Jarret Liotta is a writer. His essays and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Connecticut Magazine. He recently completed his 1st novel.
He’s a blogger, with an incisive voice and view of the world.
He calls himself a strong advocate for free speech.
But — on the heels of an incident in Fairfield last December, when 3 masked men carrying Nazi flags and shouting obscenities tried to disrupt a public Menorah lighting — Liotta has also become a strong advocate for legislation banning the public display of the Nazi flag.
The Staples graduate has written an op-ed piece for the Minuteman. He’s spoken with Jim Himes.
Now he’s trying to drum up broad-based support.
As a writer and thinking American, I understand the value of free speech better than anyone. At the same time, we as a society have determined that some things stretch beyond reasonable bounds of appropriateness.
We don’t allow the public display of pornography on American streets. Why then should we tolerate the public display of a Nazi flag? It’s a terribly potent international icon, in a class by itself for what it represents. To me, it’s a gross aberration that an intelligent society such as our should allow it, especially in 2010.
Regarding free speech, Liotta does not understand how it deserves constitutional protection any more than a written death threat.
The events of 9/11 have prompted much less tolerance in the area of threats, regardless of the validity behind them. Displaying a Nazi flag has an implicit threat, based on its intense history. They don’t allow it to be displayed publicly in Germany, its country of origin. Now, in the 21st century, in our civilized country, I see no good reason to still allow it here.
As a writer, Liotta says, he spends most of his time observing.
But when I learned about that grotesque event in Fairfield last December, I was frightened, shocked and sickened. I think it takes some emotional passion to get one active for a cause, but I also really saw a weird illogic there — that these mutants were actually allowed to display a Nazi flag in a public park like that. It just felt like some kind of strange mistake that somehow got overlooked — like somehow as we moved into the 21st century, someone forgot to repair this little bit of broken civil law.
Now I just feel compelled to try and help right that wrong.
Free speech has no conflict with restraint of obscenity. It’s clearly time for self-restraint in this country and the individuals involved are not capable of it. I’m all for this legislation. Our parents did not fight and die for freedom to be Nazis.
Slippery slope time. Today we ban this symbol tomorrow something else… Freedom of speech means we must tolerate forms of speech we don’t like. Freedom of speech is a good thing.
I read Mr. Liotta’s letter in the Minuteman and I have to applaud his efforts. I agree whole-heartedly with his sentiments. I don’t think it’s a slippery slope at all. THis is a symbol of hatred and we take more time protecting the rights of the people who fly hatred in the air rather than the rights of those that the sign is meant to physically and emotionally intimidate.
I don’t pretend to know what the correct respons to this difficult constitutional matter is. Both sides — for freedom of expression or against hateful speach/displays — make valid points. Hopefully, we as a society have evolved to a point that we can use such displays a proper teaching moments.
Separately, I can’t help but wonder why we don’t also respond in a similarly appropriate fashion when we see peoply flying a Confederate flag. Surely, it represents hateful actions, thoughts, and beliefs. Indeed, we fought a war in this country in which over 600,000 died and which still has many raw reminders. Yet we can drive through areas of New England and see flags on pick-up trucks and even on homes. How sick is that?
Overall, I don’t disagree with Harry — I saw one on the back of a pick-up truck from a local business just this week, and it shocked and disappointed me immensely! …
However, I still argue that the Nazi symbol is different — literally in a class by itself. For starters, it’s international (and actually banned in Germany already!) … More importantly, the South’s original motivations in the Civil War — while wrong and distasteful — were just not as overtly malevolent as the Nazis were in WWII. (I’d even argue that for some in the South today that flag doesn’t necessarily carry the same meaning that I, at least, attach to it.)
From its inception, however, the Nazi flag was raised over a philosophy of obliteration — and something like 11 million murders were carried out in the name of that regime. There has never been any grey area with that symbol, and simply dislaying it implicitly boasts a threat that is backed by the whole-scale murder of millions. There is no other meaning behind it, but a threat of murder and extermination.
There really is a big difference. This symbol is in a class by itself.
I have a very difficult time staying calm and reasonable when it comes to these issues. I don’t think that freedom of speech should extend to symbols that represent genocide. People are born into cultures, races, genders and sexual orientations without choice. The Nazi symbols and beliefs are based on ignorance and fear of what they do not understand.
I want to scream and yell you’re wrong, you’re stupid, you’re bad but it would not bring enlightenment to these people. It would only hurt them. Hurt people, hurt people. Guess I’ll have to kill them with love, kindness and understanding.
Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue Jarrett.
I’d like to see a ban on the phrase, “a teaching moment.”
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I’m going to veer slightly—perhaps more than slightly, because there was mention of the Confederate Flag in this discussion. As a girl who grew up in Westport and has now lived in the South for over two decades, in the State that elected Jesse Helms as our Senator multiple times, I can say that I have seen more than my share of debates and fights and crusades to ban the symbol of old Dixie. And while Liotta may think that the symbol of Dixie’s meaning is somehow transformed, water-downed or has become more ambiguous with time and exposure, I can say that the flying of the Confederate flag is no less chilling than the idea of the Nazi flag being displayed in Fairfield. How can I express to you how I feel sitting at a stoplight in my little town next to a mud-covered fully restored F-250 that sits on off-road tires taller than my little pickup truck, idling like a fire-eating dragon who drinks diesel for breakfast and of course, wears the Stars & Bars as an opaque adhesive display that fills its entire rear-window . . . a popular item that you can buy at the Walmart or the local gun shop, whichever you prefer . . . I can tell you it makes me want to have more than the three hound dogs I already own and a gun or two under my pillow at night. But the Confederate Flag is going nowhere, because the people who fly it are numerous and truly believe in their hearts that the South Will Rise Again.
I admire Liotta’s ideals and dare I say Chutzpah for taking on this fight. Its a good fight, but it will be hard-won, because Free Speech is a testy animal.
And now I want to veer again, because, its what I do best really. I hope you will read this article regarding the legislation recently passed in Texas that will broadly overhaul school curriculum and textbooks . . . this kinda thing may be coming to a town near you, well not in Connecticut, but maybe near me and it gives me the same feeling the Stars and Bars on that truck give me:
Okay Now, fight the good fight Y’all.
I think Shannon misunderstood my comments and I want to clarify. I stated that the original intent of the Stars & Bars flag was NOT what it had become. I think it’s NOW CURRENTLY IN ITS WORST MANIFESTATION, but I think a lot of its history comes from a different place. And while I’m sure most of the people displaying it are racist lunkheads, I would propose that some (perhas a tiny minority) are merely tied to a romance about the old south and may not entirely view the flag as solely a symbol of racism.
The Nazi Flag, meanwhile, BEGAN as a vehement symbol of hate and genocide, and has only become a more potent symbol over time. I’ll say it again, for I firmly believe it — IT IS IN A CLASS BY ITSELF! (Sorry to raise my voice, but I’m quickly growing tired of what I see as a somewhat knee-jerk argument comparing the two flags.)
food for thought: