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May 1996
The Brothers Kaczynski

By Colleen McGuire and Cathleen McGuire


The FBI is indulging in a lot of back-slapping lately over their capture of the alleged Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. The agency deserves about as much credit as Dr. Robert Gallo did for "discovering" the HIV virus. (Does the name Dr. Luc Montagnier of France ring a bell?) In other words, someone else cracked the case! In the Unabomber matter, that someone else turned out to be Ted’s younger brother, David Kaczynski.

Not since the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s has there been such anguish and soul searching over naming names and co-operating with the Feds. While McCarthy witnesses squealed for opportunistic political reasons, David Kaczynski was motivated by a spiritual consciousness: his priority was to stop the random murder of innocent lives.

Although, the younger Kaczynski probably won’t have any streets or schools named after him, his actions beg respect. It must have taken Herculean courage to identify his beloved kin as the potential culprit in an era when prosecutors and politicians salivate over the death penalty. The FBI’s million dollar reward reportedly never entered David’s decision-making process. One can imagine how the Brothers Menendez would have handled such a situation. Yes, Virginia, there still are principled people in post-O.J. America.

Like many progressives, the Kaczynskis shared a distrust of advanced capitalist society, abhorring its reverence for and dependence on The Machine. Both retreated into the wilds of nature opting for alternative, rugged life styles. David, however, returned to "civilization," and contributed to society by working at a shelter for runaway youths. Ted stayed put in voluntary isolation, solipsistically absorbed in his secret agenda. What message lies in the divergence of their paths?

It says something that David is the vegetarian and Ted the meat-eater. That David was a "bunny hugger" (as described by one Texas neighbor), while Ted stalked rabbits with military precision. That David is a Buddhist and Ted an agnostic, if not atheist. Perhaps even that David majored in literature (the humanities) while Ted excelled in the abstract rationalism of mathematics.

Ted is sort of an Earth First! Dave Foreman gone amok. While Earth First! long ago rejected Foreman’s macho world views, his notoriety lingers, particularly his repugnant belief that nature needs AIDS and hunger to combat overpopulation. Just as monkey wrenchers deemed human life expendable in their crusade to save the earth, Ted Kaczynski’s eco-jihad likewise represents extreme misanthropy.

From what little we know of David, on the other hand, his politics appear to be based on a spiritual reverence for all life. It is doubtful that he became a vegetarian strictly for health reasons. Although it cannot be said that vegetarians are more caring than carnivores, one can’t help but sense that David’s unwillingness to eat dead animals coincides with his compassionate urge to save lives.

While the public and press monopolize attention on the latest postmodern monster, the politics of the Unabomber’s brother go unexamined except as simplistic black/white, good brother/bad brother portraits. Perhaps useful lessons could be learned from David Kaczynski if the meaning behind his life choices — including his refusal to hunt and kill — were explored in greater depth.

Colleen McGuire and Cathleen McGuire are ecofeminist activists who live in Hell’s Kitchen.



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