Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Rundown on Mary Winkler: Life in Smalltown, TN

Well, Mary Winkler has been making headlines for over a year now, but she and her story may have peaked yesterday on The Oprah Winfrey Show. While I didn't actually watch the show, I heard the entire program (I sat outside and read my book). The big story here is, of course, why she was found not guilty when she clearly shot her husband at close range while he slept.

Seeing as how Selmer, TN, is just a short ways from where I currently live and only an hour or so from where I grew up - not to mention that I know plenty of people who have lived there, were born there, reside there, and so forth - I thought I would weigh-in on this issue so that you good readers have some better insight as to how this happened:

First of all, you have to remember that Selmer, TN - not unlike Decatur County, TN - is a Southern community in the most extreme sense. To call it "inbred" may be insulting, but it's really not that far from the truth in the sense that pretty much everyone who lives there has always lived there and was more than likely born there, their parents lived there and were most likely born there, their grandparents - on down the line. This guy married that guy's sister and that sister has kids by that guy, whose brother is the sheriff; the sheriff doesn't really like that guy because he drinks too much, but he went to school with him and they used to be friends before he slept with the sheriff's prom date on the night of the prom, so "that's just how he is" and he'll let bygones be bygones - deep down, he's still a good ol' boy at heart; on down the line.

Now, if this sounds down-homey, I suppose it can be, so long as you're a part of that whole network - and it is a network moreso than a community. See, the whole thing is about who knows who, and then over here, you got favoritism... Movie quotes aside, most of it centers on the church.

In these small Southern towns, the church acts as the hub of all activity; it is the rehab, the battered wives' club, the AA replacement workshop. No matter what you do, you can pretty much get away with it if you are a member in good standing of a local church - and that just means that you attend on a fairly regular basis - or you did at one time (before you "got problems").

It goes like this: "Yeah, he robbed my house to pay for his scorching meth habit, but you know, he has A Problem. He's going back to church now, though." Right down the line. Church is a kind of social club that culls only lip-service reverence; most of the church-goers are far dirtier than the non-church members, but they only deal with the latter when they want to score or party or have something else to gain. They get away with it because they go to church, you see? The ones who don't are automatically suspect, as is anyone who isn't from the town.

Also, in these small towns, pretty much everyone sleeps with everyone else for the same reason hard drugs are such an issue: there just isn't much else to do! And most of the kids who were brought up this way tend to rebel against these small-town ways in their adolescence and young adulthood; these good ol' Southern towns crank-out dope-dealers, wannabe "gangstas," strippers, and roadwhores in a way that Hollywood, CA can only envy. Most of them have at least one kid by 17-18, get married around 19, get divorced at 21, and are strung-out on hard drugs by 25.

Of course, so long as you "don't snitch" and mind to go to church once in a while, you "have your problems." Basically, it's the good-ol' Southern Way: the more duplicitous you are, the more respectable. God bless your soul. And anyone who stands apart from this way of life literally stands apart and the rest of the network can't wait to tear them down. You get mad because that guy broke into your house to support his drug habit? Well, who are you to judge him?! Everybody's "got their problems!" Sounds like you could use some church with your holier-than-thou attitude! That street-walking truck-stop whore stole your ID and ruined your credit? Well, how'd she get it? Yeah, that's what they thought! Maybe you should get off your high-horse and go to church! "Ain't nobody perfect but the Good Lord above - the man Upstairs. Amen."

Yeah, Hallelujah.

So when Mary Winkler shot her husband, the preacher, most of the town couldn't wait to hear the story. I mean, he was a preacher, and who wouldn't want to hear the dirt she had on him? After all, he ain't perfect - ain't nobody perfect but Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, Amen - and maybe it was high-time that sanctimonious preacher-man done figgered that out. And when she brought up the idea of "sexual humiliation" and other abuse, that was pretty much the nail in the preacher's coffin.

When she put that platform shoe on the stand in front of her and hung her head, Selmer, TN reeled in a collective gasp.

Because at least 60% of them had found similar shoes in their daughters' room the week before they found out she was stripping in Memphis. Which was the same week she left home and moved to Memphis with her ne'er-do-well "boyfriend" - the meth head who stole her from the guy who will one day be sheriff on prom night. But when it all blows over, they "had their problems" and no one's to blame. Besides, he's in jail awaiting felony drug sentencing and she's clean because she's going to church now, so...

Now, if you think I'm being cynical about all of this, please remember: I'm from here! I have dealt with this sort of shit literally my entire life!

In fact, just a few months back, it was rumored that I was a Devil-worshipper. You know why? Because I close my blinds for about an hour or two everyday.

True story:

Because of where my cable hook-up is and the outlay of my living room and so forth, the afternoon sun comes right through my windows and casts a glare on my TV and monitor, so everyday about 4-5:00 PM, I close my blinds. The crackhead who used to live next door began telling everyone that "only Devil-worshippers do that because they have to pray to The Devil at least one hour a day."

So help me, that was the story.

And you have to remember, I don't do drugs and he does nothing but, and all of this came up shortly after he had offered me drugs and I had declined. So he quit coming by and suddenly - voila! - I became a "Devil-worshipper."

That's just how these places work.

So when you understand that something as simple as wanting to see your TV can make you a "Devil-worshipper" in these places, you begin to see how something as silly as a platform shoe can justify murder.

Now, not everyone agrees with the verdict; many don't, in fact. And not everyone around these parts are down with this bizarre, twisted semblance of life and religion; many (but nowhere near most) will readily agree with my assessment of the situation and almost as many are offended by the duplicity of "going to church" to excuse one's sins. But I really wanted those of you outside of this microcosm, this imitation of life, to understand the very mechanics involved here.

And don't forget, even though this may sound like I agree with what some others have said as far as how "this wouldn't happen in the larger cities" - and I do, to some extent - LA has a habit of letting celebrities get away with murder and NY has a record of not being able to prosecute certain "big ticket" folks what have "connections." So it isn't like these things don't happen in the larger cities; the dynamics involved are just different.

And that there's the Rundown on one Ms. Mary Winkler - and Smalltown, TN, in general.


Anonymous said...

That was the most unintelligent post I have ever read and should be used as an example of how anyone can get away with posting nonsense on the web.

Your parents must be very proud of how you turned out.


Manodogs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manodogs said...

Well, seeing as how I grew up here and Selmer, TN, is literally about an hour from here - not to mention that I know and grew up around tons of people who were either from there or had relatives there - I happen to have a lot more insight into this than you ever will.

It seems clear to me that you disagree with me, so you just insulted me in an attempt to discredit me because you don't have a valid argument with which to counter.

Your parents shouldn't be proud of you; you most likely learned such under-handed tactics from them.