Mark Anthony Conditt was a monster.
Not the imaginary kind children fear might be hiding in the dark beneath their beds. Not the make-believe kind we are used to seeing in the movies. Not some disfigured boogeyman that would easily stand out when walking among us.
Mark Anthony Conditt was a clean-cut, somewhat nerdy-looking 23-year-old with an engaging smile. Sometimes, he wore glasses and polo shirts. But make no mistake. He was still a monster.
Like most monsters, he often crept in the night, targeting unsuspecting victims as they slept peacefully in their homes.
In the morning, they would discover his deadly calling card — a cardboard box holding a makeshift bomb left at their front doorway.
He stalked the residents of Austin, Texas, for nearly three weeks, constructing a series of bombs that killed two innocent people and injured six others. But his carnage did not stop there.
Across America, we watched with crippling angst, wondering if this was yet another episode of the racial abomination that we have grown so accustomed to in the era of Donald Trump.
In some ways, it was a relief to dismiss the attacks, which initially seemed to target African-Americans and Hispanics, as acts of bigotry. At least then, there was a concrete motive to blame. When hatred is the culprit, we somehow are willing to live with that.
As it turned out, we don’t know why Mark Anthony Conditt did what he did. And frankly, many of us find that more troubling than it would have been to simply write him off as a bigot.
When young white people do horrible things, our natural tendency is to try and figure them out. What in Mark Anthony Conditt’s life was so troubling that he would deviate so far from what is expected of white youths with so much promise?
Where did society go wrong in failing to recognize his trauma, ease his pain and reassure him, that as a white person in America, his prospects are better than most?
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley described the “confession” the monster left behind on his cellphone as this:
“It is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his own life.”
So we are left to surmise that Mark Anthony Conditt did not let us down. It was us who failed him.
Let’s stop it. Now!
Mark Anthony Conditt was an unemployed college dropout who was smart enough to figure out how to make deadly homemade bombs and elude police for weeks. Yet he was stupid enough to park his SUV near a surveillance camera and think that a blonde wig and pink construction gloves were enough of a disguise to keep him from being identified on the video.
Indeed, Mark Anthony Conditt may have been confused, troubled and angry. But he was not a victim. Let’s stop trying to convince ourselves that he was.
His relatives might have thought that he was “a great kid. He was smart, loving, kind.” Perhaps they really did have “no idea who this person is.” But we all know now.
He was a self-described “psychopath” who reportedly left behind a hit list of future targets along with a 25-minute unapologetic “confession” in which he said: “I wish I were sorry but I’m not,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Such a monster does not deserve our pity.
If you need to feel sorry for a young person whose life was cut short in this tragic episode, don’t waste your time thinking about Conditt, who chose to blow himself up with one of his own bombs when cornered by police.
Think about Draylen Mason, an accomplished musician even at the young age of 17, an honor roll student and double bassist with the youth orchestra, Austin Soundwaves. He was looking forward to enrolling in the University of Texas’ prestigious Butler School of Music in the fall. Mason was killed and his mother was injured when the monster stopped by their home.
If you need to feel bad for someone, consider the 8-year-old daughter Anthony Stephan House left behind. The bomb was delivered to his front porch while he was preparing to take his daughter to school.
House was a 39-year-old finance expert who worked as a senior project manager at Texas Quarries. But mostly, according to the GoFundMe page his mother set up to raise money for his daughter’s future, House “was a caring and devoted father.” His death left his wife, daughter and other family members traumatized and devastated emotionally.
Could the monster responsible for these horrible acts have been redeemed? Of course, it is possible — had he wanted to change.
But this monster decided that it was not worth even a try. Instead, he took the coward’s way out.
So let’s stop coddling the memory of Mark Anthony Conditt. Instead, let’s be thankful that he can do no more harm.
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Column provided by the Associated Press. Dahleen Glanton writes for the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com.