On the bundle of arrows

I am saddened and appalled at the sight of fascism amongst us, after seeing the stickers left by the Patriot Front after having ripped the Black Lives Matter banner. One of the stickers depicted the fascist symbol of a bundle of arrows, which is a direct derivation from the “fasces” (from the Latin fascis, is), a word that is the etymological stem of the word “fascism.”

 The fasces was a bundle of rods with an axe projecting, carried by lictors before the Roman magistrates as a symbol of power of life and death. It’s also carried by Cincinnatus in his statue in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. In the Middle Ages, the rods in the bundle became a bundle of arrows, as it can be seen in the badge of the unified kingdoms of Castilla and Aragon in the late fifteenth century. It still symbolized national unity and strength in many national emblems. That’s exactly what the rods represent in the eagle’s claw on the American seal designed in the late eighteenth century, under the motto “E pluribus Unum.” Thus, after the American and the French revolutions, many other modern nations founded in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as Bolivia, Ecuador, and Cuba, included the fasces or the bundle of arrows in their seals as a symbol of unity and strength. But that symbolic value has substantially changed in modern times. 

In 1934, the fascist Spanish Phalanx adopted the bundle of arrows in their flag, and since then it has become an exclusive symbol of fascist organizations. The Patriot Front might try to conceal it by alleging that their display of the bundle of arrows refers to the meaning in the American seal rather than to the fascist tradition. That would be a fallacy; no political group today chooses to use the fasces or the bundle of arrows innocently.

Symbols are powerful cultural tools of communication that evolve and change over time, but its meaning is unmistakable at each historical moment within the symbol’s culture. Thus, an ancient Sanskrit symbol of life and rebirth, such as the swastika, became a symbol of horror and death in twentieth century Germany. No one in our culture today could dissociate the swastika from what it means and connotes today as an attempt to display it as just “a Sanskrit symbol of life.” The latter example is analogous to the bundle of arrows. Both swastikas and the bundle of arrows are terrifying symbols in our culture, and they both refer to fascism.

I don’t know any members of the Patriot Front, but I address them now. I grew up in the left-wing dictatorship of Fidel Castro in Cuba and then the right-wing dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile. I know the pits of anti-democratic systems. The other image displayed by the Patriot Front oncampus suggested the fascism as an option for communism. This is another fallacy for two reasons. First, each of these two “options” convey strong anti-democratic values, and neither one of them have proven to be good for any society. The second reason is that there is no “communist” threat among us, but there is a fascist one that exacerbates racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and misogyny. Promoting social equality, anti-racism, universal healthcare or free education is not communism; it is fundamental human rights, human decency.

I personally know that, at some point, there might be good, or well intentioned, people inside a wrong —or even an evil— organization, at least for a while. If any member of the Patriot Front had a valid claim, any good political insight, it is immediately neutered by the fascist cloak. If you feel you are a good decent person, then leave the Patriot Front and join the rest of us, join me, in a frank open talk.