Jurgen Kamm, a 32-year-old owner of a mail-order business, makes a living by selling books, T-shirts and music albums with slogan “Smash Facism!” and pictures of crossed-out swastikas on them. A court in Stuttgard fined him 3600 euros for ‘selling unconstitutional symbols’. The decision was heavily criticised and finally the Federal Court of Justice overruled it and concluded that it is not a crime to popularize clear anti-Nazi messages. However, beside the happy-end of this case, it is the best example that shows a fine line between the freedom of expression and preaching forbidden symbols and ideologies. What is more, the hesitation of the courts is obvious – it is a far more complex matter than we can even think.
Another controversial symbol is a ‘Communist’ star, which was pinned on a lapel of Atilla Vajnai, the vice president of the Workers Party in Hungary. The red star, as well as the hammer and sickle or the Nazi swastika, was banned in 1994, because it represents tyranny. Thus Vajnai was immediately handcuffed and fined. The Municipal Court convicted him of committing a misdemeanour. Then, the European Court overturned Hungarian prohibition and decided that the freedom of opinion cannot be restricted by the uneasiness that past victims of Communist violations may feel. The judgement may seem not only to be the lack of respect for older generation, but also towards the history of the XXth century.
A similar sign of violence is the flag of the Confederate States of America, very popular even these days. It is highly emotional and controversial topic as the flag stands for racism, slavery and segregation. These three were common in the US until the Civil Rights Movement. Presently, some elements of the Confederate flag can be noticed in the flags of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississipi, North Carolina and Tennessee. It may hurt feelings of many African Americans, but it is almost impossible to change all the flags and symbols that represent oppression.
When taking into consideration all the cases, one may come to conclusion that it is extremely important for the government to differentiate between the freedom of speech and the approval of committing crimes. However, according to Andrew Sullivan’s ‘What’s So Bad about Hate’:
Violence can and should be stopped by the government. In a free society, hate can’t and shouldn’t be. The boundaries between hate and prejudice and between prejudice and opinion and between opinion and truth are so complicated and blurred that any attempt to construct legal and political fire walls is a doomed and illiberal venture (601).
That is why the global society and governments should try to forget about a painful experience from the past and try to build the future together, without prejudice. People should disuse all the symbols of evil, because nobody will need them anymore.