Oh, Kiss Me, Beneath the Offended Twilight

I’ll start by making a clean breast: I wanted this column to be a nice sharp crop against Mitt Romney’s carefully coiffed mop. The outgoing senator threw a mini-tiff on CNN, declaring his disinclination to vote for his party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.

I wanted to rhetorically rip Romney a new purple tush cushion for his sheer pettiness. Then I realized I dashed off an ani-Mitt-version one October ago. Also our dear editor gave me a sound piece of advice: don’t pay too much attention to the election. Few Americans outside the Beltway are following the horse race this early. They have these funny little things called “lives” to attend to. Must be nice!

Enough fussiness, on to this column’s focus: the most iconic snog in American lore. The famed photo “V-J Day in Times Square,” which shutter-captured an American serviceman laying a juicy one on unsuspecting orderly admist a crowd of revelers, is, I regret to inform all celluloid osculation fans, canceled. (Or is it “cancelled”? It appears the Brits are fond of the double-L variant, and they were once imperialistic conquerors spreading their char and wad across our blue orb, so the censorious rules dictate “cancelled” users be canceled as well.)

A memorandum was issued by the Department of Veteran Affairs announcing the pecking photo was going to be removed “from all Veterans Health Administration Facilities” in order to maintain a “safe, respectful, and trauma-informed environment.” The memo was signed by Assistant Undersecretary for Health for Operations RimaAnn O. Nelson, who, not to be gratuitously cruel, looks like she could use a tender smooch.

I’m not the only one who thought Undersecretary Nelson was out of line, or even underhanded. Her expurgating edict was rescinded on order of Secretary Denis McDonough, who tweeted: “Let me be clear: This image is not banned from VA facilities—and we will keep it in VA facilities.”

The entire bill-and-coo-hubbub probably wouldn’t have happened without what appears to be a posting by viral account “End Wokeness.” Popular outrage can apparently jolt the scandal-plague VA into changing its wall decor, but not improve the lackluster care it provides veterans who got PTSD fighting in vain to transmogrify Kabul into the Comitium.

But why did it happen is an instructive question to answer, or, as the critical-theory kids say, interrogate. This was no mere oversight, nor a do-gooder blunder. It was a semiotic assault, an attempted Orwellian erasure of American history.

Believe me, I’m not trying to pearl-clutch over a bugbear, or over exaggerate for clicks, or just spice up some lean grizzle to add flavor to this column. (Well, maybe I’m dashing a little Borsari here and there between consonants. Only nerds enjoy a dry polemic.)

Nearly every American over the age of six recognizes “V-J Day in Times Square” and what it represents: the young exuberance of winning an all-out war. It’s a moment of American triumph, touching off the post-war boom that rewarded our country with decades of stability and peace—except for, inter alia, Korea, Vietnam, presidential assassinations, thousands of domestic bombings, and riots. But the narrative more or less holds: the United States experienced a big hop in living standards following the Axis’s defeat. The snapped sailor—later identified as George Mendonsa—and nurse—later identified as dental assistant Greta Zimmer—were captured in the lip-locked throes of passion in our most iconic city, as Japanese Emperor Hirohito waved the white flag to Uncle Sam.

Or, and this is what’ll trigger the #MeToo-marms, Mendonsa was caught up in the joviality, and poor Zimmer was a victim of a drive-by smooching. “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed,” she admitted to the Library of Congress in 2005. An obvious unknowing victim and clearly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome to Life magazine, Zimmer justified her assailant’s behavior, reasoning, “he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war.” So Mendonsa, being a creeping white cis-oppressor in naval digs, transferred this trauma onto Zimmer, violating her sacred autonomy with his menacing lips and lustful grip.

At least, I’m sure that’s how Undersecretary “no fun” Nelson sees it. In her miserable eyes, “V-J Day in Times Square” is a relic of a less sophisticated time when consent forms weren’t required canoodling. So into the memory hole the photo nearly went, were it not for intrepid meme-warriors who raised an online stink in the slop pit known as Twitter.

Now comes the part of the column that will get me heaved, ape-ish hands on my collar and backside, out of our cultural longhouse by a husky gal named Lola: there was nothing wrong with Nelson’s surprise smackeroo. Zimmer miraculously survived the brief dip, going on to live a long life into the 21st century. This isn’t Richard Dawkins’s defense of “mild” pedophiliac abuse because “no lasting harm” was done. Just a recognition that spontaneous passion can be licit, even charming or funny.

Contra the Puritans and progressives, the careful dance of the sexes isn’t always a black-and-white, “you can’t do that!” affair. There’s more than a touch of gray with lots of foggy-to-navigate ambiguity. “[M]ost sexual consent is passive and implied”, says Kyle Smith. Mendonsa was a passive party to the most famous embrace in American pop-culture. She’s only a victim if killjoys like Nelson get away with their woke give-it-a-name ploy.

“V-J Day in Times Square” is safe in VA offices for now—but only until we accept the fourth-wave feminist delusion that all women are wilted flowers, and all men are incorrigible libidomineers.

With that defense of a coerced dally, I relinquish myself to the confines of the #MeToo hoosegow. Maybe President Romney will deign to give me a pardon… just kidding! Romney’s schlepping his spite back to Utah at the end of the year, the curious state where each resident manages to have eight kids without ever unbuttoning their pressed shirts. Nelson should tag along with Mitt to that sexless paradise.

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Free the People publishes opinion-based articles from contributing writers. The opinions and ideas expressed do not always reflect the opinions and ideas that Free the People endorses. We believe in free speech, and in providing a platform for open dialog. Feel free to leave a comment!

Taylor Lewis

Taylor Lewis writes from Virginia.

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