Over the past two days I have received three requests from media outlets to comment on Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s designation of April as Confederate Heritage Month. Given the amount of coverage received, you would have thought that this was the first time such a proclamation had been issued. This year’s proclamation is receiving more attention in light of the shooting in Charleston this past summer as well as the steps universities and localities in Mississippi have taken to remove the state flag, which still includes the Confederate battle flag in its design.
This is certainly not the first proclamation ever issued, but it fits neatly into the recent trend on the part of more and more Mississippians who no longer believe the Confederacy is worth celebrating. We see this most clearly in the push to change the design of the state flag.
April is the month in which Confederate States began and ended a four-year struggle; and on Confederate Memorial Day, we recognize those who served in the Confederacy; and April 25, 2016, is set aside as Confederate Memorial Day to honor those who served in the Confederacy; and it is important for all Americans to reflect Upon our nation’s past, to insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us: Now, Therefor, I, Phil Bryant, Governor of the State of Mississippi, hereby proclaim the month of April 2016 as Confederate Heritage Month in the State of Mississippi.
Notice that no one specific such as Lee, Jackson or Davis is referenced. The language of honor is absent. Instead, the state ‘recognizes those who served’ as opposed to those who fought or sacrificed for the Confederacy. The proclamation says as little as possible and offers nothing in terms of assessing the outcome of the war or the lessons that ought to be acknowledged.
This is a proclamation that wants nothing more than to avoid history.