The original image is so iconic that it is immediately recognizable and so open to reuse and reinterpretation. It gets used in advertising around Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It's been on posters, stamps, memorabilia, sold and resold for 70 years.
I got an email from a friend this morning with an article about the gay pride parody of the Iwo Jima flag raising. If you haven't seen it, here it is.
He was offended by it. For reasons having to do with having served in the Marine Corps and identifying with the incredible sacrifice of those who fought on Iwo Jima and what the image has meant to generations of Marines and the the country.
I'm not saying he's wrong to be offended. I am saying that there's nothing to be done about it. Free speech and free expression are so important that my support for this artist's rights to express himself in just about any way he wants is absolute.
I do not think that this artist, or anyone who has not served in combat,
can understand what the fighting on Iwo Jima really was like for the
men who fought there. That doesn't change my views on his right to use
the image. All of us are free to speak, make art, and otherwise express
ourselves in ways that we choose.
Let's go one further. My support for this other artist's rights to express himself in just about any way he wants is absolute, too.
We can't have it any other way. If you start censoring things because someone is offended, there is no place to stop, because someone is always offended. One of the freedoms those Marines were defending in WWII was the right to free speech. It's up to us to decide if we are willing to defend it, too.