Someone once told me that the things that make you upset and angry about other people are the things in your own life that you don't really like or want to change.
That makes sense to me.
A lot of really horrible stuff has happened in this country within the past few days. I've tried numerous times to blog about Virginia Tech, for example, and I've just not been able to do it. Yesterday, a contractor at NASA killed an engineer and then himself. Even stupid Alec Baldwin, whom I never gave that much thought to before, had me all spun up yesterday because he called his daughter a pig and didn't even know how old she was.
But honestly? The major case that's been on my mind lately is Mary Carol Winkler.
I don't know Mary Winkler personally. But here is what I know about her.
She is only a few years older than me. She graduated high school one year before I did.
She's a South Knoxville girl, and she graduated from the same high school that my nephew attends, right now, today.
South Knoxville is certainly not all poverty, like some other parts of Knoxville. There are many, many beautiful homes in South Knoxville. Homes I would call "fancy mansions". Homes for middle class families and homes for lower middle-class families. There are a lot of good, decent, hard-working folks in South Knoxville.
But there is poverty, and it is stark and it is painful and it is bad. There are mothers and fathers who teach their daughters that they are not worth anything and when they grow up they need to find a man who will marry them and take care of them, because they can't do anything on their own.
I don't know Mary Winkler.
When I look at Mary Winkler's face, I see a woman who probably grew up in poverty. I see a woman who didn't know what else was out there in the world. I see a woman who was probably raised to believe that if you could snag a preacher, you probably got a pretty good deal.
But I don't know Mary Winkler.
I see a woman who said her husband was verbally abusive. I see a woman who stood on a witness stand and was so mortified and so ashamed when she described and showed the jury what her husband forced her to wear while having sex with him. The things he forced her to do and say. Her husband, the father of her children, who held a pillow over the face of their one-year old daughter. And Mary Winkler still insisted to the police that he was a good man.
I see stigma and shame on Mary Winkler's face.
But I don't know her.
When I looked at the woman's face, she looked tired. She looked resigned. She looked like a woman so beaten down with life that she just didn't know what to do.
She looked like I probably looked a few years ago.
In a marriage which was bad. Knowing I needed to get out and get away. Knowing the man I was married to did not love me, and was emotionally and verbally abusing me every day of my life and making me feel like...nothing. Nothing at all. Like I was small and stupid and couldn't do anything right, ever.
And making me feel like there was no way out.
That no one, not even my own parents, loved me.
That he would take my children away from me, because I was "crazy".
That financially, I could never be okay without him.
That everyone would look at me and be ashamed of me.
That no one would ever love me.
I don't know Mary Winkler. But I wonder. I just wonder if that's how she felt.
Mary Winkler should not have shot her husband. That was wrong. Mary Winkler deserves to be punished for taking someone's life. He might have been a craptastic husband, but she shouldn't have shot him.
She should have walked away.
But I know, looking at her, how difficult that would have been for her.
A lot of people, women especially, I notice, have loudly said that on television.
WHY DIDN'T SHE JUST WALK AWAY?!?
I don't know why she didn't walk away. Like I said, I don't know her.
But I didn't walk away because I was afraid.
It was more scary to be alone. Because I never, ever believed I had what it took to be be alone.
It was more scary to contemplate the shame and stigma of being divorced.
What would my family say?
What would my church say?
Can you imagine how magnified that was for Mary Winkler? She was the preacher's wife. She would have to go against not only her husband, but her entire congregation, her entire faith system, and even God.
I imagine she didn't walk away because she didn't know how.
She was wrong. No doubt. She deserves to be punished.
But I still feel so sad for her. For the waste. For her daughters. For what could have been.
Maybe I'm totally wrong about all this. Maybe she was a pathological liar and a killer and I'm wasting my emotion on her.
But I feel sad for Mary Winkler.
I feel sad for her two little girls.
I feel sad for the family of her husband, who have to deal with losing their child.
And I feel sad for all the little girls from South Knoxville, and everywhere else in this country, who grow up believing that they can't do anything about it. That they have to stay in a bad marriage, a bad town, a bad neighborhood, a bad home. That there is nothing more than that and even wanting more is wrong and bad and totally outside the realm of possibility.
That is what makes me sad.
Because I was a little girl who wanted more.