Before it was Memorial Day, the May 30th holiday was called Decoration Day. It’s original purpose was to remember the fallen soldiers in America’s Civil War, by decorating their graves. However, after World War I and World War II, the memorial holiday became a time to remember all of America’s fallen soldiers, not just those in the Civil War. Therefore, it’s name was changed and, in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson set the date for its observance as the last Monday in May.
While the original purpose of Memorial Day was to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for America, in defense of our rights and freedoms, I find myself on this Memorial Day trying to remember the America for which they gave their lives. It is, I fear, becoming but a distant memory! For instance, the America our fallen soldiers died for and which our Founding Fathers founded was an America founded on “self- evident” truths. As the birth certificate of our nation, the Declaration of Independence declares, our Founders held certain truths to be self-evident.
Today’s America, however, is adrift on the storm tossed sea of relativism, having adopted the belief that all truth is relative; that is, anything but “self-evident.” Truth today, we are told, is in a constant state of flux; it changes from time to time and from person to person. What is truth to you may not be truth to me, what is truth to us may not be truth to others, and what is truth today may not be truth tomorrow. Truth is subjective, not objective; it is a mere matter of personal opinion. There is no such thing as self-evident or absolute truths, despite the fact that the relativist’s profession is itself a contradiction of what he or she professes, being itself a statement of an absolute truth. Is there any wonder that we find our country today crashing against the shoals of wokeism, critical race theory, cancel culture, gender neutrality, and a thousand and one other absolute absurdities?
The America our fallen soldiers died for and which our Founding Fathers founded was an America that believed “all men are created equal.” Today’s America, however, believes we’ve evolved rather than been created, and in doing so denies the equality of men, since evolution is belief in natural selection, which teaches the survival of the fittest. In other words, some are superior to others and are destined to survive at the expense of their inferiors.
Today’s America believes the universe is a cosmic accident and we’re all here by happenstance. Everything came from nothing and there is no intelligent Designer or Creator behind an intricately designed creation. Everything, including you and me and a head of cabbage, came from the same single cell that floated up on a slimy beach eons ago. A human being is no more significant than a cockroach or a slug. And life is meaningless, because there is nothing beyond the grave? And we wonder why suicides are skyrocketing and depression is rampant in today's America?
The America our fallen soldiers died for and which our Founding Fathers founded was an America that believed “all men [are] endowed by God [their Creator] with certain inalienable rights.”
Today’s America, does not believe, as our Founding Fathers did, that the sole purpose of government is to protect and preserve its citizens’ God-given and inalienable (irrevocable) rights. Instead, it believes that government, not God, is the final arbiter of our rights. In other words, government has the power to grant us our rights or to revoke our rights, as our government clearly demonstrated during the coronavirus pandemic, when it suspended our Constitution, revoked our constitutional rights and freedoms, locked down our economy, locked us up in our houses, and shutdown our businesses, workplaces, schools, and churches. Truly, government has usurped the place of God in today’s America, portraying itself as our lord and savior, by insisting that we subjugate ourselves to it as our lord, in order for it to act as our savior, saving us from a plethora of present-day perils; such as, the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, systemic racism, gun violence, etc.
One of the Smokies best known early mountaineers was Levi Trentham, who was called "the Prophet of the Smokies" and the "Mayor of Elkmont." In his early days, Levi eked out an existence trapping bears and selling their hides. When tourists began invading the mountains, Levi cashed in by becoming a guide and one of the Smokies' most popular storytellers. His renown as a racanteur got him invited to the dedication of Knoxville's Henley Bridge. He arrived at the festivities, as the advertised representative of the "sprit of the Smokies," in an oxcart.
In the waning months of World War I, the people of Elkmont decided to show their patriotism by decorating their Smoky Mountain hamlet with American flags. Flags flew from cabins and stores, were draped over rock piles, and hung from trees. However, one Elkmont resident didn’t take to all the Red, White, and Blue. In fact, Levi Trentham publicly announced his disapproval in no uncertain terms, loudly and publicly cursing "Old Glory!”
Trentham was arrested on the spot, financially fined, and confined to his own property for the duration of the war. Was this old Smoky Mountain mountaineer proven, by his damning diatribe against "Old Glory," to be a pioneer flag burner and National Anthem kneeler before his time. I don’t think so. Instead, he was just like all the Southern Highlanders of his day, a man who coveted solitude and was fiercely independent. He was, like all Southern Highlanders, suspicious of government, fearing it as an intrusive power that imperiled the mountaineer’s independent way of life. Like Thomas Pain, one of our most famous Founding Fathers, Levi Trentham also believed: “The duty of a real patriot is to protect his country from its government!” If you ask me, this prophet of the Smokies was a true prophet after all, for he foresaw in his day, what is not only happening in our day, but what most modern-day Americans are totally blind to; namely, our government’s intrusion into our private lives and revoking of our God-given, inalienable, and constitutional rights, privileges, and liberties.