Original image by Joe Rosenthal/The Associated Press.
Second image by Ed Freeman/ Getty Images
During World War II, on February 23, 1945, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped a picture of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising an American flag on Mount Suribachi, the highest summit on Iwo Jima, an island in the Pacific island.
Rosenthal’s photograph received a Pulitzer Prize; it became the centerpiece of a multi-billion dollar war bond effort. And it inspired the Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
It’s one of those iconic images; it stands for struggle, for battle, honor, perseverance, and a fight for freedom and equality.
Some ten years ago photographer Ed Freeman recreated that same image to capture the struggle for LGT rights, featuring four men raising the Rainbow flag. To me, and I would think to many, it represented our struggle, our battle, our perseverance, and our fight for freedom and equality.
In other words, both images speak to me in the same tone.
And yet, in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage — or as it is called now, ‘marriage’ — legal in all fifty states, Freeman’s image was resurrected around the internet and, well, people, some people, are not happy.
In fact, the resurgence of a decades-old photograph spurred a gay rights struggle in a photograph for the cover of Frontiers, a backlash against Freeman, including a death threat he reported to the FBI.
“He said if he ever saw me, he’d kill me. I got swamped with vitriolic hate mail.” — Ed Freeman
Reaction on Twitter was also bitter:
Taylor Paulk @taypaulk
“Altering the American flag colors & trying to remake the "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima" photograph with the gay pride flag is degrading”
First off, Tay, the colors of the American flag were not altered; in fact, the original photograph was not even used at all. Freeman’s picture is a recreation, and an homage, to the original. Get you facts straight, for lack of a better word.
Jacob Anthony @LabGrappler_95
“The gay flag remake of the flag that flew at Iwo Jima is just insulting to America and those who have died for this country”
Well, Jacob, is it a disgrace to all the gay men and women who served in this country, most in secret for fear of repercussions, even criminal trials, were they to be openly gay? And, to be queer, there were a lot of gay men, and women, who have died for this country.
“Alright, I'm glad for gay marriage but I've been seeing the flag changed to rainbow. And in specific The Iwo Jima depiction, that's not cool”
Again, the American flag was not changed one bit for Freeman’s picture; his was a new image, m’kay?
Ed Freeman, who just happens to be gay, was also attacked on Facebook when he posted this:
“When I took this picture almost ten years ago, it never, never occurred to me that it would someday come to symbolize the victory we are celebrating today. Congratulations to all of us! Love to you all.”
And this is what he got back:
“Im all for gay rights and equal for all but DO NOT DISRESPECT THOSE WHO SERVED, SACRIFICED, AND DIED FOR YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RIGHTS AND FREEDOM. Its this [expletive] that will drive ppl to hate on you. You WANT RESPECT THEN GIVE IT TO THOSE WHO DESERVE AND EARNED IT.”
Um, wow. So gay people do not deserve respect? Gay people have not sacrificed and died for their country in war? And again, this a ten year old photo, that Freeman created suing models and Photoshop, to represent the struggle, and the battle, for LGBT rights.
It is not disrespectful.
“The principle complaint that people have is that I am equating the gay struggle with the contribution and sacrifice of American servicemen, but there is no equal sign here. This is not meant as a sign of disrespect. For God sake, no. I totally support people in uniform. There is no comparison going on here. The comparison is going on in people’s heads, and they’re spoiling for a fight. They’re already on edge because of the gay marriage decision.” — Ed Freeman
And it’s annoying because this image has been used for other groups, too, with little to no outrage. I mean, where was the shock and vitriol when Old Glory beer used the image? Or when the Hard Rock Café used a similar image to create a button they could sell for a profit? Howsabout when Time magazine used a similar image on their cover, with a tree replacing the American flag for an article about global warming?
Are people upset only because there’s a Rainbow flag? And if that’s the case, maybe these people better get their panties fully twisted because, as a joke, mainly, someone suggested to Ed Freeman that he recreate the planting of the American flag on the moon with the planting of a Rainbow flag up there.
Look, here’s the deal: Freeman’s picture is an homage; it compares the struggle during war time for freedom with the struggle for decades and decades for LGBT rights.
It symbolizes perseverance and struggle, and how is that ever a bad thing?