The whole way home

"Alive, well and free." That's how Jimmy Carter characterized the 52 Americans after they were flown to freedom. And that's how the American people ought to think of the former captives as they prepare for the happy welcome home. Such thoughts are needed in the face of all the devilish talk now about how long it will take the ex-hostages to overcome the psychological ordeal of their captivity and to be restored to normal life. Idle speculation of this kind should be kept in check and the weight of the nation's expectations placed on the side of the Americans' God-given right to and capacity for mental vigor, joy, and dominion. That will help them most of all.

This is not being Pollyanna-ish. Nor is it to fail to recognize the legitimate concerns of families and friends. We know from the experiences of prisoners of war that many returnees have indeed faced problems of readjustment, sometimes grave ones. It is proper that the US government provide those medical and other services deemed useful in helping the freed Americans if they need such help. The healing motives and efforts of psychologists and psychiatrists who devote so much thought to this specialized area of concern are not in question.

But it bears pointing out that there are as many opinions and forecasts about the state of the ex-hostages as there are pyschiatric specialists. These range from dire predictions on the one hand to optimistic assertions on the other that the long period of incarceration may actually have strengthened the Americans. Unfortunately, some in the news media are far more eager to seize upon the bleak prognostications than the hopeful ones. No sooner does the nation rid itself of one disaster, it seems, than the media rush frantically to find another one with which to engage readers. Almost as if they and their audience could not bear unalloyed good news.

The sad thing is that prophecies can become self-fulfilling if believed enough. Even medical practitioners stress the importance of keeping thought buoyant. We would go further. Rather than take in the forebodings being peddled, we hope the former hostages' families, friends, and millions of fellow citizens go on placing their trust in divine Providence to bring the captives the wholem way home -- home in spirit and mind as well as body. The great Psalmist who praised Him who "led captivity captive" was also able to affirm, "He restoreth my soul." I would be a faltering faith that failed to acknowledge the power of God to protect His children not only from physical but mental harm.

The courageous 52 should not be set upon avidly like so many guinea pigs for experimental research. Theym should be permitted to set the pace and to say what they may or may not require by way of psychiatric care. What we have seen of them so far is reassuring. Surely the nation's untiring prayers and the flood of affection bound to envelop them upon arriving home will support them through the period ahead no less than during the grim days left behind.

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