Sgt. Bergdahl's Post-Dramatic Stress
It is likely that many people will die young because Bowe Bergdahl chose to act out a childish, grandiose fantasy in which he cast himself as a wise and courageous man of mystery and adventure. Both his parents and the American taxpayer supported Mr. Bergdahl to play pretend soldier with a script that reads like a cheesy story for eleven-year-old boys.
In Bergdahl’s feverish imagination, which he was tragically allowed to enact, he was a magnificently skilled survivalist who also solved the problem of war in his environmentally and socially sensitive walk about the new world order. He played the role with dramatic flair.
Mr. Bergdahl is not suffering from a clinical delusion associated with a major mental disorder. He is simply a product of a culture in which young people have nothing to learn and in which the only thing that matters is self-directed meaning-making. The death and destruction Bergdahl caused are merely interesting teachers on his journey of self-discovery.
There is ample evidence of Mr. Bergdahl’s childishness. Although provided with an apparently conscientious home-school education, he was not expected to prepare himself to face the responsibilities of adult life. Regarding his son’s education, Bob Bergdahl is quoted in the Michael Hastings Rolling Stone article as such: “Ethics and morality would be constant verbiage in our conversations.” Verbiage is all they amounted to.
Bowe Bergdahl did not attend a college commensurate with his education, nor was he expected to prepare himself for a job. This is unfortunate, because the one place on earth Mr. Bergdahl would have fit in was at a small, expensive liberal arts college where a student can spend four years in self-exploration where every turn up one’s own cracks and crevices is regarded as fascinating and groundbreaking.
In his early twenties, Mr. Bergdahl was not interested in having his own car. When a 21-year-old man tools around town on a bicycle, he may pride himself on making a positive statement about the planet and his own special awareness of it. What he is really saying is, “I have no intention of growing up, holding down a job, needing to be somewhere, having a girlfriend or wife, or transporting anything but my own exceptional self.” At about the age of 20, Bergdahl quit martial arts training and enrolled in Sun Valley ballet school, where he apparently dyed his hair and painted his fingernails for the role of lifting female dancers. He departed from difficult, ego-effacing training that requires respect for a traditionally masculine authority in favor of a theatrical pursuit in a female-dominated performance art.
Mr. Bergdahl spent several months at a Buddhist monastery in 2007-2008. Apparently his family financially supported what must have been costly years of Bergdahl’s peripatetic experiments. There is ample evidence that Bob Bergdahl is using his son to live out his own excellent anti-American adventure.
Mr. Bergdahl auditioned three times before landing what should have been a minor but incomparably important supporting gig with the U.S. Army. Again from the Rolling Stone article: “He was absolutely devastated when the French Foreign Legion didn’t take him.” The French Foreign Legion? Is there a more clichéd dream for a self-absorbed waster who journals lines like “I will not lose this passion of beauty”? He was also swiftly drop-kicked out of the Coast Guard.
Not surprisingly, after the Army took him, PFC Bergdahl quickly discovered that his commanding officers were not entirely pleasing. From an e-mail to his parents: “The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting. …one of the biggest s*** bags is being put in charge of the team… [Bergdahl’s battalion commander] is a conceited old fool.” And with an unfathomable degree of selfishness and dishonesty about the realities of military service, early on, Bergdahl told a fellow soldier, “If this deployment is lame I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan.”
Bowe Bergdahl is truly the moral brother of the five murderous fiends he was swapped for. These six have in common a decisive feature of adult life – they are men without honor. And they are in this miserable state for the same reason: all come from societies without honor.
The Taliban warlords come from a time of blood-dripping swords, a crimson loop replaying the darkest turnings of humanity’s collective nightmares. They come from a pre-individuated society where a man holds the right to commit any atrocity, fundamentally because he does not exist as a reasoning individual.
Bowe Bergdahl comes from a toxically over-individuated society, where a man has no responsibility to his family, fellow soldiers, his nation, or anyone but himself. The writers of the New York Times and Washington Post who are picking through Bergdahl’s puerile effluvia are the scribes of that definitive selfishness. In trying to justify him and blame the people who love America for his misdeeds, they are also without honor. For all the show must go on, and men still true to their word will pay the price of admission with their lives.