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Greg Iles: State flag 'not acceptable on a human level'
from Staff Reports - NEWS
August 22, 2017 - ListenUpYall.com

Remarks by New York Times best-selling novelist Greg Iles Aug. 19 at the Mississippi Book Festival:

I went to Ole Miss. As a teenager, I ran the Rebel flag in the Natchez Confederate Pageant.

I am descended from Confederate soldiers on both sides of my family — a Louisiana cavalryman and a South Carolina infantryman. And if I had been alive in 1861, I’m sure I would have fought for the Confederacy, as my ancestors did. But I’m also the guy who with John Grisham organized just about every writer in Mississippi — plus Archie Manning and Morgan Freeman and Jimmy Buffett and the SEC coaches — to get rid of the damn flag.

I can give you a dozen historical and moral arguments for why our state flag should change, which I did on Statehood Day at the Old Capitol — but let’s talk about the human side.

Imagine for a minute that you are a black Mississippi National Guard soldier, and you are being asked to train and serve underneath the battle flag of an army that fought to keep your ancestors enslaved for all time. That is immoral, folks. It’s un-American. It’s simply not acceptable on a human level.

Second, I want to talk about the monuments just one second. There are a lot of strong feelings about the monuments right now. Let me tell you, I’ve walked every foot of Gettysburg from Little Round Top to The Wheatfield to The Peach Orchard. My dad owned more Civil War books than anybody in Mississippi.

I know the whole "preserving history" argument, and it doesn’t hold water. Robert E. Lee didn’t want those monuments erected, and if you’re glad they were, you should ask yourself why.

Let me tell you where we’re headed. Within a few weeks, a black boy, or a black girl, or some young white college kids are gonna get arrested somewhere for pulling down or blowing up a Confederate monument. And then they’re gonna go to trial. They’re gonna be looking at jail time. And the United States of America is gonna be looking at possibly sending black kids to prison for blowing up a monument to people who wanted to keep them in slavery forever.

That is not gonna fly. It’s indefensible. Those monuments are gonna go away, ya’ll. Into museums, I hope. But it’s never gonna be 1950 again. And it’s never gonna be 1850 again, thank God. The Civil War is finally ending, 152 years after Appomattox. Everybody’s gonna have to deal with that in their own way.

But, for God’s sake, as a white Mississippian speaking to white Mississippians: Let’s don’t be the last state clinging to the flag and the monuments. Because, folks, we’ve been last in everything for so long I can’t remember. If we keep clinging to that crap, keep looking backward, we’re gonna be last for 75 more years, and you might as well just give it up and move away.

That’s the hard truth. So, please don’t do it. I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat: Don’t keep electing short-sighted people with character insufficient to the historical moment in which we find ourselves. Accept the true burden of history. And then rise above it! Thank you.

Author Greg Illes, whose most recent book, "Mississippi Blood," is part of the "Natchez Burning" trilogy, lives in Natchez.

 

Story courtesy of The Clarion-Ledger.




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