“J’Accuse…!” was an open letter published on 13th January 1898 in the newspaper L’Aurore by the writer Émile Zola. His issue was what came to be known in France as L’Affaire Dreyfus. Dreyfus was a Jewish artillery captain in the French army who was falsely convicted of passing military secrets to the Germans. He was degraded and sent to Devil’s Island, and his public humiliation was an expression of the ambient anti-Semitism of the time. This issue deeply divided France. It was not simply a matter of injustice to a man but also touched national identity, politics and religion in the anti-clerical era.
Two events are now widely known in the news surrounding the Brexit issue: the Supreme Court ruling that the PM didn’t have the right to prorogue Parliament in these circumstances (again, read the news) and the sickening rant of Geoffrey Cox (Attorney General) in today’s reassembly of the House of Commons. I have no idea what Mr Johnson is going to do, though I have been reading and watching commentaries by those who know a lot more about politics than I do.
The whole thing is a diabolical web with no way out. I will refrain from comparing it to Hitler’s Enabling Act of 1933 in Germany, even though I see a lot of parallels. There is no effective opposition by Corbyn’s party. It seems to be that the majority of English people still want Brexit and the hardest one possible, believing that there will be no adverse consequences. England now seems to be as divided as France was in the 1890’s.
The Dreyfus Affair still has its effects here and there, even though anti-Semitism is no longer acceptable. The issues are similar, just what made the twentieth century and its political instability. England was the country of my birth, and now I mourn as for a deceased loved one. The coffin lid has to be closed and life must go on. My time of anxiety is over and yields place to grief.
I must think more about my life in France and turn the page as the UK either crashes out at the end of October (whether the PM is Johnson or someone else) or remains in the EU as a toxic and divisive thorn. The time is past, as far as I am concerned, for political activism or protest. I see nothing good or noble, only the beginnings of a revolution in the UK (or two opposing revolutions), the end of the Monarchy and very dark times.
We have to raise ourselves to God, what is good in humanity and the wisdom we seek and to which we aspire. Today we mourn, and tomorrow we will see destruction, and maybe a true sunlit upland will come in ways we cannot expect.
Teach us the strength that cannot seek,
By deed, or thought, to hurt the weak;
That, under thee, we may possess
Man’s strength to comfort man’s distress.
Teach us delight in simple things,
The mirth that has no bitter springs;
Forgiveness free of evil done,
And love to all men ‘neath the sun.
Land of our birth, our faith, our pride,
For whose dear sake our fathers died;
O Motherland, we pledge to thee,
Head, heart and hand through the years to be.
The Lord shall be thine everlasting light,
And the days of thy mourning shall be ended.