In Part Two of this blog post, we take a look at the Austin Bomber’s possible motives. Please see Part One for background on the case.
Discussion of Motive
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley stated shortly after bombing suspect Mark Anthony Conditt’s suicide: “I know everybody is interested in a motive and understanding why. And we’re never going to be able to put a [rationale] behind these acts.” Manley also claims Conditt never referenced any racial or hate-oriented motivations behind the bombings (oh, really?). Still, something prompted Conditt to spend an inordinate amount of time researching, googling, planning, shopping, constructing, and implementing in order to carry out these bombings. This level of premeditation indicates that there is, in fact, a motive.
Manley claims Conditt’s video confession is the “outcry of a challenged young man.” Respectfully, I disagree. My life’s work is supporting and guiding ‘challenged young individuals’ who are struggling under the weight of mental health issues and never have I encountered someone with Conditt’s methodical callousness. Many of the individuals I provide counseling to are disenfranchised and lack the bountiful resources Conditt had available to him: a tight-knit family, a two-parent home, caregivers with enough financial resources to allow at least one of them to stay home to raise the four children, parents with enough financial resources to buy their barely-a-legal-adult, unemployed, community-college-drop-out son a parcel of land outside the hub of Austin and then build him a house on it. This is ridiculousness. Conditt had it made in terms of resources.
He also had it made in terms of privilege. He was a young, Caucasian male, relatively good-looking, with ample opportunities in life. So, what went wrong? Why was he “challenged” and “crying out?” Because of the privilege.
When the world tells you you’re special, when your parents raise you to believe that you are perfect, revered, above others in your life station, and can do anything — including bestowing your missionary visions and beliefs on other cultures — you start to believe it. But, when reality sets in and you find yourself incapable — or, worse: mediocre — a conflict emerges. The reality fails to reinforce the fantasy you’ve been spoon-fed since birth. You’re not special. You’re a college drop-out. You’re not perfect. You can’t even keep an entry-level job. You’re not the next savior of the world. You can’t even maintain a relationship.
What do young, Caucasian males do when the reality doesn’t match the fantasy? They use their station in life, their inherent privilege, in an entitled manner. They shoot up schools, send bombs to strangers, instill fear in others. Because they want others to feel the same helplessness and fear they experienced when they realized they don’t measure up. This isn’t mental illness. This is white privilege in its most basic, fundamental, stripped-down form: the delusional, self-justified ability to take another person’s life simply because your own is decidedly mediocre.
Whether or not Conditt specifically targeted his victims, it is clear that his own ineptitude collided dramatically with their inherent gifts and contributions to the Austin community.
At only 17-years old, Draylen Mason showed enormous promise. He was a gifted double bass player and outstanding student who had been accepted into the highly-competitive Butler School of Music and the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to playing in his high school orchestra and at church, Mason volunteered in a youth program called Austin Sound Waves which offers no-cost music lessons to under-served youth. The dean at his school said that Mason was “smarter on accident than most of us are on purpose.”
Similarly, Stephan Anthony House, 39, was by all accounts the kind of neighbor and citizen you’d want living next door. With prior experience as a hedge fund and private equity investment manager, he was currently employed at Texas Quarries and had once launched his own business. House was also father to an 8-year old girl who, horrifically, witnessed his death as he retrieved a compromised package from their front stoop. Despite being a talented finance professional, House appeared to devote his life to his beloved little girl and kept their relationship as his primary focus in life.
Mason and House’s varied talents, gifts, and ability to connect to others stands in stark contrast to Conditt’s isolated, unremarkable existence. It begs the question: were these individuals targeted because of the color of their skin — or because they represented something Conditt could never attain?