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February 23, 2019


I thought you’d enjoy this signs-of-the-times story. It’s good for a laugh—or perhaps a cry.

In one of my classes yesterday we were talking about current events, and a student mentioned that the soldier in the famous Times Square kissing photo had died. “Yes,” I said. “Too bad. Such a beautiful image, and such a moment of joy.” One of my least favorite students, a smug know-it-all in the back row, piped up. “You actually like that photo?” she said. “Well, yeah,” I replied, a bit taken aback. “That’s an iconic image of a moment of unbridled joy.”

“And do you think she consented to that kiss?” she said icily. “No, no she did not. That is a photo of an assault. That man should have gone to jail.”

Now, this happens with some regularity in classes these days. I don’t use Twitter, but I’m familiar with the term “wokescold,” and it’s incredibly accurate. Most of my students are just pure scolds. They’re deeply puritanical (though they have no idea who the Puritans were, given their virtually nonexistent awareness of history). So I tried to play it off a bit.

“Well, okay…” I said. “I acknowledge that it may not hold up with our contemporary standards of morality—”

“What were we even celebrating?” interjected another student, a gay man who can’t get through a sentence without mentioning that identity.

I couldn’t help it: I laughed. “Uh, winning World War II?” I said. “Pretty big deal, no?”

He scowled. “Yeah, if colonialism’s your thing.”

I admit I was dumbfounded by this, and I figured the best thing to do was escape the situation quickly. But I couldn’t help it. “What was our colonial project in that war?” I asked. “Did we go over there to occupy France? I’m pretty sure it was something more like the opposite.” This got a couple laughs, which helped defuse the tension, and even the student in question chuckled and rolled his eyes. I turned back to the girl. “So,” I said. “You don’t like this photo, I take it.”

“No,” she said. “It should not be shown to people.”

“Hang on,” I said. “Because this feels like an important point. Do you mean this photo should be banned? Kept out of public view?”

“Exactly,” she said. “Why should I be forced to see a woman’s sovereignty violated? That’s a picture of a victim, and nothing else. There’s nothing to celebrate.”

But what did Greta Friedman, the woman in the photo, think of that moment?

How horrific was the assault on Greta Friedman? Well, afterwards, she went back into her office… and never even mentioned the kiss. That’s right: it made that big of an impact on her. And what has she done in the decades since the terrible, awful, earth-shattering assault? Reunited with him several times. She even reenacted the kiss in 1980, and speaks of it in overwhelmingly positive terms.

Well, I think he was the one who made me famous, because he took the action. I was just the bystander. So, I think he deserves a lot of credit. Actually, by the photographer creating something that was very symbolic at the end of a bad period…it was a wonderful coincidence a man in a sailor’s uniform and a woman in a white dress… and a great photographer at the right time.

So nowhere does Friedman actually call it assault. After the fact, she went back to work proclaiming that the war was over. And in the decades after that iconic moment, she repeatedly took the time to meet up with the sailor in the photograph.

But the woman “assaulted” doesn’t get to say whether or not she was assaulted, right? That’s up for the feminazis to decide, because clearly, women are too dumb to make those kinds of judgements for themselves.

When exactly does the Great Relearning that Tom Wolfe promised us in the late 1980s actually begin?