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. :[