It is a most disturbing news development to hear two young former Minnesotans have died in combat while fighting with extremist rebel groups abroad.
The two – Douglas McCain and Troy Kastigar – were high-school buddies at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope. McCain was at that school from 1997-99 and Kastigar in 1999 before he dropped out of school, according to an Associated Press news story. McCain also did not graduate.
Former classmates just cannot figure out how such fun-loving, likable, outgoing guys could end up with terrorist groups overseas.
McCain, 33, died in Syria while fighting with the Islamic State rebels, also known as ISIS.
At age 28, Kastigar was killed five years ago in Somalia while fighting with the al-Shabab terrorist group.
What’s puzzling and most disturbing is neither of those men had any familial connections to Syria or Somalia. Apparently, they had learned of Islam through the Internet and became adherents of that religion. Then, from that belief system, they took a lurch into radicalism by learning about Islamic terrorist groups, also on the Internet.
Last year, al-Shabab released a videotape showing Kastigar addressing the camera.
According to the AP story, this is what he said: “If you guys only knew how much fun we have over here. This is the real Disneyland. You need to come here and join us and take pleasure in this fun.”
Then, the video showed a scene of Kastigar’s corpse.
How in the world could any young man find “fun” in terrorist tactics, which obviously amounted to doing serious injury to others, including most likely murders of all sorts?
The AP story quoted Kastigar’s mother as saying the two men were “sort of searching” for something. “I think both of them had a really strong desire to be needed and of value,” she told the New York Daily News.
What is frightening is estimates by the U.S. Government count as many as 100 Americans now fighting for ISIS and as many as 1,000 or maybe even more British nationals. It was a British national, in fact, who beheaded reporter James Foley a few weeks ago in that appalling video released by ISIS.
The successful recruiting of “ordinary” people, including Americans, to these violent, sadistic groups is absolutely unthinkable, but it’s happening, and it would behoove us all to try to determine why.
Do these young people view the world as some kind of exciting if dangerous video game? Have they become so desensitized to violence that it becomes some kind of twisted “kick” to them? How can someone who converts to any kind of religion become so keen to hurt others and to maim and murder?
Those are dark, disturbing questions. We must keep looking for the answers.