What makes one a hero?

What makes one a hero? I learned the answer to that question when the traveling version of the Vietnam War Memorial – the Wall – was displayed in my community.

People visit the traveling version of the Vietnam War Memorial.

While visiting the Wall, I talked to a veteran of the Vietnam War, during which time he told me just who were the heroes of the Vietnam War. The heroes were the men whose names were written on the Wall.

In short, a hero is one who dies for a noble cause.

The American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War are regarded as heroes because the cause that they fought for was considered to be noble. Granted, the reason for the U.S. military fighting in Vietnam was muddled. Still, the Americans who favored U.S. involvement in Vietnam perceived that conflict as being a fight to keep people free from Communist tyranny.

Fighting to give people freedom is generally accepted as a noble cause, but what about fighting for the opposite reason?

The latter took place in the USA from April 12, 1861 to May 9, 1865.

Prior to that time, political leaders in the slave states noticed something that alarmed them. The westward expansion of slavery was being prevented by the free-state control of the federal government, and eventually there would be enough free states to amend the U.S. Constitution to outlaw slavery.

Then Abraham Lincoln was elected President on November 6, 1860. To the political leaders of the slave states, Lincoln’s election meant that their worse fears were coming true. So, on April 12, 1861 at 4:30 AM local time, the Confederate military started the U.S. Civil War by firing on Fort Sumter.

The April 2011 issue of Smithsonian Magazine describes the cause of the Civil War. Here is an excerpt from the magazine:

“. . . that war’s profound implications still reverberate within American hearts, heads and politics, from the lingering consequences of slavery for African-Americans to renewed debates over states’ rights and calls for the “nullification” of federal laws. Many in the South have viewed secession a matter of honor and the desire to protect a cherished way of life.

. . . Generations of historians have argued over the cause of the war. “Everyone knew at the time that the war was ultimately about slavery,” says Orville Vernon Burton, a native South Carolinian and author of The Age of Lincoln. “After the war, some began saying that it was really about states’ rights, or a clash of two different cultures, or about the tariff, or about the industrializing North versus the agrarian South. All these interpretations came together to portray the Civil War as a collision of two noble civilizations from which black slaves had been airbrushed out.” African-American historians from W.E.B. Du Bois to John Hope Franklin begged to differ with the revisionist view, but they were overwhelmed by white historians, both Southern and Northern, who, during the long era of Jim Crow, largely ignored the importance of slavery in shaping the politics of secession.

Fifty years ago, the question of slavery was so loaded, says Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln President-Elect and other works on the 16th president, that the issue virtually paralyzed the federal commission charged with organizing events commemorating the war’s centennial in 1961, from which African-Americans were virtually excluded. (Arrangements for the sesquicentennial have been left to individual states.) At the time, some Southern members reacted with hostility to any emphasis on slavery, for fear that it would embolden the then-burgeoning civil rights movement. Only later were African-American views of the war and its origins finally heard, and scholarly opinion began to shift. Says Holzer, “Only in recent years have we returned to the obvious — that it was about slavery.”

As Emory Thomas, author of The Confederate Nation 1861-1865 and a retired professor of history at the University of Georgia, puts it, “The heart and soul of the secession argument was slavery and race. Most white Southerners favored racial subordination, and they wanted to protect the status quo. They were concerned that the Lincoln administration would restrict slavery, and they were right.””

So, contrary to the claims made by Confederacy apologists, slavery was the cause of the Civil War. The Confederate soldiers who flew the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (now commonly called the Confederate flag) were soldiers who fought to keep black Americans enslaved.

Were the Confederate soldiers who fought to keep black Americans enslaved heroes?

Answer: No. The Confederate soldiers didn’t fight for a noble cause. Instead, they fought for an ignoble cause – the continued enslavement of black Americans. That fact means that Confederate soldiers don’t qualify to be called heroes. Sure, they were brave, but bravery alone doesn’t make one a hero. The Japanese Kamikaze of World War II were brave, too, but one probably won’t find an American veteran of World War II who would call the Kamikaze heroes.

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  • Brett Buck

    Oh, for Christ’s sake. you can’t even make a post that is not internally contradictory:

    The American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War are regarded as heroes because the cause that they fought for was considered to be noble. Granted, the reason for the U.S. military fighting in Vietnam was muddled. Still, the Americans who favored U.S. involvement in Vietnam perceived that conflict as being a fight to keep people free from Communist tyranny.

    What the hell do you think the people in the Confederacy were doing? The Americans who favored southern secession perceived that conflict as a fight to keep their states free from Federal tyranny, and forced taking of their economic assets. Of course most people in the US at the time and virtually everyone* 150 years later would vehemently disagree, but there is no question at all that the people fighting believed in their cause. So, even by your *own standard*, the Confederates were in the same category as *everyone else who ever fought for a cause*, even if the cause was bad or pointless to later civilizations.

    Note that this same point has been made over and over again in the responses to your previously, equally-idiotic, posts, and you haven’t addressed it in any response NOR in the subsequent post. Saying over and over again that you don’t like slavery is completely pointless, because no one is debating you, we all grant that slavery was bad. You, on the other hand, have repeatedly failed to make any legitimate counter-points to any of the quite obvious holes various people have pointed out in your, let’s be charitable, “reasoning”.

    *And that’s not literary license, no one with an above-room-temperature IQ defends slavery and the vast, vast majority finds the concept abhorrent. Which begs the question – who the HELL to you think you are lecturing to here? It must be perfectly obvious, even to you, that your historical understanding is severely lacking, so what the hell are you trying to accomplish?

    Note that your hysterically frantic “Virtue Signalling” is pointless and lost on this crowd. Your motive in that respect is laughably transparent, and frankly, pathetic, given the fact that *don’t don’t show a glimmer of understanding of what the hell you are talking about*.

  • Par4Course

    As a Viet Nam War veteran, I couldn’t disagree more with this post. To begin with, defining heroes as only those who died is ridiculous. As General Patton said to the troops, “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” Second, it remains highly debatable whether the US participation in the Viet Nam War was a “noble cause.” We were trying to stop the spread of communism but to do so the US teamed with a lot of less-than-honorable people and at times engaged in practices such as using Napalm and Agent Orange, and destroying villages to save them. The Vietnamese on the other side fought for and won the former French colony’s independence from foreign domination. VN has become an economic success (35th-largest economy in the world measured by purchasing power). Third, the nobility of a cause ought to be judged at the time, not 150 years later. Lincoln, for example, was not fighting to end slavery but to save the Union. As he wrote: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it …”. While preserving the Union and freeing the slaves looks like the best outcome, if the Confederacy had won, slavery would still have been outlawed, as it has been in all countries. In sum, it’s not easy to define “heroes” and even harder to do so with much certainly many years later.

  • jim_m

    Being dead does not define a hero. What a disgusting commentary.

    Tell it to all the Medal of Honor winners who weren’t killed in action.

  • Retired military

    Quadruple down on stupid.

    Meanwhile your “anti confederacy protestors” have damaged statues of Lincoln and Joan of Arc. Maybe if they had been in a museum or on private property they wouldnt have been damaged.

    Maybe Kevin will take David’s keyboard before he hurts himself.

    BTW my 10th grade history teacher told me drunk oa lot of the kamikazi pilots were doped up prior to their missions.

    Question David. What were the dead men at Pearl Harbor fighting for? To stay alive and keep their fellow sailors alive. We werent at war for any noble cause yet. War wasnt declared until a few days later.


  • Retired military

    You talk of heros and noble causes. But you obviously know squat about either.

    SOLDIERS fight for who they are told to fight by politicians. So that their actions can be judged by pissants who dont know the meaning of the words Honor, or Duty or Courage.

    Why werent the German soldiers all tried at Nuremburg. All the millions who were wore a Nazi uniform. Bercause men far smarter than you understand that soldiers are to be judged by whether they honor their profession, did they fight with courage and honor. Not who was on the winning side which is generally the side that gets to define noble causes.

    I have seen 4 of your columns talking about confederate soldiers the vast majority of whom have acted more honorably than the idiots you havent bothered to say one word about that is out there breaking laws and destroying public and private property. I guess you consider their actions honorable and just and them to be heroes. Show me where you disagree with that statement.

    I pray on judgement day that God doesnt have you stand next to some 15 year old boy who wore the confederate uniform and tell you to compare the honor you did your profession to his. To compare your courage and valor and bravery to his.

    Do you honestly want to know about courage and honor and valor and heroes? Start by reading the write ups for the medal of Honor winners. 800+ of whom were confederate soldiers. Maybe then you will realize that those SOLDIERS are to be judged not by the cause of their politicians but by how they honored their profession and did they fight with courage and bravery. And they are only truly judged by God, themselves, those that fought by their side and those that fought against them. You dont have the qualifications.

    That is the difference between soldiers and writers. Soldiers make history. Writers just write down who the winning politcians tell them to write about.

    Go to sites which have letters from confederate soldiers home. I have. I havent read one that talked about “We shor gonna show them slave lovers”. Most talked about the horrors of war, of wanting to be home to plant crops. hold their loved ones and surviving until the next day.

    I would tell you to take your white guilt and overindulgant self righteousness and shove it up your ass but your head is currently occupying all of that space and it doesnt look like it will be moving anytime soon.

    Courage is being scared as hell but saddling up anyway. Try it sometimes before you judge those that have.

  • Vagabond661

    Because David has posted so many times in a row on the same topic only proves the butthurt he is feeling from the backlash of comments which he is incapable to respond to or debate.

    We need a YouTube event where Scalia and/or Graves debates David on any topic. Donate the money to charity.

    He is rarely correct which makes me wonder, again, how he got this gig.

  • Sky__Captain

    “In short, a hero is one who dies for a noble cause.”
    Utter and complete bullshit.
    Heroes are not made by living or dying, nor by David’s definition of a “noble cause”.

    For example, was not Oskar Schindler considered a hero?
    By David’s trite definition, most certainly not. Schindler did not die saving all those Jews.

    And defining a “noble cause” is difficult, as different cultures in the world have different definition. By David’s definition, a Islamofascist suicide bomber can be defined as a “hero”, but only by other Islamofascists.

  • Sky__Captain

    And four consecutive posts decrying the Confederacy? What’s with that, anyway?

    It would so much simpler if David would simply answer in debate in the posts he makes.
    Either that, not post at all to eliminate the redundancy.

    • jim_m

      Because David knows that he is in the minority so like other fascists in the minority he is trying to drown out all other voices. What he doesn’t want you to know is that:

      Polls taken after last weekend’s violence offer some evidence backing
      Bannon’s and Trump’s view. While polls found widespread disgust with
      white supremacists, a Marist Poll for NPR and PBS found that just 27
      percent of adults queried believe Confederate monuments “should be
      removed because they are offensive.” About two out of three white and
      Latino respondents said they should remain, as did 44 percent of black

      Even a plurality of blacks oppose erasing American history the way that David demands. David is unAmerican and his posts are beginning to border on unhinged anti-American screeds.

      • Brett Buck

        Beginning? Long past, I would say.

        If I thought he was capable of forming a rational intent to do such a thing, I would agree with you. I have rarely heard anyone who has a weaker grasp on what this country is supposed to stand for, or less capable of expressing himself on the topic. You actually have to grasp a concept to be against it.

        I think it probably more like he is really angry about the fact that no one cares about his attempts to show us all how morally superior he is, and getting more-and-more irrational when he realizes what he is saying makes no sense to anyone else. That’s why he repeats himself over and over in increasingly shrill tones, working himself into a hissy fit. He doesn’t even briefly consider the fact that he might be wrong or over his head.

      • Retired military

        Notice that while he has slandered and demeaned people who arent even alive to defend themselves. He slanders and demans people who not only not believe slavery is a great and wonderful thing but who believe that it is as evil as he says but they dont agree with him on statues to honor confederate soldiers. Yet as I stated above what is glaringly absent for his self righteous bullshit is anything negative about people who are destroying public property, to include images of Lincoln and Joan of Arc.

  • Retired military
  • Wild_Willie

    I am a Vietnam war vet. Just about all served their nation because they were forced to but most also did honorably due to love of country.

    Serving does not make you a hero. Hero’s are made by putting their life in danger to save other soldiers lives. That and only that makes a hero. I served for the right reasons so I guess that is honorable. McCain stayed in prison during the war and also killed 124 sailors on the ship Forestal before his downing but yet stupid people call him a hero.

    Confederates who served in their states war were honorable, and I’m a Philly boy.

    For five years thousands of USA citizens served honorably for their states yet some try to label them as evil. But I always remember we are talking about kids who obeyed orders. Period.

    Grown ups understand for the most part. Millennial’s and stupid people do not. ww


      I wonder how different the history of the last couple of decades would have been if there had been a draft?

      I mean a real draft, however, instead of what took place for the majority of the Vietnam era. I grew up with a lot of “fortunate sons.” My brother attended college, deferment, that changed and he got married and then got an apprenticeship with my Father’s company, which was also a deferment. There were numerous ways for people with means or connections to circumvent the draft.

      Me? I got lucky in the lottery with number 235. When I tell young people about all of us getting together to watch the draft lottery they have a hard time grasping such an event. By the way, one of my friends “won” the pool when the ping pong ball with his birthday came up first.

      Of course there were other ways, such as uber-Patriot Ted Nugent taking a dump in his pants or others that had sore feet.

      • Blessedly we will never know. The all volunteer force is better suited to a Republic, and has proved itself very effective in combat.

  • Wild_Willie
  • jim_m

    No, you won’t find an American veteran who will call kamikazes heroes. But I will bet you my next twenty paychecks that you can find a bunch of Japanese people who will call them that. They gave the last full measure of devotion to their country in a desperate fight to avoid losing a war they mistakenly provoked. Whether or not you agree with the cause they can legitimately be caleld heroes by their countrymen. Tell me how that is different from Southerners.

    So you are such a bigot that you think that your point of view is the only valid one and only one that reflects your racial and nationalist ideals is the one that can be valued? Fuck you David.

    • (Waves hand.)

      I’d call them heroes to their compatriots, and their actions (flying a fucking bomb into an enemy ship) actually compare somewhat favorably to the ‘heroism’ of some Islamist fuckhead blowing up a suicide vest in a crowd. At least the kamikazi knew what his enemy was, and wasn’t blowing up civilians.

      And they stood down when their side was defeated.

      • They stood down when ordered to.

        • Which is more than some of the ‘Werewolf’ groups in Germany did when Germany was defeated.

  • Retired military

    For those tired of David’s drivel on this subject and wish to read something much more thoughtful


  • TheyTukRJobz

    By that same token, the Spartans at Thermopylae were not heroes. The state of Sparta they were fighting to protect was highly discriminatory – only people born Spartans by virtue of having Spartan parents had freedom; everyone else was a slave or servant.

    By your argument as well, then John Brown and Nat Turner were YOUR heroes because their cause was noble.

    Now, I don’t know where you got this idea that the Confederates are considered heroes by those who see no rational reason to tear down statues; I’ve not seen one single article in support of keeping them use the word “hero”.

    Sounds like a strawman, Dave.

  • Retired military

    Ah yes. Here are those would be heroes who are doing great things that David refuses to rail against because he is spending all his time railing against those who don’t want public property destroyed.


    She went on to lecture her fellow progressives that non-violent protests aren’t going to cut it.

    “We fight f***ing Nazis,” she said. “We punch them, we hurt them, we prevent them from having a platform.”

    “You failed us,” she continued. “All of you who stood by when we were like, ‘Please, please follow us. The Nazis are that way!’ F**k your f***ing Constitution, f**k your liberal Bernie bullshit. We are here to fight Nazis.”

    The woman then declared that if progressives weren’t there to “throw down” with Antifa, then they are “masturbating in the streets.” Makes sense, no?

    But that wasn’t the woman’s only crazed outburst. In another video, she is yelling and taunting the non-violent protesters with, “You just want to feel good! F*** you liberals, pink pussy hat bullshit!”

    Maybe you should ask her out David.


    It was nice to see the overwhelming support in Boston over the weekend, especially as Boston is not exactly a bastion of racial harmony (even now, many athletes of color do not want anything to do with Boston teams). Heck, Bill Russel would not even return when they put his jersey in the rafters.

    I wonder, however, if the appropriate action is to simply ignore them or turn one’s backs to the them. Publicity is what they crave, although the man driving into the crowd did not do them any good. The old adage, “Any publicity is good publicity” is not always true.

    Oh well, Trump is back from vacation from his part time job as an ineffectual President so we will see what happens next. His poll numbers are plummeting in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Any lower and the regional GOP will probably determine it is time to cut bait politically. Oh well, we shall see how everybody stands leading up to the mid-terms.

    I wonder why Trump refused to call this domestic terrorism, but didn’t hesitate before tweeting about it before the facts were in about Barcelona.

    I am going to Germany next month and am interested to speak with people there about Merkel, Trump, etc.

  • Walter_Cronanty

    Why is David intent on tearing apart our country? In 1978 President Jimmy Carter signed
    S. J. Res. 16 into law. This law restored the full rights of citizenship to the President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis – – obviously, following David’s logic, an evil and wicked thing to do.

    Why did President Carter do this?

    [To complete] the long process of reconciliation that has reunited our people following the tragic conflict between the States. Earlier, he was specifically exempted form resolutions restoring the rights of other officials in the Confederacy. He had served the United States long and honorably as a soldier, Member of the U.S. House and Senate, and as Secretary of War. General Robert E. Lee’s citizenship was restored in 1976. It is fitting that Jefferson Davis should no longer be singled out for punishment.

    Our Nation needs to clear away the guilts and enmities and recriminations of the past, to finally set at rest the divisions that threatened to destroy our Nation and to discredit the principles on which it was founded. Our people need to turn their attention to the important tasks that still lie before us in establishing those principles for all people.

  • Walter_Cronanty

    Another hero for David.

  • Walter_Cronanty

    OOOPS. I think it will work now. Thanks.