“There’s more to fighting than rest, sir. There’s character. There’s strength of heart. You should have seen us in action two days ago. We were a sight to see! We’ll be ready, sir. When do you want us?”
I mentioned in the honorable mentions films like The Tuskegee Airmen, Go For Broke, and Windtalkers as films that show that unique American habit of even people whom we treat terribly will still fight with all they have for America, because America is greater than her worst flaws. But the problem with these films was that the production were REALLY lacking…and if you looked at some of the other items earlier on this list, well, then you know how my standards aren’t astronomically high.
But Glory is an excellent of this theme and it is done well.
And it is not just that this is a movie showing that the those treated worst by the American government are still willing to fight to preserve it that makes this patriotic.
Glory acknowledges both the flaw (and dear God do we have them) and the strengths of this nation.
America has a relationship with it’s history that few countries. We acknowledge, memorialize, and apologize for our mistakes. Go around D.C. sometime. You will find monuments begging our forgiveness for our treatment of Americans of Japanese decent during WWII, monuments begging our forgiveness for the treatment of slave, and I could go on. We acknowledge our flaws. Glory is very much proof of that. Not even counting the slavery issues which is always in the background, there is the fact that the racism of the Northern side is not hidden in the least, nor is the often vicious behavior of the Union to Southern civilians that would nowadays be considered war crimes.
We don’t hide our flaws, like some cultures, but neither do we focus on them. The movie is first and foremost a testament to the fact that even some of our darkest points we can make giant leap forwards and begin to treat all people as equals.
Colonel Robert G. Shaw: Sgt. Mulcahy!
Sgt. Mulcahy: Sir!
Shaw: I have no doubt you a fair man, Mulcahy. I wonder if you are treating the men a little hard.
Shaw: You may speak freely.
Mulcahy: The boy is a friend of yours, is he?
Shaw: Yes, we grew up together
Mulcahy: Let him grow up some more.
The movie shows that even some of the heroes of the film still had some of the paternalism that racism bred to get over…but that in the end they did.
But back to the original point that this movie shows that America is worth fighting for, even to those whom America has been less than just. It says a lot when Broderick’s Col. Shaw announces that the Confederacy will not take prisoners of black soldiers but rather just kill them, he expects to see many of the men in his unit request discharges…none do. And when the Union in despicable, but not unexpected for the times, move cuts the pay of black solider Shaw reciprocates this loyalty by refusing to take pay. (I’m not sure the historical accuracy of any of this, but it makes for a great movie).
Of course anyone who has seen this film knows how it ends. They all die. It’s been two decades I don’t think I’m spoiling anything. I do however think this is meant to parallel a line in the often forgotten third verse of The Battle Hymn of the Republic: “As [Christ] died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, our God is marching on.” I have no proof of this, but he last scenes of text that suggested their sacrifice helped turn the tide of the war, it is not to far fetched.
Colonel Robert G. Shaw: So what do you want to do?
Trip: Don’t know, sir.
Shaw: It stinks, I suppose.
Trip: Yeah, It stinks bad. And we all covered up in it too. Ain’t nobody clean. Be nice to get clean, though.
Shaw: How do we do that?
Trip: We ante up and kick in, sir. But I still don’t want to carry your flag.
And finally this scene speaks for itself…