The Unabomber in Washington
by Butler Shaffer
By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many lifeless bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.
~ Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
When Ted Kaczynski – otherwise known as the “Unabomber” – was finally captured, he was living as a recluse in an isolated cabin in Montana. Over a seventeen-year period, he mailed bombs to a number of targets (e.g., universities, airlines) killing three persons and injuring a score of others. While he was quite open about the socio-politico motives for his violent acts, thoughtful minds wondered how an otherwise intelligent and well-educated man could reduce himself to such acts of utter desperation.
My thoughts on this question centered on the fact that this man had – during this time period – lived such a secluded life. I was reminded how so many serial killers are identified by neighbors as “loners,” suggesting that those who choose to live apart from others might have anti-social tendencies. I continue to reject this idea, but do acknowledge that a prolonged isolation from others can generate a confused and conflict-ridden state of mind; that we need ongoing relationships and conversations with others to keep from talking ourselves into a state of insanity.
We are neither members of a single-minded collective, nor hermits living in isolation from one another. Each of us is a biologically and experientially unique individual who, at the same time, is a social being who requires living in society with others. Whether we can conduct ourselves so as to fully integrate these characteristics, is a question with which we continue to struggle.