Love Conquers Hate
I can’t believe it’s the beginning of Week 3! It still feels like just yesterday I was frantically running around Atlantic City with my Miss America sisters, and now I’m waiting to board a flight on my next stop as Miss America.
If you’ve been following my first few weeks at all, you know that they have not been the easiest weeks a Miss America has ever faced. But through it all, there is still a job to be done…and I could not be more honored to be doing it.
The same day that I needed to fly into Chicago this week, the unfortunate situation at the Chicago area control center took place. Thankfully, the only major problem was the cancellation of thousands of flights and consequently the damage done to the infrastructure of the control center. My flight was among those cancelled, landing me in a Philly hotel room for 24 hours before finally making it to Chicago. But it was worth the wait because my time in Chicago has been one of the best experiences yet as Miss America. I got to spend some wonderful time with the one and only Tony Bowls at the Chicago Bridal Market. Tony Bowls/MonCheri is our fabulous evening gown sponsor. Tony and I also attended the DEBI Awards, honoring designers and retailers in the Bridal, Prom, and Special Occasion industry. I even got to see my Miss America sister, Miss Illinois Marisa Buchheit!
During my time in Chicago, I was also able to visit Lurie Children’s Hospital, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and the tallest children’s hospital in the world, standing at 22 stories tall. Everything down to the elevators in this hospital is child friendly and it was an absolute joy to spend the afternoon visiting with the kids. I was able to spend time in the Family Life Center, making pipe cleaner crowns and going family to family to meet and play with the kids. 40% of the patients at Lurie are Spanish speakers, so my Spanish really came in handy with some of the families that were much more comfortable with Spanish than English.
I also visited some of the children’s rooms who were unfortunately not well enough to come down to the Family Life Center. Hospital gown, mask, and all, we went room to room and among these amazing kids was a little girl who had just had a heart transplant two days prior, as well as another little girl with cerebral palsy who was the biggest fan of the Miss America Organization that I have ever met. Her mother wept tears of joy to see her daughter smile and clung to me as hard as her little bones would allow. These are the days that make everything worth it. All of the negativity, all of the hurt, and all of the nonsense suddenly just didn’t matter.
Speaking of the nonsense, over the past three weeks I’ve been asking myself this question: “Why the Hate?” Hate is such a nasty emotion. It serves no purpose and leads to no positive outcomes. It is an explosion of bile from within our souls that burns everything around us, including ourselves.
I see this hate most prevalently in social media, whether in the form of mean tweets or Instagram comments or I can only imagine what the message boards are spewing these days. (I don’t read the message boards and neither should any other young woman who competes in pageants. Grown men and women bashing young, accomplished women anonymously online…come on. Really? Find something better to do. End rant.)
The most amusing thing I have noticed in these mean, hateful comments is this: Every so often, when someone posts something berating my looks or my intelligence or my qualifications for being Miss America, I click on their profile, just to look into the face of my cyber bully. Shockingly, the majority of these people feature a bible verse in their Instagram/Twitter bio, or a list of their priorities, God being first, or something of that nature. These people who are so committed to the grace of God that they feel compelled to write it in their online bios are one in the same with those that attack me from behind computer screens so vehemently.
To me, believing in God means acceptance, forgiveness, love, kindness, humility, understanding, patience, virtue, and grace. Who are you to judge, especially if you love God so much that you have published your faith online as your number one priority in life? According to you, God should be the one true judge of character, the one to pass sentencing, the one to reward or punish. That responsibility most certainly is not yours.
So, all I have to say is shame on you, all who disgrace the name of God by judging so openly and so hatefully. God sees all. I know that when I go to bed at night, I am a good person with a servant’s heart, faith, and love. I have made my mistakes, admitted them, and have learned and grown from them. What else could you possibly ask of someone in my position? But instead of being supportive, people, most often women (sorry ladies) feel the need to bring others down.
This begs the question, and I’ve asked it many times: “Why do women have such a hard time supporting other women?” Whether it is in the work place or among friends or at school or at home, too often we see woman vs. woman combat. To me, this is among the most important factors that keep women’s issues from being non-issues. Why can’t we support each other by accepting diversity and a difference in opinion? Why can’t we lift each other up and be a team instead of tearing each other down to get to the top? Why can’t we see long term and big picture as opposed to our own personal short-term gains and immediate satisfaction? Where is the compassion within our gender for one another and why do we so often let men come between us, consequently controlling us? At one point or another in my life, I have been guilty of all of these things.
As Miss America, I have an opportunity to change this. I will speak loudly about it until maybe, just maybe, women will begin to realize that we must stand in solidarity with one another. As the month of September comes to a close, and October begins, also known as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we all have a grand opportunity to support each other, to love one another, and to be strong for each other. Whether you have been affected by domestic violence or not, you have an opportunity to help, simply by talking about it and by being nice.
Happy women lead to happier families, women in business lead to a better economy, more women in government leads to better government…but we will never get there unless women support women. Plain and simple. Just to put things into perspective for how far behind we are: only 4.8% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women. The United States is 84th in the world for including women in politics. Human sex trafficking, the buying and selling of women and girls as sex workers, is the 2nd largest industry IN THE WORLD. 20% of the women that serve in our military have been sexually assaulted. In 2011, a lawsuit was brought against the Department of Defense for sexual assault in the military and lack of policies to protect women. The case was dismissed in a United States court of law, sighting that rape is an OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD of serving in our military. We are still fighting for basic services like daycare for working women, equal pay for equal work, and a man has to beat a woman ENOUGH for the justice system to do anything about it, consequently driving the getaway car for abusers. Most male sex offenders will have 300 victims in their lifetime because there are NO CONSEQUENCES.
These are the long-term issues that we should be working to solve instead of cyber-bullying one another. I hope that anyone who reads this will next time think twice before posting that mean tweet or comment, and that they will instead be kind. And those of you who post on the message boards for the sole purpose of ripping women apart are the very reason why the opposite sex too often regards us as silly and fails to take us seriously, the worst thing of all.
In the face of all of this, I still have hope, even when my regard for human nature is at an all time low. I need only to take a look at the 52 women with whom I competed at Miss America. If our gender has any hope, it will be because of women like them, fighting the good fight, supporting one another, and being good people to each other. They love deeply, care, and uplift so genuinely. The women of this country need not look much further for role models, as the spirit of solidarity and women’s empowerment lives within the Miss America Class of 2015.
Be nice, don’t hate, and please support one another. And just like mom always says, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all.”
With love and solidarity,