I suppose in the grand scheme of crapola that is major network television, a show where has-beens and desperately-wish-they-could-bes get to play at being army men isn’t the worst possible fare. “Stars Earn Stripes” is an NBC show in which quasi-celebrities compete in various military-themed competitions to earn cash for charity (the show’s promoters mention this every 15 seconds).
There’s worse out there, but notables including Stephen Colbert and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu oppose this particular show. They believe it glorifies war, and dishonors those who suffer in wars. Predictable voices retaliate with predictable name-calling.
I saw one of the show’s play actors, Andrew McLaren, on a stuffed-couch gab fest that passes for news programming. He wore a black muscle shirt, and camo pants, and a garish cross. His thick arms and shoulders were covered with tattoos, and if you were to mute the station, he could pass for any of the smirking know-nothings on “Jersey Shore.” The difference is that McLaren is a former soldier.
He is also, however, shallow-minded and preening and thuggish. On his Facebook page he announces that he is “above all a loyal and humble servant to Jesus Christ.” McLaren’s proclamation of humility sits approximately one inch from a picture of him posing shirtless, muscles flexed, cap on backwards, automatic weapon held not like a soldier but like a movie actor. His declaration of Christian character sits about seven inches from this announcement: “To Stephen Colbert fake news reporter, Desmond Tutu and the other 8 noble (sic) peace prize tree hugging hypocrites I say kiss my ass.”
Classy. [Note: The "kiss my ass" quote has since been removed.]
On McLaren’s website, his hagiographers explain that he left a promising career as an actor and model for military service, something to which he was drawn for “the challenge/physical fitness, to gain life experience, travel, and to pay for college.”
I know these are reasons many young people join the military, but others join to serve and protect their country. These are the soldiers this dimwit claims to represent and work on behalf of, as he grasps his fifteen minutes of sweaty notice.
It may be unpatriotic, any more, to have these opinions about a former soldier. Or even non-soldiers, for that matter; even a part-time firefighter in Iowa may now feel entitled to the honor his New York City cousins earned on 9/11.
In all likelihood this claim to transitive nobility doesn’t originate with the Iowa firefighter, with the soldier whose service never carried him into harm’s way. It originates with the self-promoters who need to bathe him in glory so they can stand next to him and have this artificial light reflected onto themselves. It’s a shame when those self-promoters themselves once wore a military uniform.
So by all means, if the masses want more realistic circuses, and this is the only way to funnel money to charities serving actual heroes with actual wounds, then let’s watch Todd Palin trudge through the mud dressed like a soldier. It would be nice, however, if NBC could find more exemplary soldiers to represent the show. That may, in fact, be what is most insulting about it — not that it pretends to tell viewers what real combat is like, but that it trots out dishonorable clowns who are nothing like the soldiers many of us have the good fortune to know.