#1 New York Times Bestselling Author
G R E G I L E S
Voting rights and Medicaid expansion are presently the most urgent matters in our state, but running beneath those problems is a much deeper one--a problem of the mind and heart. The time has come to de-program those Americans who still cling to the Lost Cause mythology about the Civil War that they were spoon-fed from childhood.
"You can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into in the first place."
There is much truth in Swift's statement. For how else can people cling to long-disproved narratives of history and angrily defend them as fact? For those unfamiliar with the Lost Cause concept, I will soon post a brief summary. But a powerful breakdown of all the issues therein can be found in Edward Bonekemper's The Myth of the Lost Cause: Why the South Fought the Civil War and Why the North Won.) For those who care, I am descended from Confederate veterans on both sides of my family, a Louisiana cavalryman and a South Carolina infantryman. I've spent my whole life in Mississippi (with a brief foray into Louisiana). I understand the complex emotions that exist in families who have revered the battlefield bravery of an ancestor. But bravery alone does not hallow a cause. German soldiers in World War Two were some of the bravest soldiers who ever lived, but they fought in an obscene cause. Many "average Wehrmacht soldiers" believed they were fighting for home and country, yet they served the Nazi war machine, including Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, and the rest. Again: courage and sacrifice do not hallow every cause.
While America goes through its present reckoning over race, we will experience a powerful backlash on the part of whites who want to defend and preserve the history they were raised to believe. This reckoning has been coming for a long time, and it will be far from easy. Writers, musicians, and filmmakers have an important part to play in this re-organization of America's thoughts about itself.
Finally, don't think for a moment that only Southerners believe the carefully cultivated narrative of Lost Cause history. In the coming months I hope to post some footage from Hollywood films starring actors like John Wayne and Erroll Flynn in which classic Lost Cause tropes were perpetuated as part of mainstream American (white American) culture. I will also be exploring many ideas about Mississippi, the South, and the United States as a whole both here and in my new Penn Cage novel, (the title of which I can't reveal yet). If you are a Southerner and want to show your support, please email me. On the other hand, if you want to threaten me, simply email the FBI directly. It will save me the trouble.