The problem I have with oakling's original writeup is that the two movies on which it relies are, in fact, quite different in their subject matter. Dances With Wolves, as far as I know, is an entirely fictional account of a Civil War "hero" who ultimately finds peace in the West by shedding his civilized ways and joining the unspoiled Native Americans on the frontier. Glory, on the other hand, is a (mostly) historical account of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the son of a prominent Boston abolitionist, who was given the task of raising and commanding the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first regiment composed entirely of Northern African-American troops recruited to fight for the Union in the American Civil War.
While I am more than willing to accept oakling's straightforward analysis of the mythical Dances With Wolves, I can't let the discussion of Glory go unanswered. By calling both movies "absurd liberal myths," it's almost as though oakling didn't understand that the plot line in Glory actually happened.
Robert Gould Shaw was a living, breathing, 25-year old captain in the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment when Governor John Andrew asked him to lead the first regiment of black troops raised in a Northern State. Before Shaw's all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment was mustered into service on May 13, 1963, all of the previous African-American regiments fighting for the Union had been raised from freed slaves in the occupied South. None saw any actual combat.
On July 18, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts, with Colonel Shaw in command, led the suicidal attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina. During the attack, the troops of the 54th lost nearly one quarter of their men, including Colonel Shaw.
After the attack failed, the Confederate troops, furious that the Union had allowed African-Americans to be armed and led into battle by white commanders, tried to disgrace Colonel Shaw by burying him in a mass grave with his fallen troops.
Shaw's abolitionist father, upon being told that his son had died and been buried in this way, responded that he was proud of his son, whom he said would have wanted to die no other way.
Incidentally, oakling's "angry black man" in Glory had a name. He was Sgt. William H. Carney, an African-American man from New Bedford, MA. Sgt. Carney crawled through the murderous Confederate gunfire to rescue the fallen Union flag, being wounded six times in the process. For his valor, Carney became the first African-American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, albeit 37 years later, in 1900.
In light of this factual background, I can't help but think that any attempt to play off the story of Colonel Shaw and his regiment as an "absurd liberal myth" is just wrong.
Uncomfortable as it may be for us to admit today, it took Union leaders a long time to get used to the idea of arming African-American soldiers and placing them in positions of responsibility. This was understandable at the time, if not laudable. Union commanders were generally unfamiliar with African-Americans, and were worried about putting them in the line of fire without proof that they could fight. A prime example of this is Ulysses S. Grant, who started the war convinced that blacks could only perform garrison duty, but who, by the end of the Civil War, had come to the conclusion that the "freed slave" was the most potent weapon the Union had against the South.
In this racially oppressive climate, it fell on white officers, like Robert Gould Shaw, to step up to the plate and agree to recruit, train, and lead these new, experimental troops. In hindsight, it may be easy to think of Shaw as a racist dilettante, but, in fact, it took a tremendous amount of courage for him to accept the assignment asked of him. It was the initial leadership of commanders like Shaw that gave African-American troops their first chance to prove themselves. And it was the ultimate sacrifice of commanders like Shaw that gave those African-American troops their first taste of citizenship.
So I just wanted to set the record straight. Robert Gould Shaw and William H. Carney were not "myths" created by a guilty Hollywood producer. Colonel Shaw was not the same as Kevin Costner's Lieutenant John Dunbar, "tripping" over wolves and riding, Christ-like, into a make-believe hail of gunfire. Shaw was a real person, and died in a real hail of gunfire for a cause he believed in. He lived, died, and was buried in a mass grave, because he wanted to, and did, make a difference.