The 'Deplorables' Have Not Gone Away
He was late picking us up. And when he showed up it was in a beat-up pickup truck that had been driven over three hundred thousand miles with a cracked windshield. For those of us used to bright and shiny, this was highly unusual. Barry got out of the truck with a big smile and a downhome hello. He would be with us for a few days, helping us get back on the Appalachian Trail, which we are hiking from Georgia to Maine this spring and summer. Barry quickly let us know he was one of Hilary’s deplorables and proud to be one.
On the hour ride with Barry, we got to know each other a little better. He is a crazy driver and at times I questioned if we would make the fifty-mile trip. But slowly we got comfortable with Barry and asked questions about his life. During this drive and the next few days, the story of his life came out. We discovered a deep man of faith and commitment to doing the right thing.
It’s not that Barry is all that unusual that I tell his story, but because he is the perfect blend of Americans who live and carve out lives in the small towns of America. These towns contain the "deplorables" -- those who strongly support President Trump. He represents what we have discovered about these wonderful people Hilary called “deplorable.”
They all fight hard to make a living. Some have three jobs, others two. They cobble together a living in towns that don’t have the infrastructure or large employers as in other parts of our country. Politicians know little about their values. They represent the “deplorables” we heard about in the last election. They all know what they were called and wear the title of “deplorable” as a badge of honor.
They like Trump, not because he is bombastic or tweets many times a day. They like him because he isn’t a politician. They know about insincere politics, and while not always agreeing with Trump, feel he is sincere.
These people, like Barry, choose this life. They could have moved to a big city and enjoyed a wealthier life. But that would mean giving up their home and their little piece of paradise. They chose this life and it makes them happy. They have to work harder than their city cousins. There are nights Barry doesn’t get home until after 10 PM. But this is their life and they work hard to keep their paradise.
Barry had 10 children, although two regrettably died. He and his wife have 30 grandchildren and eight greatgrandchildren. Barry is a talented musician, who would have received more fame in a bigger city. But chose to raise his family in rural Tennessee. A beautiful piece of our country, surrounded by majestic peaks, flowing rivers, and trout in the uphill streams.
Like most rural youth, he served our country. With no large employers or career opportunities, it was his way to learn and see the world. Barry is proud of serving and helping protect his country. His politics are different than ours -- he is a conservative and we are more moderate. But his beliefs come from the life he has lived. He doesn’t see how the politicians help. His town doesn’t get a piece of the money our government spends on infrastructure. The businesses that do come to town are nationally known chains that export the profits they make to larger places. Leaving the residents jobs that pay slightly above minimum wage.
Barry believes in our Constitution and knows what “We the People” means. It’s not “We the politicians” or “We the government contractor.” He wishes we could return to this in America. He wishes human value could be equal, not based on education or money, but based on the content of character. He doesn’t want to hear about white privilege. He wants to hear about equal rights for all. He wants every child to have a fair chance and for no group to be labeled. His life has been hard, but his internal compass pushes him beyond regretting not having the same opportunities other Americans have had. He is a proud man and should be. He doesn’t feel entitled like so many Americans, but driven to fend for his family.
Barry drives hikers to the Appalachian trail. He is also a contractor who finds and does odd jobs. His wife works at the local college. Late in life she earned a masters degree, one course at a time. The vehicles they own are old, but they love their car and truck.
But Barry is different than what is said about the “deplorables.” He doesn’t drink, cuss, take drugs or other vices. It’s not what the Lord wants him to do. He does have a Harley and has ridden a half-million miles. He is a singer with a CD. He helps his neighbors because he is supposed to. Every day he smiles and believes he blessed.
His hair isn’t always combed. His politics maybe loud and unbending, but he cares about all people. He has hiked many of the miles we are currently hiking. He has visited many parts of our country and knows places of great beauty. He did this with and for his family, both as a dad and Boy Scout leader.
I wish people like Barry could have their chance at fame. They have something to add that isn’t filled with guile or self-interest. They know and live a less complicated and less comfortable life. It’s not just Barry, it’s the many people we have met. Barry represents a composite of those living in small towns fighting to carve out a life, but are called “deplorable.”
Maybe politicians call them “deplorable,” but they aren’t. They choose to live this life, help hikers, go to church, raise a family, and love their neighbor.
Barry should be famous, but likely will never be any more than a great dad, faithful husband, and good friend. Barry is happy and goes about life everyday trying to make a living in a place that is unsupported by many politicians. His goal is being a good person
Perhaps those in Washington who call people deplorable should journey to the small towns of America and hear their voices.
Their America is the one they want to be great again.
Dr. Bruce L. Hartman, author of the book Jesus & Co.: Connecting the Lessons of The Gospel with Today's Business World. Bruce Hartman is the founder of Gideon Advisors, a Christian advisory firm committed to “walking with people into a brighter future” as they navigate life and career transitions and advance Christian values in the marketplace.