If anyone thinks it’s easy to step onto the public stage after having been ridiculed mercilessly and used as a media punching bag, think about the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in your life — the mistake in judgment that makes you wince and say, “I’d just die if people knew.” Then imagine that the whole world finds out and everywhere you turn you are the news story. You and your one big embarrassing mistake. You’d undoubtedly want to run and hide.  If you did hide, would you ever have the courage to return, stand up in front of the world that once mocked you and say, “I have something I want to say.” Some people might; many wouldn’t. Because there just aren’t that many brave people in the world.

When the Clinton scandal was in full swing, I ached for Monica Lewinsky. I knew firsthand what it was like to be castigated and mocked by the country and even the world. I published my first novel in 1982. I did what most writers do when they’re starting out — I took my own life and I fictionalized it, changed things to create a story, but left intact the things I was familiar with. Write what you know, right? What I knew was being the daughter of a political figure. The novel was called Homefront and I was pilloried as a bratty daughter who trashed her parents in a thinly disguised novel. I probably should have been pilloried for the fact that it wasn’t a very good novel, which is why I never list it in my author credits.  Please don’t go looking for it on Amazon. Buy my other books, I’m a much better writer now. Anyway, the parents in the book were not terrible figures by any means, and it was pretty obvious that the main character was a fictionalized version of me. But none of that mattered. I was beaten up badly in the press and in the public, and I am so grateful that the Internet wasn’t around then because I don’t know if I could have gotten to my feet again.

But Monica Lewinsky has. I watched her TED talk and marveled at how honestly she revealed her pain years ago without playing  victim in the re-telling. I was impressed by the point she made that everyone seemed to forget she had dimension and a soul. To most she was just the news story of the month. She was “that woman” as Bill Clinton dismissively said. She had to be terrified to return to the public stage, yet she’s done it with grace and insight, even humor. She is a stunning example of someone who was dehumanized and treated as if she didn’t have a soul, who retreated to heal, and then stood up tall — taller than the people who once beat her up. Not everyone who has been bullied and torn apart publicly has that fortitude. Not everyone who has been cyber-bullied has found that strength. Suicide and cyber-bullying have become dark partners.

We need to listen to what Monica Lewinsky is saying. We also need to think about what it means to be 22 and have your life torn apart by millions of people who have no idea who you are, and who don’t care. We need to think about what it takes to not only survive that, but to turn it into a message meant to help others. If we don’t, the maliciousness of on-line bullying and cruelty will keep growing. The one thing this world does not need is more cruelty.



  1. Wayne Kurzeja says:

    “The one thing this world does not need is more cruelty.”
    What can I say? I am always moved by your writing… by your insight…by your kindness.

  2. Thank you Patti for reflecting on growing up in the public eye and how difficult it is. It is hard enough to be 20 something and exploring the world, but to have a spot light shone on your young life is very challenging. Not everyone has their exploration torn apart and publicized. Supporting Monica as you have shows that when one of us stands tall it helps all of us do the same.

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