I Don't Want To Live Long: Ted Kaczynski

I Would Rather Get The Death Penalty Than Spend The Rest Of My Life In Prison Ted Kaczynski talks about life in jail, his appeal plans and his brother David, who still struggles over the decision to turn in the Unabomber

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Contacting the FBI, he says, was only the beginning of his brother's betrayal. By arguing that Ted should not be sentenced to death on account of mental illness, David committed a dual sin: labeling Ted crazy and dooming him to an utterly unnatural existence. "He knows very well that imprisonment is to me an unspeakable humiliation," Ted writes in Truth Versus Lies, "and that I would unhesitatingly choose death over incarceration."

At one point, I ask Ted what he would have done had their roles been reversed, had Ted suspected David of being the Unabomber.

"I would have kept it to myself," he says.

"Is that what you feel he should have done?"


When I ask Ted what he would say to David if he were in the room now, he answers, "Nothing. I just wouldn't talk to him. I would just turn my back and wouldn't talk to him."

David, who lives in upstate New York and works as a counselor at a teenage-runaway shelter, says he still loves his brother. He has written him repeatedly, offering at least one apology, but Ted has not answered. In order to gain forgiveness, Ted writes, David must renounce the "lies" he has told about Ted, leave his wife and remove himself from modern society. "If he does not redeem himself," Ted adds, "then as far as I am concerned he is the lowest sort of scum, and the sooner he dies, the better."

It is as awkward to face the gulf between these two brothers as it is difficult to overestimate the depth of feeling that once passed between them. Ted's life was steeped in rejection, isolation and anger; through it all, his younger brother was the only person ever to connect with him.

David's feelings for Ted, in fact, bordered on worship. He was particularly smitten by Ted's belief that modern man was being corrupted by society in general and technology in particular. "Knowing him as I do," Ted writes, "I am certain that if Dave had known of the Unabomber before 1989"--the year David moved in with Linda Patrik--"he would have regarded him as a hero."

David adamantly disputes this--he deplores violence, he says--but he doesn't seem surprised to hear Ted say it. "I think every person is a mystery, and it's strange to me that a person I grew up with and was very close with remains one of the biggest mysteries of all." David's manner is as gentle as Ted's is brisk, and he speaks with a great earnestness. (The teenagers he counsels call him Mr. Rogers.) When he talks about his brother, however, his voice is full of resignation, the sort felt by someone who has watched a relationship curdle beyond recognition.


Ted and David's parents, Wanda and Theodore R. Kaczynski, were atheists, working-class intellectuals who valued education and dearly wanted their sons to succeed on a higher plane.

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