f the culture of extremist militant groups has seemed worlds away to you before this week, chances are it has never felt more real than it does now.
News that a Minnesota native had joined, and quite possibly was killed while fighting for the militant group ISIS - which has been linked to the recent beheading of an American journalist - hit people of Minnesota hard, and we're still trying to understand how "one of us" got hooked up with terrorists.
Certainly 9/11 woke all Americans up to the very real world of terrorists and showed us - or reminded us - that there are people out there who simply abhor us, our values, our faith and religious beliefs, our culture. But this week's news also reminded us that Americans, born and raised in the good, ol' USA can turn. The FBI said earlier this summer that some 100 people have left the United States to join the conflict in Syria. That number, as we've learned this week, is growing.
This is scary stuff, folks. As quickly as you can click "send" to launch an email into cyberspace, messages of hate are being spread across the ocean right to people in our own state. Most of us might not know much about groups like ISIS, but what we have learned from the media is, to put it simply, frightening. Although we can take heart in knowing our small towns are pretty safe and we live in the greatest country in the world, we, as a nation, can never take for granted that we are immune from terrorism.
The threat is all too real.
In these times, we look to our faith to keep us strong and to our nation's leaders; as we try to comprehend all that is going on in another part of this world we are filled with questions, foremost being: How many other people living in Minnesota, and the U.S., have a desire to do what this man from New Hope did? And what plans does the Obama administration have for fighting groups like ISIS and keeping us protected?
U.S. officials have said that surveillance flights and spy planes have begun over Syria on the orders of the president - a move that could lead to airstrikes against the Islamic State group. But the president is once again in a precarious spot. Should he go the more aggressive route and put troops on the ground in places like Syria? That's a question that will likely be answered in the coming months, and one laced with political undertones. Surely, there are plenty of people in this country who would like to see us do the ice bucket challenge with ISIS, only with bombs instead of water, but it's not that easy - even though it appears we're heading in that direction, which would be a better alternative than putting troops on the ground.
I know many readers grow tired of seeing all the bad news in their paper, but this is something we definitely all need to keep our eyes on. It would be nice, wouldn't it, if all we had to worry about were problems and issues happening on U.S. soil, because last time I checked we had issues of our own. I suppose that's being a bit idealistic and selfish though. It will never happen. As long as there are people out there who hate us and who have access to funding their groups, there will be threats against us as a nation.
I think one of our challenges is that we don't get complacent and comfortable like we were before Sept. 11, 2001. I doubt that will happen, because we all know we live in a world - the post 9/11 era - that's totally different than it was 20 years ago.
That's something we might be all still getting used to - if we let ourselves think about it.