America-born Jihadi died for ISIS, I pretty much just shook my head. Maybe it's because my own spiritual search has always been a bit noncommittal and my political persona developed very early in life, but seeing people like John Walker Lindh or Adam Gedahn or Jihad Jane sort of fries the circuits of my understanding.
It's not that I don't grasp the idea of fighting or dying for something larger than oneself or being spiritually moved by some system of thought--those things are enough a part of the human experience that I can even grasp where, in a certain context, they could be viewed as noble. It's just that people from our particular culture finding that particular brand of restrictive, violent, and ultimately, eliminationist strain of religious war strikes me as uniquely...weird.
It's not that I can't criticize my culture. American culture is kind of race and class-biased, has a short attention-span, values the trivial over deep analysis, and is not without its own violence and parochial religious attitudes in certain pockets. But I love it because I can criticize it and the understanding is that it's my prerogative to do so. Al-Qaeda and ISIS don't seem to be quite so understanding about the intellectual prerogatives of the individual, and argue, not with apologia, but, you know. Beheadings and that sort of thing.
I utterly can not grasp the appeal. But if there is some number of people drawn to that kind of violence, I have to guess there must be one. Which makes me a bit contemptuous of the idea that we necessarily have to go to war with the whole of radical Islam (in a "War on Terror", or even specifically on ISIL) to prevent "them" from coming "here". "They" are somehow able to have "their" ideas take root here, and just like the Tsarnaevs were already here and carried out an act of terror, there's no particular war front that will make us completely safe from that possibility. Dylan and Klebold, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, and Adam Lanza had no specific ideological radicalization at all, and managed to do a lot of damage to human life. Anders Brevik would have despised the ideology that produced a Douglas McAuthor McCain (such an American name!), but he was no different in mindset, only his adopted labels. And was a gutlessly selective mass killer of innocent young people.
I'm left thinking that humanity has an enormous hang-up where we find excellent reasons to kill one another, and hardly any good enough reasons to understand one another. And this isn't the first time I've thought that, either. It's not always the case. It's just often enough the case to be genuinely depressing.