The Art of Intimidation

Political Shift Ushers in Wave of Safety Concerns

November 2016

BY CAROL LARSON

The morning after the election, I was waiting alone at the fifth floor elevator of a hospital parking garage. Two possibly tough guys walked up to the doors.

Suddenly, I panicked and ran for the stairs.

Fear, stronger than I’ve felt in years, gripped me. Women have always had to be cautious, as responsibility for avoiding assault remains with us. But this was different. This was new, as it had everything to do with the election results.

Overnight, fear for my personal safety had intensified. The knowledge there are now those whose worst intentions have been sanctioned by our new president-elect will change how many of us navigate the world.

It is not a huge leap to assume that long suppressed misogynistic urges may become unleashed. Especially those modeled by the behaviors of Donald Trump. After all, he not only got away with alleged assaults on a number of women, bragging about his hundreds of conquests and the ease with which he could molest any woman he wanted, but the voters rewarded him for it with the presidency.

All through the campaign we saw the steep rise in acceptance of intimidation against anyone with opposing opinions, as well as ethnic minorities, Muslims, the media and the disabled. Even other Republicans who disagreed with Trump and his lockstep followers were threatened with political and personal ruin.

And there was the blatant call to arms, to violence, with Trump “kiddingly” suggesting at a rally that attendees use their Second Amendment rights against Hillary Clinton.

Some may dismiss my fears as easily as they did Trump’s racist comments about Mexicans, maybe chalk such caution up to political disappointment. But history knows such fears are not only valid, but omens.

A week before the election I had the privilege of interviewing a Holocaust survivor who pointed out that in societies where facts and reality rarely mesh with political claims, the use of misogyny, racism, intimidation and persecution have long proven to be effective tools to rally the masses to violence.

Her major concern was for all of us to understand how fast this can happen. How easily people in power can convince one group that another has “stolen” their economic opportunities, and therefore does not deserve legal protections.

She wanted me to know how fast the rationale can develop that certain minorities are a threat–people who must be “dealt with” in order to keep the nation strong. History is a warning, she said, of how easily those in power can decide a particular group no longer deserves to live.

We have already seen the escalation of intimidation, the bullying of other candidates and anyone in opposition. The newspaper voice of the Ku Klux Klan, a group famous for similar tactics, endorsed Trump’s policies and actions.  We have seen Trump believers punch and threaten others, and claim credit for burning a black church.

As a professional woman, I’ve experienced the wrath of men who thought I stole from them what they considered “a man’s job.” Now I see a constituency who thinks of others and me as fair game for their frustration at a system that –though recovering—failed to cool their discontent.

Our president-elect, or “The Great Intimidator” as I call him, is still more than two months away from entering the White House. But already I fear for my own safety and that of many others.

 

Carol Larson is an Emmy Award-winning journalist from Wisconsin. She can be reached at info@thereporters.org

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