Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mistakes and Consequences


Did you read the Vanity Fair article written by Monica Lewinsky?  I finally read it over the weekend, and I found it interesting.  Very, very interesting.  Her words make me think.  They made me feel shame (for cruelly judging her and dismissing her all because of a mistake she made when she was in her twenties), and sympathy/empathy for her situation.   

Way back when the Lewinsky scandal struck, I thought it was a rather crude affair (pardon the expression), but I didn't worry about it too much.  I thought Bill Clinton was a moron for getting caught cheating on his wife with a young intern.  I thought Hillary should have dumped Bill (I have a dominant punisher gene -- forgiveness isn't always my strong suit, and I need to work on that) but that wasn't for ME to decide. 

To be honest, I didn't give much thought to the role Monica Lewinsky played in the matter. She was just the punchline to a lot of bad jokes.  I really didn't wonder why she did what she did, or what would happen to her.  I didn't think much of her -- she made a stupid mistake, she got popped, and the whole world was privy to her dirty business.  Meh.  Dumb mistake.  Not my problem. Next.

After reading the article my perspective changed.  Yes, she made a dreadful mistake by having an affair with an older, powerful and charming man that pursued her.  She and Bill BOTH made a regrettable mistake.  But should she pay for that mistake for the rest of her life?  Should she be scorned, ridiculed, humiliated, harassed and denied opportunities FOREVER because of that mistake?  That seems like a harsh penalty to pay.  

A while back I had some smug thoughts -- just thinking about people that had made absolutely catastrophic mistakes (the Exxon Valdez disaster, the Costa Concordia disaster, GEORGE W. BUSH's many debacles, etc.) and I pretty much patted myself on the back for not having made such horrendous mistakes in life.  UHHHHHHH, those were stupid thoughts.  Awful things can happen at any point, pretty much to any person.

A few months back I was driving home after spending the day with my boyfriend.  I wasn't speeding.  I was being pretty careful, but not careful enough.  I was stopped at an intersection.  I waited my turn, and then I took a right turn into a driveway.  The next thing I knew I had struck a bicyclist.  With my car.  I hit him.  I didn't see him.  He and his bike went down and I could not believe what I had done.  It all happened within a split second.  I think it was the worst mistake I have ever made (well the worst one I have made so far).  Every time I think about it close my eyes and hang my head.  AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL mistake.  I could go on and on about what happened, how he THANKED me when I told him I would pay to get his bike repaired.  How he THANKED me when I said I would take him to a doctor.  How he THANKED me when I insisted on giving him a ride home.  How he was worried about getting my seats dirty with his bike.  How he assured me that he would be ok and that I shouldn't worry, saying "it's okay -- it was an accident."  Months later, the whole thing still sickens me every time I think about it.  

The only consolation that I really had -- which wasn't much consolation AT ALL -- was that I had not intended to hit this poor guy.  It was an honest mistake.  An accident.  But regardless, it was terrible.  Absolutely terrible.  I try not to obsess on it.  I drive with more caution.  I want to make sure that I never make that mistake again. 

Speaking of horrendous mistakes/tragedies/regrets, I found this recent news story incredibly disturbing:

A substance-abuse counselor who struck a pedestrian with her car and drove through a Los Angeles suburb with the dying man on her windshield was sentenced Thursday to 55 years to life in prison. 

A jury earlier this year convicted Sherri Lynn Wilkins, 53, of second-degree murder, driving under the influence and hit-and-run.

Prosecutors said Wilkins' blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit when she struck 31-year-old Phillip Moreno in November 2012 as she was leaving a counseling center. 

She drove 2 miles through the city of Torrance before other motorists swarmed her car at a traffic light and kept her there until police arrived. Moreno was taken to a hospital, where he died. 

Superior Court Judge Henry Hall said, "Ms. Wilkins demonstrated an extraordinary callousness in fleeing the scene and trying to shake Mr. Moreno's body off her car. This is a callous murder, not an unfortunate act." 
Hall rejected a plea from the defense and sentenced Wilkins under California's three strikes law, citing her long history of drug-related crimes. That tripled the minimum 15 years to life she could have received otherwise before being eligible for parole. 

Wilkins, who was a drug addict before she became a drug and alcohol counselor, contended she wasn't drunk that night. She claimed she was "self-medicating" while waiting for knee-replacement surgery and had consumed three single-serving bottles of vodka and a can of Budweiser beer and Clamato before starting to drive. 

In her first apology since that night, Wilkins turned toward 16 Moreno family members and friends in the courtroom Thursday and said what happened was a "tragedy." 

"I am sorry for the pain I caused you," she said. "It hurt so many people." 

The judge said he carefully considered the three strikes element. 
"Ms. Wilkins is not what we normally see," Hall said. "She's not a classic violent criminal. But you have to evaluate her history. She had an insatiable desire to become intoxicated."

She also had a "relatively unbroken crime history" dating back 34 years, he said.

Wilkins' attorney, Deputy Public Defender Nan Whitfield, said she would appeal. 

What this woman did is appalling.  Absolutely awful.  And she gets to spend the rest of her life thinking about it, possibly paying for it, and perhaps attempting to atone for it.   

I don't really know how to end this blog post.  Obviously we all make mistakes.  My favorite mistakes are ones that are minor (AND NOBODY IS HURT BY THEM), that I catch, that nobody else finds out about, that I can just fix and/or bury.  Sadly that isn't always the case.  Some of us get caught up in disastrous mistakes.  I have no wise words except to say proceed with caution in life.  :[


Felicia said...

I know this is a serious post but.....A CLAMATO??? She drank a CLAMATO on top of all that?? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! But in all seriousness, she is a psychopath. I'm reading another book about them and the fact she did not show remorse and only came with excuses shows it. There's a difference between people who make "mistakes" like that and those that really truly make mistakes and feel remorse like you did with the biker. I have to be honest about bikers too though, they can suck! We have a ton here and I'd say half of them DO NOT follow biking laws, making it more dangerous for everyone.

Tiffany Kadani said...

My worst fear WORST is causing harm to others. I have nightmares about it. It keeps me up at night. I'm neurotic about what if I do something stupid and hurt someone, especially with my car. Life is so fragile and mistakes happen, and when those two things come together, tragedy occurs.

I want to hug you. I feel for you.

Lorena said...

Its sad what happened to ML - I think that the worst part was how it was made public.
Here it would have never been like that and with a trial included ?! just never heard of.
The current president has at least 3 mistresses everyone knows about, i think its a private matter.
ANyways I too fear accidents, I would hate to hurt someone and then of course the legal part...

Meghan said...

I often worry about hitting a pedestrian or bicyclist - partly because I'm a worrier and partly because I am also a walker/bicyclist who has almost been hit. I try to be hyper vigilant but then sometimes something sneaks up on you, it sounds like what happened to you.
I felt the same way you describe about ML when this scandal came out. I didn't read the full article, but I read the snippets that you linked to. She made a mistake and she should be able to move on. I don't think she should have to pay for this forever.

Maegan Tintari said...

this was a fantastic read...

I too am worried {like your other commenters} about hurting people {unknowingly} and or mistakes made in the past that creep up and haunt.

At least we learn from mistakes, to be more careful, to see things differently, to act more compassionately. I suppose there's a reason for it all.

fabulousjunk said...

I had a friend who was killed while riding his motorcycle. His family sued the driver who hit him. It baffled me because it was an accident. I know this. I also know my friend, who I miss dearly, was a reckless driver. I had been on that motorcycle with him countless times and I feared for my life. He had had several tickets on that thing because of his erractic and unsafe driving. It was only a matter of time before something happened. And when it did, I hate to say it, I was not shocked. My other friend had been behind him in another car and saw the whole thing happen. My friend on the motorcycle was indeed speeding, weaving in and out and making unsafe lane changes. The driver who hit him, was doing the speed limit and had his blinker on. I was pissed. I was pissed at his family that they couldn't accept that this was a terrible accident. There was no malicious intent. It was simply an accident and yet they needed to sue him. I thought to myself, what if that was me? What if in one instance I hit someone and killed them? I can't imagine the personal pain for both families. Why could they not forgive and accept that things just happen. But how would I feel if that was my family member who died?
My friend was called to testify as a witness, and he was torn as to what to say. It was his friend who died and he was sorry about that and felt the grief his family felt. I told him to tell the truth. I think when shit happens to other people we all of a sudden become "experts at life" and feel the need to judge and blame. "Well if I was her I wouldn't have been in that situation in the first place." Of course thats easy to say, because you have time to sit back and look at the situation. Most accidents happen in a split second. If we did have time to reflect on things they probably wouldn't be accidents.


runcharlierun.com said...

We all live with the spectre of an unforeseen disaster hanging over us like Poe's Raven; just one careless action away from 50 to life

As the saying goes..

'there before the grace of God, go I'