It has to be beyond imagining. There can be no way to figure out the workings of a terrorist’s mind. How can anyone untangle the twistings of such madness? Anger and hate, boiling and seething with the zeal of a fanatic, blind faith that is anything but faith, ego larger than God and a sense of life being as cheap and worthless as dust – all screaming out by killing innocents and self, saying what? Accomplishing what?

It is impossible, some say, to choose evil as anything but a perceived good for self.  Even the sickest among us, inflicting their darkness upon others, see some glint of a good for themselves in doing so. What does a terrorist see while strapping on a body bomb and riding a bicycle or driving a van of death into a crowded plaza or schoolyard?

I cannot imagine such a person ever smiling, or savoring the simple pleasures of sunshine or breathing. What happened in his or her childhood and growing that turned curiosity and wonder into righteousness and red-eyed rage? Even worse, where did he or she meet the kind of God that speaks of hatred, fear and killing?

It has to be a power thing. The power of inflicting fear is a coward’s strength. And the seductions of self-inflicted martyrdom (an oxymoron) find easy takers in the powerless.

The caricatures of terrorists the media often portray worry me. The fact is they walk among us and there is nothing more secretive than the workings of a sick mind. What happened on that flight into Detroit on Christmas day has raised a very large and bright red flag for our country. Fortunately, not blood red this time. That had been raised before. Remember right after 9/11? We discovered, far too late, that our security departments had all the information they needed to thwart the plot but failed to “connect the dots” – just as on this past Christmas, eight years later. 

9/11 changed everything, but have we yet to learn all that it still teaches? Terrorists used to live in faraway places or in the fictions of our imaginings. No longer. These days they are anonymous obscenities among us. Homeland Security and all related departments need to be staffed by the best and brightest professionals (not politicians) we can find – all willing to share and connect the dots that can pinpoint and disarm, before it is too late, the madness ticking in a terrorist’s mind. We do not need any more red flags to tell us what we are not seeing.