Bowe Bergdahl, you are now free, but many of your problems are just beginning. You have left a world of extreme isolation and entered one that is vastly more complex. It will be hard for you to adjust. Anyone who spends a significant amount of time as a prisoner comes out handicapped. This would be true whether you were held by the Taliban or anyone else. And along with all that, you will have to cope with being an odd celebrity.
You will have infinitely more support than most prisoners do when they are released. People will recognize you on the street and welcome you home. But you’ll soon discover that others, in op-eds, blogs, and emails, say terrible things. You’ll find that many are blaming you for your own captivity. Ironically, these are generally people who feel very strongly that your captors are their enemies. Some of them think you should be punished further. You’ll see that many blame you for the deaths of American soldiers, rather than blame the war itself. Blaming the victim is always a way to protect the powerful.
When you get back to the United States, people will ask you over and over, in confidential and heartfelt tones, how you are doing. When they ask, they will look you in the eyes to show you they understand. You will not be able to give an answer that feels true, possibly because you will grow annoyed with such questions, but also because “great” and “awful” will probably both be true at once, though you won’t really understand the awful part.
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