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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David, it seems likely, will forever wrestle with the horrible bind his murderous brother put him in. Balancing his devotion to Ted with a devotion to the aftermath of Ted's actions, he is the opposite of a kid who begs his parents for a puppy and then abandons all custodial duties. Last year, for instance, he spent months lobbying Congress (unsuccessfully) to exempt the Unabomber reward from taxes so the bulk of it could go to the victims' fund he and Linda established. Yet David's life, oddly, may be richer now than it has ever been. As a man who has long existed in the shadow of someone else--first his brother, then his wife--he at last finds himself at the center of things. There are humanitarian awards to accept, anti-death penalty interviews to give, victims'-rights speeches to deliver. He has even considered a lecture tour with one of Ted's victims.

Might he even leave his counseling job for a life of public speaking and advocacy? "Yes," he says, "but I'm leery of making money or celebrity out of this terrible tragedy. On the other hand, it's an amazing opportunity to be listened to... Obviously, I'm not immune to flattery, and it feels good to get those kinds of strokes from people."

Asked whether he feels guilty for having turned Ted in, David says, "Guilt suggests a very clear conviction of wrongdoing, and certainly I don't feel that I did wrong. On the other hand, there are tremendously complicated feelings not just about the decision itself but a lifetime of a relationship in which one brother failed to help protect another." Even now, he hopes Ted will one day agree to see him, but when asked whether he has envisioned their reconciliation, he grows quiet. "No, I don't think it would be helpful," he says after a time. "The future never meets us in the ways we imagine."


Ted Kaczynski too enjoys a certain amount of attention these days. He receives mail from sympathizers and admirers. He has accepted an offer to donate his personal papers to a major university's library of anarchist materials. He wrote a parable for a literary magazine at another university. Speaking with him, one is struck not by the burning anger that characterized his Unabomber campaign but by a satisfaction that the world, at long last, is treating him like a valuable human being.

His spirits don't seem particularly low--not nearly as low as the relatives of his victims might like them to be. To me, in fact, he seems optimistic about life in general.

"Well, obviously I'm not optimistic about life in general," he says. "If I were, then maybe you would have a case for concluding that I was mentally ill.

"Let me try to explain it this way," he continues. "When I was living in the woods, there was sort of an undertone, an underlying feeling that things were basically right with my life. That is, I might have a bad day, I might screw something up, I might break my ax handle and do something else and everything would go wrong. But...I was able to fall back on the fact that I was a free man in the mountains, surrounded by forests and wild animals and so forth.

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