Is David Kaczynski his brother's keeper? For him, it's not a hypothetical question

April 10, 1996|By MIKE LITTWIN

DAVID KACZYNSKI did the right thing when he turned in his brother Ted, the alleged Unabomber.

Didn't he?

You'd hand your brother over to the FBI, knowing he faced a possible death penalty, knowing that he would know you fingered him, and knowing, too, that if you didn't finger him, maybe nobody ever would.

You'd do it. You'd have to. Wouldn't you?

You'd put the lives of innocent people first. You'd chose justice over blood. You'd tell your mother: "Ma, I had no choice."

It was a case of personal values over family values. The mother of the two brothers has said, we are told, that she doesn't believe her son is guilty. Mothers never do. I like to tell this story on my own mother: that if I assassinated the president, she'd brag about what a great shot I was. That's what mothers are for, to believe in you unequivocally.

Brothers are different. Siblings, who share the same DNA, know each other as no one else can. These siblings, as we know, often have complicated relationships. Read your Freud. Or ask your own brother or sister.

Ted was the older brother. He was also the genius. When Ted dropped out of society, it was David who co-signed the loan for the now-infamous cabin in the Montana wilderness. Following Ted's example, David would also build a cabin, his in a remote part of south Texas.

But the brothers weren't the same people.

Ted was a recluse, a drop-out from society. And, somewhere along the line, if David and the FBI have it right, he became a terrorist in the cause of madness.

David was never a recluse. In fact, he has joined society in a significant way, spending his life as a teacher, or most recently, as a social worker helping runaways. Friends describe him as the kind of person who, sitting around a fire under an open sky, will engage you in passionate conversation about Thoreau and Gandhi.

It was David who sent his brother money to help him get by -- money that might have been used to build bombs to kill people.

Did David idolize his older brother? Did he resent him? We have no way to know. More likely, as with most siblings, they share a tangle of emotions. And one brother has to turn the other in. It's a story out of Dostoevski, who did not specialize in happy endings. This is definitely not a happy ending -- not if you're David Kaczynski.

David hasn't told his story. He sent a surrogate, a lawyer who spoke of the anguish David faced and continues to live with. Anguish can't begin to describe the pain.

When David first suspected his brother might be the Unabomber, he did everything to prove to himself that it wasn't true. He called in his own experts and ran his own months-long investigation.

When the experts became convinced that Ted was the Unabomber, they said David had to go to the FBI with his evidence. What torture he must have endured. All they were asking David to do was identify his brother as a murderer and possibly send him to the chair. All they wanted David to do was to change his own life forever.

What would you do? It's an unknowable, of course. It's one of those hypotheticals that's almost purely hypothetical: It isn't a situation we're ever likely to face. But I have a sister, and I think what I'd do is to confront her. I'd tell her that if she didn't seek help, I'd turn her in. I'd want what is best for her and for everyone else. In other words, I'd want it both ways. But if she didn't seek help, would I have the guts to follow through?

During the course of his investigation, David wrote Ted that he wanted to visit him. Though they hadn't seen each other in six years, Ted said no. We don't know why.

What we know is that David then did the courageous thing. He did the heroic thing. He put principle above family.

We may never know how he came to that decision. David has said he will not address the media, now or ever. He says he will resist the siren song of Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, et al. Money, he insists, won't turn his head. His lawyer suggested that if David qualified for the million-dollar reward, he would give the money to the families of the victims.

Whatever he does, though, he can't escape the stigma: He's the brother of the man thought to be the Unabomber.

And he's the one who turned his brother in.

He turned him in before he could strike again, before more lTC innocent lives were lost, so that he could bring the madness to an end.

He had no choice. It was the absolute right decision. He had to do it.

Didn't he?

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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