“Monica Lewinsky: The price of shame”

A 2015 TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky:

Appreciated listening to her perspective there. We really haven’t heard much at all out of her since the late ’90s, though people still do love to lob her name around for humorous effect. That “scandal” always bugged me, particularly in how Monica was vilified and yet Linda Tripp and Bill Clinton weren’t anywhere nearly as much, despite what all wrong they clearly did in the situation and them being older at the time. So a young intern formed a serious crush on an older, powerful man and engaged in sexual activities with him — so what? He’s the one who was married at the time and expected to act respectably in the office in which he’d been elected to serve. And Linda Tripp posed as a friend to Monica all while backstabbing her and then later making all those embarrassing recordings public. And for what? What did she really accomplish through all of that? Bill Clinton wasn’t impeached and wasn’t judged nearly as harshly in the aftermath of that storm, yet Monica’s reputation was ruined for well over a decade. And for what? Because she made naive, immature choices in her early 20s, as if the rest of us didn’t.

I agree with what she said about “upstanding,” which is basically standing up and showing compassion rather than passively behaving like an apathetic bystander. The internet is saturated with vitriol and cruel words — no question there. And that attitude problem has been bleeding over into society as a whole. It’s like television started it, then the internet exacerbated it, and now it’s flowing every which way today. How could that not have an incredible impact on the youngest people out here, especially when they wind up targeted and incessantly harassed? We’ve all seen it occurring online. Hard not to notice.

Politics can’t fix this, but I do agree that a rise in empathy could. And that appeals to us each on an individual level since that’s where it begins. We all get mad and feel scorned and want to lash out at times with our gossip. God knows I’m guilty of that too. But then you have to rein it in and remember to keep it in perspective and proportional. Shame is a hell of a social weapon. I know this personally in my own way, though Monica takes the cake in dealing with more ridicule and gossip than probably anybody should ever have to endure for years on end, especially for something that’s really not the world’s business. How she’s kept it together all this time is a testament to her character and her support network. Would’ve turned me into a complete basketcase going through what she did. We all said and did all sorts of crazy stuff during our time growing up. Reaching age 18 or 21 isn’t some magical line where suddenly we’re adults who had it all together. Not by a long shot. And emotions can be so strong when you’re younger and deeply infatuated.

I’ve embarrassed myself a million times over and likely will continue doing so pretty regularly since I’m slow to get my act together, even now in my 30s. But when you get locked in by a character assassination and treated as that and only that forevermore, it keeps a person from being able to grow and mature and learn from those experiences, as is the natural process. None of us were born having it all figured out, and those who pretend to are the ones I’d worry about the most since they’re deluded. Life’s a tangled web, especially nowadays, and it’s probably going to get more complicated from here on out. That worries me too, because it’s tough to muster the strength to continuously contend with this obstacle course known as modern living. Let alone to do so with dignity…that being an area I won’t pretend to know much about.

How can we not have empathy for people right about now, considering what all we’re up against? Interpersonal drama is hard enough to deal with, and I can only imagine how much more devastating it must be to have your dirty laundry publicly aired with your voice and photos and name attached to it, placed on permanent public record. That’s a lot for anyone to handle. And I think that’s why I do share as much as I do on here, in an attempt to desensitize myself to the scorn felt from others, because the alternative seems to be to hunker down and keep everything as private as possible at a time when privacy is being actively eroded all around. And because we’re just human beings out here living and learning, with no one of us having it all figured out. We like to judge others so as to deflect criticism from ourselves, but in reality we’re harboring our own sins and misdeeds. Who isn’t? I am and I can’t help but talk about it sometimes, probably partly because it does attract others who know what it feels like to be on one side of the situation or the other and can therefore meaningfully relate. Lets us see more clearly how human we really are when we honestly share back and forth with one another about our lives and choices.

But what we see happening today is a trend headed toward judgements cast anonymously and/or by those who conceal their own flaws and missteps and private failures. That’s a one-sided attack, not a bid for personal growth. That’s treating other people’s lives as little more than entertainment fodder — objectification in the rawest sense of the word. And that’s pretending and false righteousness. We all get indignant at times, but it’s a question of whether we can simmer down eventually and examine the broader picture, including our own mistakes and bad choices and wrongful treatment of others. Because I’ve never met a saint. And if one should exist, he or she wouldn’t behave self-righteously and scorn so many others with contempt. He or she would understand that all humans are fallible.

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