The dangers of hate propaganda
Last night, as I often do, I tweeted along with my friends as I watched the Miss America pageant.
I’ve always been a big fan of pageant culture — I was lucky enough to attend a few as media, and I’m really fascinated by the backstage antics and soap opera-esque drama.
Also, I really liked Miss Congeniality. Like a lot.
Watching the pageant, I was very taken by a few of the names and stories.
Most noticeably, was Miss Kansas. This amazing woman, win or lose, would go down in history as one of the most memorable contestants ever — she was a member of the military, studying to be a dentist, and yes, beautiful. She had tattoos, she studied archery. She wasn’t the typical identity of a pageant queen. She was a picture of self-sufficiency and non-conformity. Her win would break pageant stereotypes and show how strength and perseverance was the ideal of Miss America, just as much as having pretty hair and a great body.
And so, when two rounds before the end, Miss Kansas was eliminated, I tweeted. I tweeted that America wasn’t ready for someone like her – someone who represented the real face of America – a changing face, about independence, and perseverance, and being who you were whether people like it or not. I was speaking of archaic conservative ideals. I was speaking of them not being ready for someone as fresh and landscape-changing as she.
Twenty minutes later, Miss New York won. A beautiful woman, she’s also the first Indian-American ever to win the crown. And I’m incredibly happy for her – and for New York, for having a pageant win two years in a row.
What happened next is something that has me so incredibly saddened, I’m crying as I type this.
It’s funny how just a few days ago, I wrote a post about how I have a really hard time dealing with people not liking me. I had been talking about my personal life. Personal demons that have plagued me in the past few years and more recently.
I could have never have dreamed what would happen next.
Twitter, it seemed, took my comments completely out of context (and the timeline stamps as well) – and interpreted what had been posted significantly before the pageant end as a comment on the results. When I said the “face of Miss America” I was speaking in grander terms – not the face any particular candidate. I was speaking of the face of strong will and determination. People like Miss Florida, who performed the talent competition last night with two torn ligaments is another fine example. I admire this, and I identify with this – a year ago I very nearly died, and went on to meet a project deadline while still in ICU receiving blood transfusions. Seeing a project through to its completion is that important to me.
But twitter responded differently. They saw what I had said as a comment on the race of Miss New York. It had nothing to do with her race. Or anyone’s. Overnight, I got hundreds of hateful tweets from people I don’t know calling me names I’d never call my worst enemy. Today, I am in various newspapers – including on other continents — bunched among hateful racist comments by ignorant people. I am not a racist. I am not ignorant. However, I can not say the same for people sending me threatening and cruel tweets and Facebook messages for the last 24 hours. Calling someone a “stupid white c*nt” is racism. Saying someone represents the face of American ideals because she risks her life for her country and isn’t afraid to go against traditional stereotypes of pageant ideals is not.
I’m afraid, you guys. I was afraid walking home tonight from a business dinner, thinking that someone who read a cruel mis-truth about me would want to exact revenge for something I hadn’t even done. But I’m more afraid for the future of our universe. A future where people attack strangers and jump to conclusions about fellow humans based on mis-truths and misassumptions. I didn’t hurt anyone, I’d never hurt anyone — but I am very hurt by the current climate being engaged.
Life is short, everyone. I’ve lost several really dear friends in the last few months to forces much bigger than any of us. But we can choose to love, or we can choose to hate. We can choose to engage in ignorance and racism, or we can choose to open our hearts and minds to the people around us. I always try to lead with my heart and be the best person I can be to all the people in my realm. It takes just as many muscles to frown as to smile! I can only hope others will make that choice as well.
But until then, I just hope to be the best person I can be, and not let the negativity around us seep into my own heart. And I hope all of you can manage that as well. Be your best self – that’s the most any of us can ever hope for.
I love you all :)
EDIT: Just wanted to include the New York Observer story about this insanity — they were actually interested in MY side of the story!