Don't Recognize This America? Here's Why You Shouldn't Turn Away.

Last night as I watched the election returns I thought of the scene in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" where Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the final ghost - the Ghost of Christmas Present.

When Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, he is shocked when two wild and ragged children tumble out from the giant's robes. He thinks they must belong to the giant, but the giant tells Scrooge that they are Man's. The giant explains that the boy is called Ignorance and the girl Want. "Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy..."

I cannot help but think of that scene as the outcome of this election confronts us today as a nation. I ask myself how is it that a man who openly talks about molesting women, is openly racist and a bully, has a hair-trigger temper, was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, has shady business practices, who has not actually articulated a full policy plan other than soundbites, can become president-elect of arguably the most powerful nation on earth?

For others there is a newer reality - one that is impossible to deny or ignore - and that is the fact that we are indeed a much divided nation. For the last eight years we have watched as America has inched closer and closer to this abyss. Now at least the rock has been rolled back and many can see that which has been disputed and dismissed: that race and class remain truly significant issues in this country. Today, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Frederick Douglas from a speech he gave in 1857:

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

This election cycle has held up a mirror to our nation - and it has been painful for many of us to see what's reflected. We must look honestly at the hurt and fear that caused so many people to vote the way that they did; those feelings, too, are very real. Ultimately there can be no reconciliation without first confronting truth, as uncomfortable and ugly as it might be.

The truth is that we are a deeply divided nation. That was evidenced by an election cycle that focused on the worst aspects of racial and gender division in our society, themes that were central to the national dialogue. In my opinion, it is only when we acknowledge and confront these realities that we as a nation can truly begin the journey toward real reconciliation and progress.

So despite the distress that I may personally feel, I got up this morning, came to work and rolled up my sleeves whilst humming the lyrics to a song written by Joan Baez in 1976:

Ain't gonna let nobody, turn me around
Turn me around, turn me around
Ain't gonna let nobody, turn me around
Keep on a walking, keep on a talking
Gonna build a brand new world.