Monday, May 27, 2013

Facsis* (for Fascis*)

"Betcha didn't know George Washington was a fascist, did you?" joked a friend of mine last week as he showed me this photo he had taken of a statue situated between the New York State Capitol and the Alfred E. Smith Building here in Albany. He then explained that the bundle of sticks at Washington's side is known as fasces, a term that ultimately gave rise to the word fascism. This ancient Roman symbol of authority and justice was apparently hijacked by Mussolini in much the same way as the Hindu "swastika" was by Hitler, and in fact had appeared on the U.S. dime well before Il Duce got his grubby little hands on it. Ironically enough, later on that same day I voted for Not-the-Nazi (as some folks were calling him) in a local election for library board. His eminently beatable opponent had been spotted posing in front of a fascist flag and spouting bigoted drivel on YouTube and Facebook, though even apart from those dubious credentials, the guy never would have stood a chance: his campaign statement on the library's website capitalized the first letter of every word (including A and The) and deployed punctuation in the most completely random way imaginable. But still. How often do you get the chance to vote against a self-proclaimed fascist? (Note that had he chosen to include this juicy tidbit in his statement, he would have upper-cased the word, making his proclivities look all the more literal.) In another bit of irony, fasces, sort of loosely defined as a bundle or band, tied me up one time in a local pub's spelling bee. Fascist and fascism can be slightly tricky words to spell, but other than that, this matter's a no-brainer. Let's keep typos for these words out of our library catalogs—and wackos with these wonts off our library boards. Facsis* was found three times in OhioLINK, and 103 times in WorldCat.

(Picture of the Washington statue in Albany, New York.)

Carol Reid

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