I was in tears watching the various video clips of the raids (I gotta wonder when our government will take a page out of Beijing's playbook and start mass blocking of sites). What rolled forward on my screen were scenes that most of us have seen only in news coverage from Romania, South Africa, Iraq, Kosovo, Beijing, and countless African or Latin American countries that have suffered under an oppressive government.
Soviet tank & soldier, streets of Budapest, 1956
As a political exile, my father faced arrest if he tried to enter Hungary. My grandparents first saw me at two - when my dad held me aloft over the heads of border guards in the Viennese train station. Although my grandparents could take the train from Hungary to Austria, they could not pass through the border - so they stayed on one side of the iron bars, and my father stayed on the other. No touching, no speaking. Just a small child held aloft over the heads of armed guards. And like so many million others, a family torn asunder by a government run amok.
After the Wall fell, my father and I went back to Budapest together. We walked the route my father took when he ran out of his office and joined the crowds marching to face the Soviet tanks. He showed me the place where my uncle narrowly missed execution at the hands of a soldier simply because the gun jammed. He took me past the building used for secret interrogations (now a luxury hotel - imagine the ghosts and the lingering screams that haunt those finely appointed rooms) and to the recently erected monuments that list his fallen friends. I met cousins who spent 30 years in prison - captured as young men, released as old men broken by decades spent in soviet gulags.
True, we are not yet to the point of tanks rolling in our streets, but the scenes captured on camera in St. Paul are not so far off. Heavily armed men refusing to answer questions and strong arming people; police raiding homes of ordinary people wearing ordinary clothes (certainly not a hint of camo, a kaffiyeh, beret, or pakol among the detainees - only Lands End, LL Bean and perhaps Sears).
After eight years of Bush, the Iraqi war, Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA flights, the growing likelihood that McCain might win the election (I don't think I can weather four years of plastic Palin), and now these raids, I realize that the possibility is growing that I may have to re-enact my father's flight, albeit in the other direction.