“Fourth of July parade, 2011, Independence, Calif.,” by photographer Craig Semetko, from his project “America — E Pluribus Unum” (©Craig Semetko, 2012)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way images, entertainment, the news and language are socializing us into accepting a perpetual state of violence, with the mass shooting at the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in the Aurora, Colo., theater on July 20 in mind.
Comic-books-into-movies is one of the most successful genres of recent times but it polarizes conflict into simplistic notions of good versus evil. Add in recent television series such as CBS’s “The Unit,” which taught military women how to behave as army wives. Now “Stars Earn Stripes” on NBC employs retired Gen. Wesley Clark to host the reality show. He told The New Republic that youth could now “see the military through the eyes of [singer] Nick Lachey, and think, look at what these people are doing. Pretty interesting, pretty tough, pretty awesome.” In the series premiere he tells us we will learn what it is like to be a soldier while Lachey says, “Nothing prepares you for battle like a boy band.”
To turn war, justified or not, into a manufactured competitive game trivializes honor. On the other hand, to a couple of generations raised on military video games, a television series such as “Stars Earn Stripes” might prove another arm of a most effective recruitment tool: entertainment.
War is a playground, a really cool playground! I didn’t say it. In airing this danger-free artificiality as entertainment, NBC did.
The words Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke at a screening of the 2011 documentary “The Last Mountain” continue to indict the American audience as “the best entertained and least informed people on the face of the Earth.”
A close relative was expecting a baby last year. Her husband was in the military overseas. In her excitement, and in solidarity with her husband, she posted on Facebook a picture of the camouflage outfit she purchased for the newborn. How is dressing babies and children in camouflage a good thing?
I was talking to a Catholic actor here in Los Angeles recently about this phenomenon. He sent me a photo taken this year of a “float” in a July 4 parade; the photographer gave his permission to print it here. What story does this picture tell? What Gospel values are reflected here? What does it mean? Does it make a difference? Are my feelings of horror justified? What were their parents thinking?
Continue reading my here The Media’s Part in the Culture of Guns