On the Sarasota, Florida, waterfront there is a 28-foot statue of a sailor named George Mendonsa kissing a dental assistant, Greta Friedman. It recreates a famous moment photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt as Times Square was alive with the joyful enthusiasm of V-J Day, the end of the war with Japan and the end of the Second World War.
Mendonsa mistook Friedman's dental assistant uniform for that of a nurse. He later explained that he hugged and kissed her because of his overwhelming gratitude for the work nurses had performed while he was in combat in the Navy, because of his elation over the war ending and because he had had a few drinks. As he put it, it was "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."
Sarasota Herald-Tribune columnist Chris Anderson, commenting on the statue, acknowledged that the statue "represents euphoria, innocence, romance, nostalgia and a level of unity and pride this country arguably has not seen since V-J Day." But, he added, "Is it possible that thousands upon thousands of people over the last seven years have come to the Sarasota waterfront to unwittingly pose in front of a giant depiction of a sexual assault?"
The New York Times obituary of Friedman felt compelled to note that "In recent years, some have noted its darker undertones." Among the examples cited was Time Magazine, which in 2014 had written, "many people view the photo as little more than the documentation of a very public sexual assault, and not something to be celebrated."
I do not know if Mendonsa is still alive--Friedman cannot testify against him as she has died--but there is certainly enough evidence to bring this sexual predator to trial, like an ancient and decrepit Nazi prison guard, and vent our righteous fury.
We simply live in better times now.