Christopher Lee Cornell heads to court today for his first full hearing on the domestic terrorism charges he’s facing following the sting operation which uncovered his plot to bomb and shoot up the capitol area. This has turned out to be yet another dark episode in recent history which has had me reevaluating some long held beliefs and questioning some earlier assumptions I’d been operating under. In this particular case, there seems to be a bigger story below the surface of the understandably heart wrenching story of Cornell’s parents as they struggle with denial and the reality of what their boy was up to.

Christopher Lee Cornell showed little direction in his life, spending hours playing video games in his bedroom in his parents’ apartment, rarely going out or working, and voicing distrust of the government and the media. But in recent weeks, his parents say, they noticed a change in him.

They thought it was a change for the better: The 20-year-old suburban Cincinnati man was helping his mother around the house, cooking meals, sitting with his parents to watch movies, and talking about having become a Muslim…

“He said, ‘I’m at peace with myself,'” his father, John Cornell, recalled Thursday…

The father said his son couldn’t really decide what he wanted to do and didn’t seem to have any long-term goals. He had gotten a seasonal job unloading trucks and stocking items for a store chain, and received his last check last week, the elder Cornell said.

His parents said they believed he was saving to buy a car.

“I’m in shock,” his father said. His mother, Angel Carmen, added tearfully: “I feel like my heart has been ripped out.”

Right up front, allow me to say that not everyone who posts idiotic claptrap expressing support for radicals and terrorists is an actual threat to the world or a member of radical Islam. There are idiots aplenty around the nation and the world with too much time on their hands and poor parental supervision growing up. From all the evidence released thus far, Christopher Lee Cornell does not fall into that category, with the perfectly normal protests of his parents not withstanding. The guy was living at home full time with the family members who knew and loved him best and had them completely fooled. And this was not a case of idle threats or ill conceived boasts or rants on the internet. This young man was arrested with weapons, ammo and plans for pipe bombs. He was, in my layman’s opinion, ready to go and collect his 77 virgins after taking out as many infidels as he could in the most public way possible which could generate terror among the populace.

We are constantly reminded by the media that the number of Muslims actively engaged in violent, terrorist activity and those who fully and vocally support them (even absent action on their own part) is vanishingly small. A minimalist minority of the minority, we are repeatedly assured. But how do so many of them, both in Europe and to a thankfully lesser degree in America, manage to make it all the way to actual terrorist activity or the doorstep of it as we saw here? Part of the answer may be that the number isn’t quite as small as we’ve been led to believe. Mind you, I’m still not saying that it’s endemic to the entire faith as it’s practiced in all regions of the globe, but the success rate seems to be awfully high for such a marginalized handful of deviants.

Christopher Lee Cornell was apparently a master at disguising his true beliefs and intentions, even from those in a position to direct the greatest scrutiny on him, with the deepest well of personal experience to draw upon and the most incentive to notice a problem and seek help for him. Is he actually that rare of a beast? As I said at the top, these are just some of the dark thoughts which have been crisscrossing my mind in light of recent events. And if the problem of latent Islamic terrorist tendencies is significantly more widespread than we currently believe, then one has to wonder how effective our current domestic counter-terrorism tactics can ever really be.