Like everyone else, I was excited to wake up last Thursday morning and see episode one of the new season of Serial in my podcast queue. I loved Serial season one and still follow new developments in the Adnan Syed case. So, like everyone else, I have high hopes for season 2. I believe in the storytelling abilities of the Serial crew and I'm in it for the long haul.
I have to admit, I found episode 1 annoying. Or, more accurately, I found Bowe Bergdahl annoying. According to the bare bones version of his story that was offered in episode 1, Bowe Bergdahl believed the base he was stationed at was being run poorly. He even alleges abuse of power. I don't believe or not believe his claims because there has been no evidence presented (to me, at least) to back up the claims. But even if what he contends is true, Bowe Bergdahl just decided that he knows best and came up with some crazy Chuck Norris plan to inform the world of the problem.
He didn't consider the danger he was putting himself in. He didn't consider the danger he was putting his fellow soldiers in. He didn't consider the pain he would be causing his family, even assuming his plan worked the way he thought it would, he intentionally went missing. He didn't consider the resources that would be spent on locating him that could have been spent in more appropriate ways. Basically, he considered nothing except himself.
My understanding is that Bergdahl is facing court martial and the result of that could be life imprisonment. I don't know if that's what he deserves. But I don't think he deserves any celebrity status and I hope that won't be the result of this Serial version of his story.
I think Bowe Bergdahl exemplifies what is wrong with this country. Every single one of us thinks we know best (I'm including myself here). Bergdahl had some problems with how his base was being run but he chose not to address his complaints through channels that already existed. Instead, he decided to show everyone how awesome he was. Aren't we all a little like that? We're sure that our bosses don't know how exceptional we are. We're sure we can run things better. Our ideas are fresh and new, it's time to overthrow those outdated ways of doing things!
So, episode 2 dropped today and I have't listened to it yet. I don't know how the story is going to unfold. But I do feel like maybe there is something for us all to learn here. There are times when it is necessary to make a bold statement about something. But I think if you consider the bold stands that have been most successful, they have generally been taken with planning and thought and support. Rosa Parks didn't just decide to keep her seat one day, she knew that her action was part of a broader movement, a movement that she had been a part of for many years and that had a base of support from which to build. Rosa Parks is just an example but she's not the only of a "big hero" who is actually part of a vast movement of heroes.
I think we're attracted to the idea of big heroes and of being a big hero ourselves. But community is important and what I think Bowe Bergdahl's story offers us more than anything is a cautionary tale of the disastrous consequences of acting outside of our community and attempting to take matters into our own hands.
It's early and I'm willing to admit that my first impressions about the Bowe Bergdahl story might be off. I'll stick with this new season of Serial, for sure. But the first episode just made me want to take Bergdahl by the hand and tell him to grow up.