Condolences to David Kaczynski


In my news feed, I read that the guy identified as the Unabomber, who conducted a bombing spree that spanned nearly two decades, killing three people and injuring 23. had died, apparently by suicide. I immediately thought about his very decent brother, David Kaczynski.

The first time I saw David was about a quarter-century ago at my current church. He was the person who turned in his brother Ted to the authorities.

This 2003 article in the Cornell Daily Sun captured a similar gathering that David had brought together. “Gary Wright… was hit with 200 pieces of shrapnel in February of 1997 by one of [Ted] Kaczynski’s bombs…”

“Bill Babbitt talked about his brother, Manny Babbitt, [the Vietnam vet] who was executed in 1999 for the murder of Leah Schendel” after Bill turned in HIS brother. He believed Manny would be “spared a death sentence — a promise the police” couldn’t keep.

For me, the most compelling speaker was Bud Welch. His “23-year-old daughter, Julie… was killed on April 19, 1995, in the Oklahoma City Bombing… In the days following the crime, Welch said he saw no need for a trial at all. Now, he says he was ‘temporarily insane’ for eight or nine months… He said his views changed slowly, and he realized that [executing] Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols would be an act of vengeance.”

Moreover, Bud Welch became friends with Timothy McVeigh’s father and realized the elder McVeigh, too, was a victim of the heinous crime. I wrote about Bud a few years ago.

Tragedies united these seemingly disparate gentlemen in a common cause: to fight the death penalty. It was a remarkable evening.

Radio silence

From The Business Insider: “In 1995, The Washington Post published a 35,000-word manifesto written by the Unabomber, whose real identity at the time remained unknown, about how technology was destroying humanity.

“The time following the manifesto’s publication was emotionally taxing for David. ‘We never found anything conclusive,’ he stated, ‘for me, it was like a roller coaster. I thought, ‘Am I crazy? A suspicion does not make him the Unabomber.'”

David “remembered Ted as a loving, caring, older brother figure, not a terrorist. He recalled telling himself, ‘I grew up with this man; is it possible I grew up with evil in my own family but was too blind to see who he truly was?'” Ultimately, David made the agonizing decision to turn Ted over to the FBI.

Wikipedia: His brother’s confrontation with the death penalty later motivated David Kaczynski to become an anti-death-penalty activist. In 2001, Kaczynski was named executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty [now, New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty].

“While the mission of NYADP originally focused only on ending the death penalty, under Kaczynski’s guidance in 2008, it broadened its mission to address the unmet needs of all those affected by violence, including victims and their families.”

David’s “decision prompted Ted to cease all communication with his family, including rejecting all of David’s attempted correspondence during his imprisonment.” So I can imagine that David is mourning Ted’s passing because Ted was his big brother, not just the Unabomber.

F is for Forgiveness

Bud Welch, whose daughter died in the OKC bombing, developed a bond with Bill McVeigh, Tim’s father.

forgiveForgiveness is “the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” Forgiveness is not always easy.

About a dozen years ago in Albany, NY, I witnessed an extraordinary event: four men touched by violence, coming out to speak against the death penalty. Bill Babbitt, seeing his mentally ill brother Manny, who he had turned in to the authorities, executed for murder; David Kaczynski, who turned in HIS brother Ted, the Unabomber; Gary Wright, who himself was almost killed by Ted Kaczynski; and Bud Welch.

They all had compelling stories, but Bud’s moved me the most. In April 1995, his “23-year-old daughter, Julie Marie, was killed in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City along with 167 others… In 2001 Timothy McVeigh was executed for his part in the bombing.”

Bud Welch’s story shows up in that Jesus for President book I’ve been reading:

He said he went through a period of rage when he wanted Timothy McVeigh to die. But he remembered the words of his daughter, who had been an advocate for reconciliation against the death penalty. She used to say, “Execution teaches hatred.” It wasn’t long before Bud had decided to interrupt the circle of hatred and violence and arranged a visit with McVeigh’s family. Bud said he grew to love them dearly, and to this day says he “has never felt closer to God” than in that union.

He decided to travel around the country, speaking about reconciliation and against the death penalty, which teaches that some people are beyond redemption. And he pleaded for the life of Timothy McVeigh. As he worked through his anger and confusion, he began to see that the spiral of redemptive violence must stop with him. And he began to look into the eyes of Timothy McVeigh, the murderer, and see the image of God. He longed for him to experience love, grace, and forgiveness. Bud believes in the scandal of grace.

Read about how Bud developed a bond with Bill McVeigh, Tim’s father, HERE.

Bud’s narrative I also found on a page called The Forgiveness Project, which uses the process of restorative justice to try to heal both the victim and the perpetrator of wrongs.

Similarly, I came across Project Forgive, which was initially sparked by a different kind of tragedy, a man’s wife and two children being killed by a drunk driver.

The Mayo Clinic notes that forgiveness is good for your health. Forgiveness can lead to:
Healthier relationships
Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
Stronger immune system
Improved heart health
Higher self-esteem

But as I mentioned at the outset, forgiveness is not always easy…

abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17

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