Sadly, I’ve lost many loved ones over the years, attending more funerals than weddings and christenings put together. As I result, I’m better versed than many on the inexorable cycle of grief, and the rocky road that is the healing process. I would never be so arrogant as to say I know how to deal with it better, but I am more familiar with the journey and its concurrent emotions - and only because of direct, painful experience.
Touch wood, however, I’ve never lost anyone truly close to me in mysterious circumstances, so I cannot know how that must feel. I cannot know therefore how bewildered the desperate families of missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 must be to set up a crowd-sourced whistle-blower fund, “Reward MH370”, in the hopeful belief that someone, somewhere must know what happened to the jet that went missing two months’ ago with 239 people on board.
Nor, can I know the overwhelming terror, guilt, worry and helplessness that Gerry and Kate McCann must endure daily as they continue to search for answers regarding the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine, seven years ago. As the police dig in Praia de Luz, and stories fly around the possibility of “interviewing”three people, these events pass for “latest developments”, whereas in truth there have been no meaningful developments since that infamous May night.
I have also – luckily – never had to deal with a child or other loved one being known to have been kidnapped, taken or otherwise held, apparently against their will, an occurrence rare even that the two preceding cases. Could you or I accurately and meaningfully put ourselves therefore in the shoes of Robert Bergdahl, the father of Bowe, the US soldier released in a prisoner swap with the Taliban after five years in captivity. Yes, the one who grew a beard and learned Pashto, and who is being destroyed for it in the American media.
Bergdahl senior has now received at least four death threats as rumours swirl about the nature of both Bowe’s capture and subsequent release. Was Bowe a deserter? Did he ‘go native’ or ‘turn’ like Sgt Brody in Homeland? Whatever the truth, was his release worth trading five Guantanamo terrorist suspects for?
We can all debate that one safely, freely and dispassionately. Just as some of us can “tut” over the supposed “waste” of time and resources in continuing the hunt for Madeleine McCann, and criticize her parents as “delusional”. The same charge of course is being levelled – at least in private – at the MH370 relatives, whose belief in a cover-up has already won its place in some people’s great conspiracies list alongside 9/11 and the JFK assassination.
So, I don’t know how I would feel in any of those situations because I have never been exposed to them. Except, that is, in one regard. If I was a relative of a missing passenger, if I were the parent of a long-lost child or if my son or daughter had been held captive, I would want the authorities to move heaven and earth and more to find out whatever the hell had happened and act to find them and bring them home. That much I know. That much I know that any of you would feel too if it was your child, husband, wife, parent, sibling or other relative.
In these moments we need to have faith in those who govern though. So, yes, it does matter what Obama traded in return for Bowe; what the Portuguese and British police forces did or did not do in time, and what the Malaysian government does and does not know about that plane’s disappearance. But, attacking the relatives? Where is our humanity? Heaven forbid it should happen to you.