Gavin Stevens, Yoknapatawpha’s learned attorney and most articulate southern apologist, quipped in Requiem for a Nun that “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” For Stevens, this means that the glory and the terror of antebellum Mississippi lived on in the hearts and minds of people who never fought in the Civil War. Those days became mythologized as being as pure as moonlight and magnolias. Every true Mississippi boy, Stevens believed, imagined he would join Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg to raise the high water mark of the Confederacy: love Mississippi and the South, death be damned.
Faulkner’s best work shows the absolute depravity involved in mythologizing antebellum Mississippi. In 2021, it seems surreal that Faulkner’s characters embrace an institution as vile as slavery, or as wicked as the government that enabled it.
That’s the thing about Faulkner: he was a realist, not a surrealist. Witness Gov. Tate Reeves’ April 7 executive proclamation that this month is “Confederate Heritage Month.” The proclamation aims to “honor those who served in the Confederacy” and “gain insight from our [nation’s] mistakes and successes.” The proclamation was given to the Rankin County Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter and shared on its social media.
Gov. Reeves made no hubbub about signing the proclamation. If his goal actually celebrated the idea of learning from history, he should have put his signature on this proclamation during a press conference. He should have explained the need to lionize those who fought for the south–and, by extension, for slavery. (Let there be no doubt: Mississippi seceded to protect the right of one person to own another.)
Why do you think Gov. Reeves proclaimed April “Confederate History Month”? Why do you think he issued the proclamation the way he did?