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

Unabomber Auction QUESTIONS

And what does one DO with a handwritten copy of the Unabomber manifesto?

As you may know, “Per a Court Order…, the government has been ordered to conduct a ‘well-publicized’ Internet sale of [Theodore John] Kaczynski’s seized property to be sold to the general public in the effort to pay off a $15 million restitution order to the victims and their families. Unlike other sales, neither the U.S. Marshals Service nor GSA will receive any revenue from this sale. Please click here [PDF] for more details about the auctions.” The auction run from May 18 through June 2.

Ted’s brother David, who famously turned in his brother to the authorities, and is now the head of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (of which I have been a member), wrote a column in which he said:
Now, my brother lived in poverty. The value of his possessions derives almost entirely from public fascination with his crimes. They represent what is commonly called “murderabilia” – souvenirs culled from the careers of famous criminals.

In effect, our federal government is pandering to a sick market that treats high-profile killers like celebrities and rock stars. What is wrong with this picture?

The goal of the auction is entirely worthy. If there is no other way to compensate the victims of the Unabomber, then let the auction go forward. I will look away…and I hope it raises a ton of money.

But couldn’t we, to the extent we really care about victims, find a better way?

Meanwhile, “Theodore Kaczynski …imprisoned for life, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation wants his DNA to determine if he was responsible for the 1982 Tylenol poisonings…CNN says Kaczynski filed a handwritten motion in federal court to stop the online auction of the items authorities seized from his Montana cabin when they arrested him in 1996 in which he agrees to give the DNA sample if they stop the auction.” The so-called Unabomber’s lawyer believes the government wants his client’s DNA to rule him out as a suspect for a crime that has never been solved.

What do you think of the auction? Is it restitution for crimes, ghoulish “murderabilia”, perhaps both? And what would one DO with a handwritten copy of the Unabomber manifesto? An article in The Atlantic suggests that the auction is not doing so well thus far because there’s no mystery over whether Ted Kaczinski actually was the guilty party.


“Vast Wasteland” QUESTION

My niece will be on TV next week, on a show I would otherwise not watch.

There must be a law: for articles about television in non-entertainment publications, at least fifty percent must indicate that “All (or most) TV is crap” or some equivalent. And almost inevitably, it will 1) note that it was also called that a long time ago, but 2) fail to indicate just who said it. For the record, it was Newton Minnow, head of the FCC, in 1961, who called television a “vast wasteland.” It’s an interesting read.

I was just listening to Springsteen’s 57 Channels and Nothing On. But even in the vast wasteland of summer programming, I did watch a couple of things:

The Closer – liberated somewhat from the formula of the first two seasons, it’s been infused by the fact that Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) is up for Chief of the LAPD against her mentor Chief Pope (JK Simmons).

Aftermath with William Shatner. The concept is to take an event that was once prominent in the news and revisit it, which I think is inherently worthwhile. I actually missed the first episode of this, an interview with Lee Malvo, the young DC sniper, when it was on A&E a few weeks ago. But I’ve seen the rest on Biography, or BIO, as it’s now called.

Bernie Goetz was the subway vigilante who shot four young men in 1984, and was a hero to many; I think Shatner subtlely showed Goetz’s self-justification of his actions to be perhaps a bit sociopathic. Shatner was a sympathetic interviewer to three of the DC sniper victims, and to Jessica Lynch, who he called brave for outing the military’s PR campaign re: her actions in Iraq. I must say that my least favorite episode was his with Mary Kay Letourneau and her now-husband Vili Fualaau, who she started sleeping with when he was 13, and she was his former teacher; Shatner wanted more licentious details of the love story. But the best episode thus far was the most recent one, about the bizarre shootout in Ruby Ridge, ID, between federal authorities and the Randy Weaver family; Sara Weaver, Randy’s daughter, talks about the death of her brother, and her mother being shot dead before her in wrenching detail.

The last episode will be about the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and will feature David Kaczynski, now head of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who I have heard speak a few times, who had to turn in his brother to authorities. This will air Monday, September 6 at 10 pm EDT on BIO, followed by a repeat of the Ruby Ridge episode.

There will be one other program I will watch this week, and unfortunately, it’s Wipeout. It’s an obstacle course show designed for people to fail, and for the audience to laugh at the annoying running commentary of the instant replay disasters; I’ve seen it for ten minutes and REALLY hate it. But I’m told that my niece Rebecca and her husband Rico will appear on this show Tuesday, September 7 at 8 pm EDT, and family wins out.

So what television did YOU watch this summer?

And what new shows will you watch this fall? I’ve vaguely interested in the Hawaii 5-0 reboot, though a TV Guide article comparing this iteration of Steve McGarrett to Jack Bauer of 24 was discomforting. There’s a new legal show called The Whole Truth with Maura Tierney that I might check out. Anything else I OUGHT to try?

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