The media has been saturated with news of Whitey Bulger. Me, I had long thought he was dead. You know, from the heart trouble he developed in response to what his girlfriend called his “rage issues”. Some of the more thoughtful pundits have suggested that not only is his arrest the end of Whitey’s hold on our imagination, but it is also the last gasp of a certain type of criminal. Whitey was the last great white ethnic gangster – or at least the last great exemplar of that independent type of mob boss who had built his own crew, led it with personal charisma, and even did his own killing. Of course, not only is such nostalgia rather naïve and perverse. It is also racist. What really captured the imagination of mainstream white America was that Whitey (indeed) was one of our own. But such is the nature of worshiping the gangsters of yesteryear, which is a kind of parody of pining for the good (or bad) old days when “men were men”, as in Archie Bunker’s theme song in All In The Family. Where are the gangsters that suburban American white folks can identify with these days? The Mafia is a shadow of its former self, and is probably fairly punked out and colorless by now anyway, like an old family firm that has outlasted its glory days. There’s the Russian mob, but those guys are the sons of commies and don’t even speak English. Who else is left? There are the Bloods and the Crips, but they’re not somebody that any white person other than a hip-hop loving fifteen year old would care to hang with.
Oh, I know. If we can no longer look to Southie or Deadwood or Little Italy for our evil alter egos, we can always look to Wall Street. Bankers, brokers, CEO’s, CFO’s and financiers of all different stripes and FBI profile characteristics. These are the new criminal role models for our sorry white asses. We want to emulate them so much, we even vote to cut their taxes and let them lay us off with admiring smiles.
Whitey Bulger was a dinosaur criminal all right, but what replaces him is even bigger and hungrier.