Close up of Kuiper turning his head away from the camera

Unconditional Surrender

Wider angle shot showing Kuiper turning away from a statue of a sailor kissing a woman

Kuiper has a think.

This is Unconditional Surrender at the Embarcadero in San Diego. Several statues were made of 1 (actually 2) of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century. “V-J in Times Square” by Alfred Eisenstaedt (as well as a photo taken simultaneously by Victor Jorgensen) capture a sailor kissing a woman in a white dress. On August 14, 1945, Japan had surrendered to the United States. WWII was effectively over.

The photograph is touching, but there’s a problem: this wasn’t a reunion between a sailor and his girlfriend. Alfred & Victor photographed a drunk man grabbing a stranger. Greta Friedman, the woman in the photo, later recounted to CBS news, “I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this tight grip.” George Mendonsa (the man) also recounted, “The excitement of the war bein’ over, plus I had a few drinks, so when I saw the nurse I grabbed her, and I kissed her.”

(Greta was not really a nurse, but rather a dental assistant. George had mistaken her for a military nurse like those on a hospital ship that had saved some of his crewmates. He had been serving on the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill when his ship was attacked by kamikazes and exploded into flames.)

Surprisingly, Greta didn’t seemed hugely bothered (though she declined to reenact the kiss in 2012.) George and Greta’s families even ended up exchanging Christmas cards. Greta’s son Josh told the NY Daily News, “My mom always had an appreciation for a feminist viewpoint, and understood the premise that you don’t have a right to be intimate with a stranger on the street..[but] she didn’t assign any bad motives to George in that circumstance, that situation, that time.”

That’s how Greta felt. HOWEVER. When asked in 2016 if the grabbing and kissing would still be appropriate today, George said, “Well, sure.” Do you agree with George, or do you think times have changed since 1945?

According to a 2016 study by Portland State, people 65 and older are 15x more likely to vote than folks ages 18-34. Do you find that as concerning as I do? Be heard. Be a voter this November.

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