Make America Great Again
Let me start by telling you who I am.
I am the male, white, educated, gay, Republican, Christian, great-grandson of Arab immigrants and Native Americans.
Let me tell you who I am not.
I am not racist, sexist, xenophobic, scared, afraid, blind, un-American.
One of my most vivid and cherished childhood memories was sitting on my Papa Deraney's shoulders outside Deraney's Department Store in downtown Barnesville — the small, quintessentially southern town that I now call home. The occasion was the annual Barnesville Buggy Days Festival parade. I had to have been around 4 or 5 years old, and I distinctly remember holding and waving a miniature American flag. And the mayor, on an American flag bedecked antique horse-drawn carriage, parading down Main Street as the Grand Marshall...America.
My Deraney/Lewis (Rashid was the last name upon arriving in America and later gentrified to Lewis) grandparent's were first generation Lebanese-Americans. My great-grandparents —Michael, Abbie, Rashid, and Habie, immigrated as teenagers from Lebanon in the early 1900's. They came through Ellis Island in New York City. They went through the rigors of entering our country legally and became citizens of our great democracy. Today, Mike and Abbie Deraney's citizenship certificates sit on a shelf in my house. Plainly in view, they remind me daily that not only do I come from a great multi-cultural family, but it also reminds me that I was raised in faith, determination, and with an un-wavering loyalty to my family, my God, and my country.
All four of my Lebanese great-grandparents were business owners. They built their families and businesses on the backs of two dry goods stores; the Mike Deraney's Dry Goods in Griffin, Georgia and the Richard Lewis’ Dry Goods in Smithfield, North Carolina. My grandparent's, Joe and Mable Deraney, would later repeat this model with their own family. Deraney’s Department Store was a downtown fixture in Barnesville for 45 years.
I used to joke growing up that my family couldn't have had more diverse sides: My Deraney grandparents, Catholics, were children of Arab foreigners who owned a stylish family department store in the downtown district of their city - aka, my "city" grandparents. My mom's parents, the DeVaughans, were died-in-wool Southern Baptist farmers and land owners of Native American and French descent - my "country" grandparents, farming and working the land in rural Alabama. There were nine children between both sets. It wasn't hard for me to learn early on, that diversity and hard work were two of the most foundational staples of who I was, and would grow up to become. You work hard for what you have. You respect others. You love God. You love your family…America.
Then, you have my parents; Rick and Ginger Deraney. Daddy was a college football star turned lifelong Delta Air Lines employee. His first job was cleaning out airplanes (there are some funny and quite grotesque stories about issues with the plumbing systems). Over the course of 30 years he went from cleaning planes to writing letters for the executive Vice Presidents of Delta Air Lines. His hard work and humility — humble me — to this day.
Mama was an educator (and I would learn in my life that this meant a lot more than just books and a classroom). She taught elementary school, middle school, and after dragging herself through graduate school while we were teenagers (all the while raising us and not missing a beat), she ended her career years later as a Master Media Specialist at Sandy Creek High School in Fayetteville, Georgia after more than 30 years of being a public educator. She was the consummate model of a Christ-follower, flawed but faithful. I know what it is to truly love another human being because of her.
Both of them, the original source of my faith and resilience in life, were not just splendid parents, but they were role models...and friends. The weren't perfect, and me and my two younger brothers were even less! But, we always knew our roots - we always knew were the love was guaranteed.
My family: some 50 of us between both sides. They were loud, sometimes obnoxious and brash. Some raised in a time when the words 'colored' or ‘nigger' were acceptable conversational interjections, but - but - never used in a derogatory manner. Some drank and told dirty jokes, and others faithfully sang every Sunday in their local church choirs. And, oh my sweet merciful Lord — the food. Your don’t get this size on your own! Despite stereotypes and prejudices (which we all have), my family was unabashedly American. Flawed, but loving; crass, but genuine. And no matter what, always cared for each other and those around them -— regardless of color or creed, race or religion, and later on, even sexual orientation…America.
So where the hell do you get me out of all that goodness?! LOL!
One of my biggest goals in life is to bring honor to my family. To honor the DeVaughan and Deraney names. To honor God and Jesus Christ. To honor the parents that bled to give me my life, my faith, and my name. I am by far not perfect and more often than not, self-deprecating. Famed researcher, Brene Brown urges us to live authentically, stressing that courage comes from vulnerability. Sometimes, perhaps, I show that side a bit too much. But, it is in that reluctance to hide myself that I truly have found the courage, so many times in life, to press on and fight for what I believe in. (Most of you remember #CJD2014 ;-)
Besides all that I've mentioned above, there is one huge tenant in my life that has fortified me, literally testing my resolve and the man I am, both in public and in private: my extreme patriotism and love for my country - The United States of America.
I have voted in four presidential elections. This November will be my fifth go at it. The average American will live through 13-16 Presidents, having been eligible to vote in only 9-12 of these elections.
Many have asked me over the years to explain why I vote for who I do. I suppose if I had listened to my parents and the southern gospel of “You don’t discuss money, religion, and politics”, then perhaps I wouldn’t face the scrutiny that I do. But, I’ve chosen to live my life out loud. And that very trait will reoccur in many areas of my life, and yes, even in politics.
But I don’t owe you or anyone else an explanation. It’s my right, constitutionally. It’s my duty as an American. It’s my honor. But — in that never ending effort to live out loud, I will tell you.
I am voting for Donald J. Trump. And here’s why.
First, I learned a lot when I ran for office. I thought I knew a lot before then, but it was truly the most eye opening and fascinating experience I've ever had in my life. And, no matter who tries, I give credit to any man or woman willing to put their neck on the block to try and defend the will and rights of the people.
For me, this is so much bigger than Donald Trump.
I'd say that I was a bit different than most kids growing up (and not for obvious reasons LOL). I was glued to the American process and the stoicism that is the changing of the guard and the peaceful transfer of power in this country. I looked up to our leaders and thought them to be fearless. In a world with so much hate and vitriol, I found the American Statesman to be the antidote to hate and the true author of freedom. “You are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” Jesus’ words were, and are, America to me.
I pay very close attention to what goes on this country, more than most and more than I've been given credit for here lately. And with that, I have watched over the last couple of decades how vastly different the political landscape has changed. Truly, I have seen evil in many of those that we have elevated to the highest offices of the land. It has been a hell of a time trying to sift through who tells the truth...who will honor their commitment to us and the constitution…and for me, personally, who will rely on their faith to guide them to guide us.
It's been in these last eight years during President Obama's tenure that I have watched it truly unravel, and certainly, not solely because of the President. Our Elected fight, they excoriate each other. They live high on the hog that we've provided them and are never held accountable. Indeed, the Great Unifier only managed to help drive this country further into division. One lawmaker, however, and though I might have agreed with his premise, actually made me furious when he had the audacity to call President Obama a liar in the middle of his State of the Union Address.
That’s not America. And it has broken my heart. We elected them. We gave them majorities. They shat on it.
In the last few years I have longed for a person, man or woman, that would step forward and again take the reigns of this country with purpose and determination. I am not naive to the fact that no matter who, they aren’t going to be perfect. This isn’t a foreshadowing apology or free pass for any candidate — not a single one of them will ever represent fully what I would like to see in our President.
Donald Trump is a brash individual. His comments are self-righteous, seemingly racist to some, harsh. Many have shaken their heads in disgust (as have I at times) at the things he’s said, even going so far as to use their children as scapegoats to further prove it.
“I can’t even have my children in the same room when he’s on tv because of the things he says!”
And then I think, but your children listen to and emulate Miley Cyrus, right?
But I get it and I understand. I probably wouldn’t want my children in the room with ANY of them on tv.
I certainly don't condone a lot of what Mr. Trump says or in the manor for which he delivers it, but there is one major theme that separates him from the rest: he is speaking to the discontent of the people. He is addressing the disparity on the hearts and minds of so many Americans that are losing hope that our Elected will ever regain their grasp on who they are actually here to serve: The America People. He, like Senator Bernie Sanders (who I am admire for many of the same reasons I do Mr. Trump), are reviving a voice in America that those in Washington have gone deaf to.
Donald Trump, like me, lives his mistakes openly. Even at the last debate, when the Fox News moderators hammered him time and again on his flip-flops and business mistakes, he did his best to explain himself. Which is way more than any other elected official in this race has done. That’s all I can ask from someone I vote for: please, do your best for us. He’s weathered a march harsher criticism than even the former Secretary of State has had to (and I will leave it at that).
As a musician, we were brought up in band and chorus with the mantra "If you're going to make a mistake, do it proudly". Mr. Trump is far from perfect, but in the eyes of so many Americans, for the first time in a long time, we see a man that will allow his mistakes to be public, good or bad. He allows his shortcomings, business failures, fractured relationships, to be the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism. Does he own up to everything? Probably not. But, at the top of the polls, commanding a huge lead for nearly a year now, he’s owned up to way more than the Elected have in the last decade. At the end of the day, I see a man that truly wants to restore the great patriotism and pride this country once had for itself. No more apologizing on behalf of these United States to the rest of the world.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders: One calls his plight a movement, the other a political revolution. And they are both right.
I used to admire the politically suave. The nuanced and well-spoken senators and congressmen and women. It didn’t take long, however, for the beating of a distant drum to become louder and louder and for me to realize that scripted and polished politicians weren’t anything more than that: A pressed suit. An appropriately placed strand of pearls. A readily available, politically correct, and a smugly condescending soundbite perched at the tip of their tongues at a moment’s notice for the nearest media earshot.
Do I think Donald Trump is a racist? No. Listen to me closely. Labeling someone a racist is one of the strongest accusations you can level. Per Webster’s dictionary, racism is the belief that some races of people are better than others. If you want to label him (or me, as some have insinuated) a racist, then you damn well better have proof that he (or I) has publicly proclaimed that White people (or the race du jour) are superior, and admonished any other race that is not.
Do I think Donald Trump is prejudiced? Absolutely. We all are to some degree. I know I certainly am.
As far as the other two charges that folks usually associate him with — misogyny and xenophobia (which let’s get real, most of us had no idea what that word even meant until the media added it to our vocabulary) — my explanation would be much the same. Again, not a pass, but an observation. While I know that women and folks of other nationalities (clearly) help make up the fabric of this country just as much as (white/black/etc.) males, I don’t believe he truly has an inherent bias for either of them. I look to what I’ve read about the women in his life (especially in his family — his sister, his daughter, his wife) and the many woman that have worked with and for him.
I don’t excuse him for it, but I certainly won’t pretend that I haven’t harbored the same prejudices at times. It’s a continual evolution to want to grow into statesmanship that I seek. I pray he does the same thing. I certainly don’t know his heart, nor do I know the heart of any of the rest of them. But, I have faith that he will grow into his own and become a more humble man, and a wiser leader.
Donald Trump isn't a politician. He's a businessman. These boast two totally different ways of thinking within the confines of those lines of work. The country doesn't understand him, and for much of it, rightfully so. It’s new. It’s unchartered territory and it’s a direct rebuke to the Establishment. He excites my patriotism, not my hate. He reminds me of the Mayor on the antiqued horse and buggy that rode by as I waved my tiny American flag. At thirty-five years old, he restores hope for me that I can still achieve the American Dream.
Because he's not of the Elected, he's on a learning curve. He has sound ideas and platform points. For example, his 7-point healthcare policy (released yesterday) is actually the most sound and doable. But no one is paying attention to that. Marco Rubio’s website has one vague paragraph praising his accomplishments. Ted Cruz’s website says nothing definitive about healthcare at all. And one of the platforms I admire the most (and silently say ‘hell yeah’ every time I hear him talk about it) is his overwhelming desire to want to take care of those who proudly serve, or have served, in our armed forces. We are the mightiest nation on the planet. He wants us to act like it. I’m down with that.
People. You need to read further. You need to read affirming and opposing literature. You need to educate yourself, as I do to the best of my ability, on each candidate from each party.
It was during my time campaigning that I learned some one of life’s most valuable lessons: the only way to initiate a wave of hope and change, we must make it a personal endeavor to listen and learn from those around us who are different. I conversed with thousands of people of all socioeconomic walks of life, men and women, gay and straight…black and white and hispanic and asian. When we do that, we begin to better ourselves against societal prejudices. We begin to deconstruct destructive behavior which we readily accept as okay. We begin to lift others up. Yes, something Mr. Trump needs to learn and fast.
Borrowing from a line from my own campaign announcement speech, I declared that, “I believe our lives begin at conception and our equality does not stop at skin color. Your gender, your age, your origin, your sexual orientation, should never be the reason you are denied basic liberties and rights.” The history and diversity of my family and upbringing is real and it was a monumental catalyst for my way of thinking. It illustrates that I’m no different, at the foundation, than most in this country. That having been raised in a loving, hardworking family — I, too, can pass onto another generation the pride of America. Those that say they would sooner flee this country, than to live under so-and-so’s Presidency, have never really understood what it means to be an American in the first place. We are in this thing together. We all live under the same President. We will all wake up to another dawn in America.
I sought an opinion of this piece from one of my dearest english professor’s from college. A female, an author, with a near opposite political opinion from my own and she made a profound point:
“It is my great belief that America can be neither be purely liberal or purely conservative, that it’s successes lie in the tension between the two, that this is what makes us great. The push and the pull. The dynamics of it…Us people. We the people.”
While Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, much of what they say sounds crazy to the voter from the opposing political thought. But they are saying it, out loud, without regret. And perhaps America could use some good old fashioned crazy.
After years of gridlock, God D…Bless America, I am willing to throw the shit at the WALL to see if it sticks if it means that we finally break the chokehold the Elected have on us. It’s not a perfect formula, it never will be. If it brings down a political party in the process and completely reshapes the electorate, I am willing to be a part of it. If this experiment is a mistake, I will gladly own it.
I don't think I can stomach another day in this country supporting those that hide their deceit in lofty political rhetoric that is soothing to the ear. I want to be a part of the Movement. I want to be a part of the Political Revolution.
It’s my vote. It’s my solitary chance to demand that we get better. So, no to the Hillary Clintons and the Jeb Bushes. Not this time. The Trump Train is full steam ahead and people are Feeling the Bern……….and I absolutely love it.