Words like terror and terrorism have been so watered down and twisted by political discourse that I think we forget what they actually mean. Terrorism is the use of violence, fear, or intimidation to achieve political means. This is not tied to any particular culture, religion or political party. Any person who uses pain, fear, or intimidation as tools to promote a political goal is in fact a terrorist. Body terrorism more specifically, is the idea that the victims of these tactics are chosen based on their bodies. For example, if someone achieves their means by victimizing people of color, the disabled, women, or any other group made vulnerable because of their body type.
Holding these definitions in mind, I turn your attention to Donald Trump. The republican candidate has tried to sell himself to America as the Ant-terrorism candidate. Folks I know who are considering voting for this man seem to believe his aggression will protect this country from terroristic acts. In truth however, this man’s campaign has been founded on acts of terrorism against the very people he has sworn to protect.
As a woman living in this country terror is not a new exploration of living in my body. Donald Trump embodies the figure of man that women in this country have been taught to fear. This is not a fear that is well founded in the differences between men and women because “boys will be boys.” This is a fear cultivated by powerful men in order to maintain their power. From prowling around the stage to intimidate his female opponent to decreeing his right to any woman’s body that peaks his interest, Mr. Trump is insisting that in his America women fear him or suffer the consequences. That is terrorism.
When confronted with allegations of assault, Mr. Trump suggests that these women are not attractive enough to warrant being over powered by him. In his America the best a woman can hope for is to be a pretty victim. This is not a matter of sensitivity. This is not a matter of political correctness. It is a matter of refusing to elect the abusive man who tells us we’d better stick with him because better the fear we know how to live with. When a female candidate looks like she needs to have her car keys between her fingers to step on a debate stage, that is terrorism.
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Women’s bodies are not the only ones being attacked by this man. When a New York Times reporter risks public mockery and shame because he dared question a candidate while in a disabled body, that is terrorism. It is a powerful man saying, don’t cross me or I will humiliate and intimidate you into silence.
This is the school yard bully we all grew up with but not only does he beat us up for our lunch money but says “Don’t worry all I do is beat you up its not me you need to be afraid of.” Except this time it’s our country at stake.
As a woman and a person with a disability a vote for this man paints a target on my back and on the backs of everyone like me.
In Trump’s America my body is not safe anywhere.
In Trumps America any man with enough money and power can do what he wants to me and I should just be happy to be pretty enough. Pretty enough to get pregnant with a baby I didn’t want and there will be no planned parenthood clinics to turn to and my employer will just see me as an inconvenience. Where is a body like mine safe in Mr. Trump’s America? How is that anything less than terror?
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Now imagine the same situation for a woman of color. In a version of America where immigrants are painted as dangerous and stop and frisk is viewed as expectable, what are her chances? Say she has the baby she didn’t want with the man she didn’t say yes to. What are her children’s chances in Mr. Trump’s America? Would she not be living in terror brought on for a politician’s benefit? When so many bodies are made unsafe, how can this man claim to be the protection our country needs.
It is easy to imagine that terrorism doesn’t look like us. If terror comes from some place else, then we don’t have to own the systems of privilege that got us to this point. To say that a man in an expensive suit who wants to run this country is inflicting terror means facing a gut wrenching truth. Danger can wear any face and can use our fear against us. The good news is we can stop this. We can choose leaders who believe in protecting all bodies and not just the ones they don’t need to walk over. We can band together to show Mr. Trump that he will not terrorize us all the way to the whitehouse.