J’accuse

WE LIKE TO SAY THIS PHRASE, thinking it a kind of funny, high-falutin’ call-out. It actually comes from the first words of author Emile Zola’s letter to the President of the French Republic in 1898. He was defending Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer accused of treason. Zola was accusing the French Army of conspiracy and cover-up and downright lies. It was a serious statement that got Zola thrown in jail. Sound familiar? Why of course, it does. #january6thcommitteehearings

We have all sorts of folks accusing and conspiring and covering up in DC right now. Let’s see, Trump plotted with his lawyer to pressure the VP to overturn the presidential election. Loads of politicians conspiring and covering up for Trump, and for themselves. This is high drama, watching high officials accused of high things. People are j’accusing all over the place. Of course, some of these accusations are a little late to the party, like little kids saying they never liked so-and-so who yesterday was the most popular kid but now is deemed least likely to succeed. But what if I make the political personal IRL, like our own accusations can be dangerous, too, especially when we hurl them at ourselves.

I’ve been re-reading The Inner Game of Tennis lately. It definitely has remained relevant, as they say. The author, W. Timothy Gallwey, published this book in 1974. I checked, and he’s still alive (born 1938) and with a full-on website (way to join the intranet generation, Tim!) https://theinnergame.com/ Gallwey talks early on in the book about the relationship between Self 1 and Self 2 that we all have going on inside of us. When playing sports, Self 1 is typically the voice that tells us what to do, how to do it, and then critiques the results. Self 2 is the doer, just trying to get ‘er done, even as Self 1 is yelling in its ear the whole time. Basically, if we (Self 1) tell ourselves (Self 2) we’re stupid for long enough, e.g. “why would you hit that toss; how could you miss that volley,” we will believe the accusation. Or as Don Miguel Ruiz writes in The Four Agreements, we will begin to agree with this accusation. On and off the court.

Now the funny thing is that this accusing doesn’t seem to work the same way on powerful people as well as it does on the less-so. Take, for example, the aforementioned French Republic Army and Donald Trump. Maybe powerful people have practiced ignoring the public and have trained their Self 1s to tell their Self 2s that they rock at all times. So we will leave them out of this part of the discussion. Let’s instead bring in a little Bible lesson that Pastor Albert Tate at Fellowship Monrovia Church shared last Sunday…

We all know about that woman in John, chapter 8, who was accused of adultery. (Of course, a woman cannot commit this act alone, yet they so often are the lone accused). The big shot Jewish men were testing Jesus saying, Hey the law says we’re supposed to stone this woman to death for what she did. Jesus was not big on accusations that led to violence — including his own — so he offered up a suggestion; anyone who hasn’t done something wrong, who hasn’t sinned, you go ahead and throw a stone at this woman. Well, to the scribes and Pharisees’ credit, they all took their stones and went home. Jesus then told the woman she was forgiven and to go do right in life. But what if — pondered Pastor Albert — she went ahead and grabbed some of those rocks herself. You know where this is going.

But who would ever throw rocks at themselves? Well, that’s the point, we might actually be doing that a lot and not even noticing the bruises. Maybe we tell ourselves we’re too old — should have done things earlier; not experienced enough — shouldn’t have dropped out ; not intelligent enough — remember math class… We are j’accusing ourselves on the daily, condemning ourselves. Again, the Bible tells us in Romans 1 that we have been forgiven, thus no more condemnation. Not from God anyway. But we voluntarily continue to wear the labels of our failures and mistakes. Even though if one is Christian we ascribe to the belief that the highest power is okay with the worst of who we are, long as we are repenting, trying to do better.

It seems that a lot of the answers on how to be whole adults come from how we were as children. Like early on, before we started pulling hair and spreading rumors. D.T. Suzuki, a Buddhist monk, said “Childlikeness has to be restored with long years of training in self-forgetfulness.” We need to forget all the accusations that have been lobbed our way. Now Emile Zola acted like a child in publicly pointing out a wrong he witnessed. Like the kid in the Emperor’s New Clothes parable. And in 1904 all of the false convictions against Dreyfus were finally reversed. (The good news). Unfortunately, that stubborn French Army didn’t officially acknowledge his innocence until 1995. (The bad news).

In our own country’s present mess, it is likely that many of these rightful accusers — supported momentarily while en vogue — will go on to lives of obscurity, probably off the political grid. The accused, well, these folks just seem to land on their little tiny feet in our world. But what about us, our Self 2s? Let’s be nice to them, they are working so hard. Let’s accuse them of being smart, and funny, and beautiful, and kind. Like we would treat young children, so they don’t grow up to be selfish destructive adults like all those fools on the Hill. Like all those folks who stormed our capitol on January 6th in what they considered their own kind of Bastille Day. Je n’accuse pas! Vive la vie!

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