“One of the most haunting impressions of my Soviet childhood was stories my grandparents told about the Black Raven. As a small boy I was terrified of this polished and poised creature of the night, usually sighted as it crouched to swoop upon an unsuspecting victim and carry him away, never to be seen again.
The Black Raven, however, was no avian figment of the human mind. Rather, this secret-police sedan – named for the Russian symbol of death – was a very real fixture of life in the Soviet Union of 1930s.
Those who saw the Raven stop outside their building of communal flats contemplated last words to families as they waited tensely for the dreaded knock. Hearing a knock on another door brought a macabre sense of relief, lasting only until the Raven’s next appearance. Such was the abject terror of living in the claws of despotism. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t tempered by that infamous platitude: “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”
How very different from a life in America, secured from fear by the assurances of individual liberty.
But in the 17 years since I became an American we’ve been averting our gaze as these sacred assurances slowly waned. With passage this month of the National Defense Authorization Act, we look away again as Congress exposes Americans to the specter of prison without charge or trial and smothers that basic right of free citizens to invoke the law against their government.
Predictably, proponents of dispensing with that antiquated and inconvenient notion of due process would have us believe that warnings of the tentacles of tyranny are so much flimflam. …”
The author of this article, a former teenage Soviet refugee is now chief of staff to California Rep. Tom McClintock.