The question that seared David Kaczynski's mind ever since he became suspicious last summer that his brother Theodore - sequestered in the Montana boondocks - was the Unabomber, became a question for all of us:
Would you turn in a member of your family?David Kaczynski, weighing the severity of his older brother's alleged crimes, did. It set off a wave of self-examination across the country.
In the conversations I've had with friends and relatives, and from what I read in newspaper stories, the decision to turn in a relative hinged on the intensity of the crime.
If the relative robbed a convenience store, well, maybe no.
If he burglarized a house, well, maybe no as well.
But if he shot someone . . .
And if he killed someone . . .
That appeared to be the breaking point: violence to another human being.
And yet there are those who still would not turn in a relative under any circumstances. One prominent lawyer, technically an officer of the courts, was quoted that he could not turn in his brother even if he knew his brother had murdered someone - and that's got nothing to do with lawyer/client relationships.
I fell in with those who drew the line at violence. No manner of violence toward another human being is tolerable to me. Yes, I would turn in my brother. I'd turn in my mother or father as well.
You just say that, others tell me. When it comes time, you wouldn't be able to do it.
I think I would, but if we need an example other than David Kaczynski, meet the mother of 16-year-old Nahin Roberto Palma. She turned in her son after she learned he was the prime suspect in the shooting of two students at a Miami high school. Neither shooting was life-threatening.
The immigrant mother, who speaks either no or limited English, had previously been troubled by her errant son. He was a high-school dropout and, she suspected, a member of a gang.
Police allege the shooting incident, during school hours, was gang-related. Palma's name already was being spoken by witnesses as the person responsible for the shootings.
So the question came before this mother: Should she turn in her son?
How she grappled with her decision and whether anyone gave her advice is unclear, but within 24 hours, she called police and told them where they could find her son. After he was arrested, police praised the mother, saying she did what she felt was in the best interests of the boy.
Of course, the Palma case is not the same as that of the Kaczynskis. The Unabomber's crimes were capital; people died. And the penalty for the person found guilty of multiple murders likely will be death.
Young, misguided Palma has only two counts of attempted first-degree murder to defend against. His mother wasn't likely sending her son to Old Sparky, just to a long jail term.
The bottom line, however, is that she could not abide violence, not even if it was precipitated by her own flesh and blood, her own child.
What she did took courage and discipline.
How many of us could have done it, or what David Kaczynski did?
It's a question most of us do not have to answer. But others do. And for any of them, the decision will be a wrenching one either way.