A bunch of high school boys took a junior prom photo while making a Nazi salute because, well, it's 2018.
The image is chilling. A group of about 50 teen boys smiling and laughing while the vast majority of them make what appears to be the "Sieg Heil" salute. An innocent misunderstanding? A silly, tasteless joke? An immature attempt at trolling? A bunch of white supremacists emboldened by our current political climate?
This is 2018, where anything is possible. But whatever it was, the photo of Baraboo, Wisconsin high schoolers shared by journalist Jules Suzdaltsev on Twitter was gross. There's nothing innocent or funny about the Holocaust, which every human being on Earth should know by the time they're juniors in high school.
Shout out to the young men who didn't participate and were not amused.
We all remember the pressure to fit in that comes along with the teens years. Chances are good that most of us did some things we wouldn't have done if it we weren't just going along with the crowd.
But there are limits to what we allow peer pressure to do. If people are raising their arm in a Nazi salute for any reason, that's when alarm bells should go off in any decent person's head. And they did for at least a few of the boys in that photo.
One boy, Jordan Blue, made this statement after the photo was shared:
"My name is Jordan Blue, I am the boy captured in the photo to the far right. The photo was taken during our Junior Prom Photos. I clearly am uncomfortable, with what was happening. I couldn't leave the photo as it was taken within 5 seconds. The photographer took the photos telling us to make the sign, I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I firmly didn't believe in. I attend BHS, these classmates have bullied me since entering middle school, I have struggled with it my entire life and nothing has changed. These are the boy [sic] of Class of 2019, nothing has been done and my question is... With [sic] anything ever be done. I truly & firmly believe we need to make a change to this horrible act, it needs to stop. Bullying, immaturity, and just taking things as a 'joke'..."
People are comparing Blue to the famed man in a photo from actual Nazi Germany, standing alone with his arms crossed in a disturbing sea of Sieg Heils.
Unfortunately, Blue is also reportedly receiving threats from his community. Stand strong, Jordan.
So many questions, like why the hell did the photographer tell the students to make this sign?
Photographer Peter Gust has said that the gestures in the photo were "innocent" and that the boys were waving to their parents.
"The last picture that I shot," he told Madison365, "I said, ‘All right boys, you’re on the steps. … give me a high sign, a wave that you’re saying goodbye to your parents. And I called it high five, ‘give me a high five.’ … And so I stuck my hand up, and I said, ‘this is what I want.'”
“I didn’t tell them to salute anything,” he said. “There was none of that that was taken at that point in time that it was a salute of any kind. It was waving goodbye to their parents (and) having a good time. High five. There was nothing that diminished the quality of anyone’s life. There was nothing that diminished anyone’s stature in society, there was nothing that was intended to point a finger at anyone in their class who may have some kind of difference. There was none of that.”
Except that's not how Jordan Blue remembers it. He told Madison365 that the photographer didn't tell them to wave to their parents, merely to raise one arm, "which doesn’t give a bunch of teenagers a lot of guidance on how to raise their hands." He said he felt that many of the boys made the Nazi salute on purpose.
“I felt upset, unsafe, disappointed and scared," said Blue. "I felt unsafe because I go to school with them, I don’t believe in what they represented and the symbol they shared … they knew it was wrong, but they still did it.”
There is no reasonable excuse for this photo.
Do you wave goodbye or high-five people with your arm straight out and your palm facing down despite the fact that it makes you look like you're praising Hitler? Yeah, me neither.
If you're an adult and you see a bunch of teenagers making what appears to be a Nazi salute, do you snap a photo of them and share it without recognizing how horrible it looks? Yeah, me neither.
If Jordan Blue recognized the symbol and chose not to participate within five seconds, you would think the adults taking the photo would have at least seen how the optics looked even if it were just an innocent wave.
But considering the messages Jules Suzdaltsev has received from kids who had been bullied by racists at Baraboo high school, the chances of this photo being completely innocent are pretty slim.
So high fives (with palms out, like the average non-Nazi) to the kids who stood their ground and refused to be part of this ugly scene.
And an extra high five to Suzdaltsev's grandma, who wins everything today: