Monica Lewinsky reemerged in the media this week and my heart breaks for her over the hell and trauma that a girl of 21 had to endure. And that she must be reliving today. She was the butt of cruel and horrible jokes. REPEAT: And she was only 21! There are adults who weathered traumatic events at that age that pale by comparison and who are monumentally scarred today. Just imagine being the subject of relentless cruelty, and thankfully for her in a pre-Facebook and Twitter world. Can you imagine what she'd have to endure today with social media trolls and viral harangues exponentially compounding by the minute? I'm frankly surprised she didn't blow her brains out or become an addict or engage in some form of self-destruction in view of the circus that she was the center of. And amazingly, Bill Clinton's unscathed. He's coated with political Teflon, Kevlar, Armor All. And how does that happen?
Now, I'm sure he'd remind us of that impeachment business, but he wasn't convicted and so what, so he now joins Andrew Johnson in the history books. Big deal. But look at him now. The hoary elder statesman. Rock star. Soon to be granddad. Folks love him. And Monica was relegated to ridicule and oblivion and recycled cigar jokes. Why? Why no compassion or charity? Why wasn't there the ability to identify with her? Everyone has a daughter, sister or friend they can relate to, everyone must have known a time in their own lives when they were subject to insecurity and uncertainty. Perhaps not.
This morning I happened to read online the cruel scribblings of an embittered harpy who joined the throngs of Monica bashers who paint her solely as the trollop, somehow singularly responsible for what happened. I simply don't understand how there's so little compassion for her. Bill Clinton was almost 50-years-old. The President. It's heady stuff and the attendant aphrodisiac qualities were made quite clear by of all people that irrepressible stud muffin, Henry Kissinger. Women twice her age (or more) would have fallen for this power differential. And with that comes a certain responsibility not to trample on the hearts and feelings and unrealistic fantasies of a kid. So if this was missed in '94, we've had 20 years to mull this over, where's the compassion now?
There is no compassion. There's no feeling. We're a society of psychopaths unable to empathize or relate. No sense of connection or consequence. And because we live in a pathetically plastic frame of reference, entharalled and ensconced in selfies and narcissism, because we're a society of the sutured and spackled and Botoxed, we can't even begin to think of Monica without references to her looks or weight or business ventures. Twenty years later.
Look, this isn't about Bill or Hill or left or right. It's about our collective lack of empathy. Can you not see what this would mean to any 21-year-old who found herself in this position? If this were your daughter or you for that matter, just imagine how you'd feel knowing that you've been secured for posterity as a punch line.
We can turn on people when instructed in a heartbeat. From the Milgram and Stanford Prison Experiments to Abu Ghraib and now bullying and cyberbullying, I've marveled at how our pack mentality emerges on cue and when instructed and the viciousness knows no bounds. It's like watching the poor soul on the ledge and yelling JUMP! There's no compassion for or identification with a fellow human being. And with the anonymity of social media and the ability to hide like cowards as we hurl the vilest and meanest and cruelest of slams and slurs, attack patterning is the new American pastime.
Should Monica Lewinsky ever have children, I've often wondered what she'd tell them of her past. How she'd explain her historical reference. How her name had become a sexual reference. And oddly enough, certain folks can actually grow in stature when subjecting themselves to what would be sexual shame for most of us. They've the right mien and countenance that seems to divert and deflect negative and embarrassing publicity. Monica Lewinsky is not a member of this group.
I comment professionally in a variety of fora. I've a spoken word (and bluegrass, thank you very much) act and routine -- it was called standup a decade ago -- that incorporate current events and issues in the prism of my perspective and delivery. May 10 at New York's Cutting Room is the next venue for such. I fully intended when writing Monica Lewinsky into the "act" that it would be the usual: referencing racily the lovingly lubricious and comedically concupiscent. But the more I thought about her the more I realized she's a victim.
And it's just not funny anymore. So lay off.