Monday, November 13, 2017

Me, Too...

Me, Too...
by Alfred Lehmberg

With regard to "me, too,", too. I say true.

Oh, I won't begin to put myself in the same league with regard to the abuse your garden variety woman is privy to, and enduringly. That dread just brushed me, but it scarred me in a substantive way lasting my whole life. I reflect on a maltreated womanhood enduring much worse as a matter of course.

Knowing what I now know about a wholly toxic distortion regarding "the purported sins of Eve," and having an appreciation for a maligned womanhood born, not of supposition, but in fact, I'm able to come to the realization that that womanhood, as she is referred to, cannot be casually dismissed for having "at least half the money and all the pussy," as it has been caricatured. That's never been true.

No, they never had anywhere near the money and their "pussies" have never been their own. Shoes summarily switched, "manhood" would find their oppressive de rigueur intolerable. The current pile-on, then, on the practitioners of "the old androcratic ways," I conclude, is justified. I say true.

In 1970, or thereabouts, and just north of 21 years old, I was a Warrant Officer Candidate going through the second phase of flight training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where the entire planet goes to learn to fly helicopters. The subject was instrument flight or flight of a helicopter without reference to outside visual cues. Scary!

This activity was aided by a turn rate indicator, an impact airspeed shown in knots, a gyroscopic horizon bar, an altimeter, and a radio compass. Add a bobbing magnetic compass and this was the full package. You learned to trust them all unfailingly, no matter what your lying ass was telling you, or you got washed out. A lot of guys washed out. 

This was a very tense time for me. Everything was hanging in the proverbial balance. Outside of this military aviation thing, I had nothing.

Basic Instruments, preparatory to the more withering advanced variety, was flying under the hood, as it was called, responding to directions from a check pilot or instructor. "Turn right to heading three-one-five, standard rate, descend to one thousand five hundred, now climb to 3000, right turn, half-standard rate, to heading 185..." The reader gets the idea... Then, we'd do it without the horizon bar. Plus or minus 10 knots of commanded airspeed and 50 feet in assigned altitude. 

These were the standard. Many couldn't forget the seat of their pants for swirling semi-circular canals in confused ears provoking freeze-ups, through full panic, to projectile vomiting. These washed out.

Conversely, I took to it! I loved it! Non-cocky because that bit you on the ass, every time, I reveled privately in my ability to nail it, every time! I was pretty good. Later on, as an instrument flight examiner, I would be at the absolute top of the craft. Near every day was an "A" flight right up to check ride! My confidence was high!

Check flight day arrived at Shell Army Airfield, Enterprise Alabama, and I drew my check pilot. It was like he was drawn from central casting. A West Point Captain replete with a class ring, wide at the shoulders and narrow at the hips, chin as chiseled as his cold blue glare. Wearing a combat patch and a shiny silver Aviation Badge, he was everything I wanted to be when I grew up, you know?

Well, I aced the writ, sailed through the oral exam, and knocked the check-ride out of the proverbial park, I thought. The Captain was somewhat congratulatory and suggested we have a smoke after refueling for the debrief. He hovered the TH-13 BI trainer off the refueling pad and into a clearing way off the beaten track behind a copse of trees in a secluded clearing out of sight of the tower. I remember thinking he must be really serious about fire safety.

We shut the aircraft down and started the debrief, talking about this and that. I was correctly answering his questions and began to get a little unsettled when every question he asked seemed to be getting him angrier and angrier. After about 20 minutes he said, "Well?!" I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Well, what, Sir," looking at him, wholly puzzled.

Clearly pissed-off, he threw down his smoke and coldly said, "You're done." An icy front had moved in. All conviviality was gone. We fired up and hovered back to the pad in silence. Shutting the aircraft down, he informed me that I was to complete the post-flight and logbook entry alone. He'd go inside and complete the paperwork. I wondered what had gone wrong.

I finished up and hustled inside, wondering if I'd passed or failed. Informing me at the table that I'd "better get my shit together before Advanced Instruments," and citing various flight discrepancy issues I thought were wholly bogus (officer candidates do not argue with a military check pilot) he handed me the lowest possible grade I could get and still pass. Relieved but hugely crestfallen I wondered what the hell had happened. I would always wonder...

Cut to around 40 years later. I'd been retired from active service for a couple of years and going to school to get a teaching credential. I was going teach in Alabama Public Schools. I'd bought a new home in Enterprise Alabama with its western border on that very same Shell Army Airfield of lore.

In the early morning, I'd get up to "sky watch." The adjacent Shell Army Airfield trained 24 hours a day. The military aircraft, about a half mile distant, would be launching or recovering to the helidrome, three times a day, with the usual dull roar of jet engines and air chopping main rotor blades. I would sit on my deck listening and remembering.

Abruptly one morning, as I'd not thought of it for a decade, it occurred to me that the copse of trees and aforementioned clearing, alluded to above, was a very short distance... within walking distance from where I was sitting at that moment. I was remembering my BI Flight Check, again puzzled as ever... wondering again what the hell had happened... ...and then it struck me!

The West Point Captain may have had a whole other interpretation of the concept for an "oral examination," regarding my debrief in the unnecessarily secluded clearing. The reader can follow the drift, eh? He'd wanted me to service him in that regard. In retrospect, nothing else makes sense!

I hadn't had a clue. Was he disappointed I wasn't copping to the requirement that it be my idea? He rewarded me with my barely passing grade for my unwillingness to go along? I'd had no idea what was going on. I thought the screw-up was, somehow, entirely my own.

How did that scar me? Well, I spent the next 20 years getting twisted up and ulcer-anxious when check-ride times came around every year. I can't recall one that didn't cause serious anxiety, and sometimes that anxiety provoked issues with self-respect and self-worth... like a Master Aviator with a thousand hours of combat time in a war zone, full boat Standardization Instructor Pilot (SIP) and Instrument Flight Examiner (IFE) ratings and even earning a Bronze Star... should be the cause of questioned self-worth. 

No... I was "raped," in a manner of speaking... by a likely serial rapist, eh? I didn't even know I'd been raped for decades and even wholly un-penetrated and oblivious, I was scarred for life. My mind had an unjust hole put in it on the subject of flight checks.

The point is, is that this is not just "shaken off" like it's just "one of those things," and your aggregate female deals with worse on a daily basis, most making it work better than myself... I have to say. No... women have only ever taken a bad deal, rife with ignorance and glad misogyny, and made things better than menfolk deserve, in the aggregate, in spite of their grievous treatment.

Given my own and very minimal, almost tangential, experience with an abuser of the ilk threatening them as a matter of course, I'm provoked to wonder about the avoidable damage to their feelings of worth and self-respect, betrayed. What "might have been" for them... 

See, to a degree... I see how the injustice works. I'm compelled, subsequently, not to reflect, so much, on how different the whole rest of my life would have been... but how constructively different the lives of countless women, in times past or as yet unborn, might have been.

Currently, celebrating abusers of women the likes of Donald Trump and Roy Moore at the top of leadership and governance is a horrifying retrograde from the gylanic ideal we'd rather be striving for, eh? Indeed, one wonders how true the "Handmaid's Tale" is yet to be.

Read on.


Alfred Lehmberg said...

Post Script: Remember that this military aviation opportunity was all I had going on between me and some pretty dire straights. Remember too that I truly had no clue, for decades, what he must have been on about. Only, what if I had, reader? What if I had? There's a "what if" difficult for me to contemplate, eh?