It isn't easy to swim against the current, even when you know it's the right thing to do.
And especially when you're a teenager.
But that's the decision Jordan Blue faced one day last May when a large group of boys from his Wisconsin high school stood for a photograph and many appeared to raise their arms in a Nazi salute — and Blue said he refused to go through with it.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
He wasn't the only Baraboo High School boy who didn't join the crowd that day, and Blue told WTMJ-TV he wouldn't have been in the photo at all had he known what was about to go down "because I don't believe that is right."
Blue told NBC Nightly News that he's "very upset" and the photo "doesn't represent who I am as a person. And for that symbol to be posed in a photo it's very disrespectful."
I spoke with the only student who is visibly not comfortable with the “salute”, he provided this statement. https://t.co/HbNBc8xLOK— Jules Suzdaltsev (@Jules Suzdaltsev) 1542037631.0
What's the background?
The photo in front of the Sauk County Courthouse was taken in connection with last spring's junior prom, WTMJ reported.
Jen Turkington — wife of Baraboo High School's football coach and whose son is in the photo — told WMTV-TV that a parent who often takes photos of school events asked the boys to give the "high sign."
Image source: WMTV-TV video screenshot
"The boys weren’t quite sure what to do," Terkington told the station. "Some were waving high, some were raising their hand high, just sort of looking around at one another — 'What should we do?' — and that was it."
What did the photographer have to say?
Pete Gust, the photographer behind the viral image, said he simply asked the students to wave goodbye to their parents and that he takes the blame for the timing of the shot, The Associated Press reported.
Gust, whose son appears in the photo, told the outlet there was no intention “in any way, shape or form to simulate anything that was offensive to anyone" and that the boys’ arms were extended in various stages of being raised when the shot was taken.
Of note, one boy in the front row appears to be surreptitiously making the "OK" symbol, which the "alt-right" often uses in photos to troll the media into saying it represents "white power."
Gust posted the photo on his website, Wheel Memories, the AP said. And while the image wasn't up Tuesday in the site's prom photos section, the following message was:
Updated page: due to malevolent behavior on the part of some in society; this page has been modified. It is too bad that there are those in society who can and do take the time to be jerks; knowingly and willingly to be jerks! The internet can be a wonderful tool but for some there is an overwhelming urge to destroy. The destruction may not be physical but instead, it can be bullying that is intellectual or emotional. To anyone that was hurt I sincerely apologize.
To those who have harmed them, we as society often ignore them I have chosen not to do that. YOU ARE JERKS! Grow up!
What are school district officials — and others — saying?
Baraboo Superintendent Lori Mueller told WMTV she became aware of the photo Monday after it was posted on social media, that it doesn't reflect the district's values, and that administrators will pursue appropriate action.
The district told parents in a letter that school officials "are extremely troubled by the image," the station added.
The Baraboo School Board met Monday afternoon and discussed the photo, WMTV said, and dozens of protesters gathered Monday afternoon outside the Sauk County Courthouse over the image.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers said the photo has "no place in Wisconsin," the station reported.
Evers said "as elected officials, we have a responsibility to lead by example for a generation growing up in a climate where they see this behavior condoned" and emphasized that "intolerance and bigotry must never be tolerated, in our schools or anywhere else," WMTV added.
Baraboo police also are investigating the photo, the station said.
The Auschwitz Memorial tweeted that the photo represents "why every single day we work hard to educate. We need to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising. Auschwitz with its gas chambers was at the very end of the long process of normalizing and accommodating hatred."