Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Dreyfus affair

The Plaza Kiss incident and the passions that surround it remind me of the Dreyfus Affair that tore apart French society in the 1890s and early 1900s. The divisiveness then was fueled by the issue of anti-semitism. Strong opinions over the guilt or innocence of the accused Jewish soldier split families and ended friendships. It's hard for us to fathom the magnitude of this social divide these many years later, but it was seismic.

Was the guilt or innocence of Alfred Dreyfus really a pressing issue that affected daily life? No, but it was the flash point for a deeper social conflict, namely the place of Jews in Belle Époque French society.

Similarly, what exactly happened that night on Main Street Plaza isn't really all that important, but it reignites a controversy that is already simmering. Two controversies, actually.

Personally, I don't find the Church's version of events especially credible, but then I guess you already knew that I was a Jew-loving Dreyfusard. Sacré bleu!

P.S. History tells us that Dreyfus was indeed framed for a crime he did not commit. The Dreyfusards were right all along. This is often the case when a despised minority is accused by a dominant, conservative institution with a powerful media presence and plenty to hide. We should exercise caution when the charges against a member of an unpopular minority (cf. Emmett Till) seem to grow over time as the story spreads. Just sayin'.

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