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Opening Arguments

The kiss

My sister-in-law Michelle in Texas sent out this note upon the death of World War II's Kissing Sailor:

With a heavy heart I share the news that “our” Kissing Sailor Glenn McDuffie died this week. On his last day he decided he wanted to go gambling. So, some friends took him to gamble and they enjoyed the day. On the way back Glenn admitted he didn’t feel well and thought perhaps he was having a heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors were unable to save him but he remained lucid and alert until his family could all come to bid him farewell. He even talked with his grandson on the phone to say goodbye.

We all enjoyed his attending our Dinner Dances in November; he was quite a hit the several times he was able to be with us.

She managed to get an autographed photo of him at one of the dances, and it's on her china cabinet now.

The note got my sister and I to talking about other iconic photos, and something interesting occurred to me. The two most famous photos from that war -- the kiss and the Iwo Jima flag raising -- are positive and uplifting. The two most famous ones from my war -- the running napalm girl and the general with the gun to his head -- are horrific. I'm almost tempted to say something cynical about how jaded we've become, but the truth is that both attitudes are justifiable. War is horrible, and if we're more willing to confront that fact today, good -- maybe it will make us more reluctant to enter into future ones. But the end of war is glorius and worth celebrating.

And there is this, alas:


That struck me as a very cynical remark until I found this:

Feministing.com, quoting a blogger from London known only as "Leopard," argues that "far from being a kiss between a loving couple, we learn that George and Greta were perfect strangers. We learn that George was drunk, and that Greta had no idea of his presence, until she was in his arms, with his lips on hers…It seems pretty clear, then, what George had committed was sexual assault."

"A closer look at the image in question shows corroborating details that become stomach-turning when properly viewed: the smirks on the faces of the sailors in the background; the firm grasp around the physically smaller woman in his arms such that she could not escape if she tried; the woman’s clenched fist and limp body," the website adds.

[. . .]

"The unwillingness to recognize a problem here is not surprising, considering the rape culture in which we live," "Leopard" writes in her blog. "It is not easy to assert that a woman’s body is always her own, not to be used at the whim of any man without her consent. It is far easier to turn a blind eye to the feelings of women, to claim that they should [empathize] with the man, that they should be good sports and just go along with it."

So, I guess, shame on Michelle for buying into that whole masculine patriotic crap and thus perpetuating the rape culture. Guy went out and got drunk and kissed a woman just because a long, brutal war was over! What a bastard.