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A Man, Not a Monster

Written February 2007 - Unpublished

By Mark E. Rondeau

I can remember reading many years ago about the most- wanted criminal who sent bombs through the mail, the man wearing the hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses in the FBI sketch. His insidious and anonymous violence seemed to personify evil.

Two decades later we know that this man, dubbed the Unabomber, was a seriously disturbed hermit who hated technology named Theodore Kaczynski. His younger brother, David, came to suspect he might be the bomber and agonized for months over the possibility before deciding to go to the FBI.

“I really wanted to make a life-affirming choice, and because of the death penalty we were in a situation where any choice that we made could lead to somebody’s death,” he said.

In my role as a correspondent for a diocesan newspaper, I met David Kaczynski in January. Now director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, he spoke at a church near my home.

What most struck me is how much David loves Ted — now serving life in prison — and to what great lengths he went to make the best possible decision in an extraordinarily difficult situation. David described watching his brother be led away on television after his arrest:

“At this point he weighed 122 pounds. His clothing was utterly ragged. I’ve never seen a street person who looked as bad as my brother did,” he said. “We’re sitting there, our hearts are going out to him. I think: ‘Oh, Ted, it’s come to this.’ ”

“But we also understand that almost everybody else watching this on the news, they’re not seeing the brother, they’re not seeing the son, they’re not seeing a person. ...They’re seeing a monster who victimized innocent people.”

Yes, I saw the monster. And I wondered what kind of family could produce such a weird individual.

A decade later I understood more. I met a man of high intelligence and exquisite moral sensibility who waited patiently while the cameraman set up lights so we could film a brief interview for the diocesan news program.

The sympathy and empathy I felt for David humanized his brother. Ted was no longer a monster or a freak but a deeply tragic human being. Beyond exemplifying a sinister mixture of mental illness and deliberate evil, Ted became a person, a brother, a son — a child of God.

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Issues & Opinions

David Kaczynski: His Brother's Keeper