J’accuse! If you’re a history nerd such as myself you recognize the French, “I accuse!” as the title of an open letter published in the press in January 1898 by Emile Zola in the Dreyfus Affair. I’ll let you look up what happened to Dreyfus, the point being over time, j’accuse has become an expression of outrage used against the powerful.
These however are different times. The accusations these days don’t seem to be aimed at curbing the injustice of the powerful or righting the wrongs of corruption in high places but as a means of personal, political and professional vendetta. Don’t like someone or their views, be they political, economic or otherwise? Simple, J’accuse! And make sure the accusation is serious and difficult to respond to. The accusation in fashion these days is one of sexual misconduct and the more accusers the better. A great strategy for the accuser, not so great for the accusee.
We’ve seen both politicians and Hollywood execs falling from lofty heights because of accusations of sexual misconduct. Members of congress are resigning their seats, announcing they won’t run again in ’18 or ’20 and then there’s Alabama Judge Roy Moore and the fallout of the accusations against him with a liberal Democrat winning a senate seat in “Roll Tide Red” Alabama. Don’t miss the most important word in all this though and that word is “accusation”.
In the America I live in accusation does not equal conviction. For that you need a judge and jury of your peers. I admit it can be fun to jump on dump on Hollywood or dump on the politician of whichever party bandwagon for their perceived idiotic indiscretions and watch as these accusations drive them from the halls of power and privilege. Only problem is and yes I’ve already said this, an accusation is just that; and accusation and not a conviction. Could they have done all that they have been accused of? Sure. Thing is, you and I don’t know whether they did or not and unless your name is either God or The Amazing Kreskin, without letting the American legal system work we never will.
How about we don’t let the idea of accused equals convicted take root here in these United States. It may look fun from the safe view of our sofas while watching it in five minute sound bites but not so much if and when someone might have it in for you and it’s your life being ruined by an accusation and you find yourself hurtling down that slippery slope you may have helped grease with your misplaced enthusiasm. J’accuse? Fine, as long as we remember we are a nation of laws and one of those laws is that the accused has the right to face the accuser and not just have their life ruined by the accusation.
David Mark Rose has been a long time observer of the political scene here in the U.S. and internationally having lived in numerous locations in the United States and Canada. Now he comments on it with just a tinge of occasional sarcasm, usually deserved.