sound.
Moments of pure joy are rare in a world where we think we know so much. Let’s enjoy this one while we can.