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Rev. Susan Russell Headshot

'Stars Earn Stripes': Thoughts From a Veteran's Mom

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You can ask my wife. Every single time the commercial came on during the Olympics promoting the debut of Stars Earn Stripes -- the glorifying combat, turning the horrors of war into a game show, 21st century version of Roman gladiators in the Coliseum pseudo-reality show -- I ranted about what a travesty it was. Every. Single. Time. (And we watched a lot of Olympic coverage so we saw the commercial many times!)

So how delighted was I to get word that I am not only not alone -- but I stand in the company of not one but nine Nobel Peace Prize winners saying the same thing -- Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Betty Williams. More or less.

From their letter to NBC:
It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.

NBC, responding to the charges, said that Stars Earn Stripes is "about thanking the young Americans who are in harm's way every day. This show is not a glorification of war, but a glorification of service."

Well, I have a response to their response. And just to be clear -- I'm wearing two hats for the occasion.

The first one is my "give-peace-a-chance"/"war is not healthy for children and other living things" conviction forged in the crucible of the '70s, honed into a deep antipathy to military solutions in the service of empire building rather than diplomatic initiatives in the service of bridge building" hat.

Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know. We live in a different world. The threat of attack from terrorist ideologues challenges old paradigms. Which is why I'm not a pacifist. Wish I was sometimes, truly. But I just can't go there in the face of Rwanda. Or Bosnia. Or al-Qaeda. Wish I didn't believe that sometimes in a world beset by violence that counter-violence wasn't a necessary option.

But there's a difference between understanding war as a regrettably necessary option and exploiting war for mid-season ratings. And that's where I put my second hat on.

The second one is my "mother of an Army veteran, Blackhawk helicopter crew chief who served a 15-month stint in Iraq and two special-ops deployments in Afghanistan, don't you DARE trivialize the lives and sacrifices of our troops still in harm's way by reducing their service to a glorified game show" hat.

Enough is enough. And so -- with both of my Anti-War/Pro-Vets hats firmly in place and in the fine company of nine Nobel Peace Prize winners -- this anti-war/pro-veteran mom is calling on NBC to be ashamed of themselves.

You "thank young Americans in harm's way" by working to end war -- not by glorifying it. And you "glorify service" by rewarding their sacrifice with health, education and employment benefits that serve our veterans -- not by exploiting their sacrifice with a game show that benefits your stockholders.

We may not all be Nobel Peace Prize winners who can get media attention for our opposition but we still have a voice. Sign the petition here. If you're a Twitter person send this tweet out today:
.@NBC has created a war-o-tainment reality show w/ no role for reality -- Protest #starsearnstripes here: bit.ly/O2wlRN
Speak out. Step up. Go. Do it. Now. Seriously!