For about two months in 2011, Whitey Bulger was the most wanted man in America. It was a strange time for me, a person who also has the last name Bulger.
Bulger had featured on the FBI’s most wanted fugitive list for years. But during a lot of that time, Osama Bin Laden topped the list, which pulled a lot of focus from the rest of the people on the list.
With the global war on terror still heightening security in arbitrary, useless ways around the world, I worried that my last name would be a liability. It never was, though. Maybe if my name was Ahmad Akbar-Bulger, it would have been a problem but white privilege or lack of interest kept cops from knocking on my door and let me travel freely through airport terminals and bus stations.
The cops caught Whitey in June, 2011. He was killed in prison this week. If I was ever under government scrutiny, it’s over now.
Sharing a last name with Whitey Bulger has always made me uneasy. My sympathies usually lie with outlaws and gangsters but even for a bad guy, Whitey Bulger was a really bad guy.
Bulger’s not a romantic criminal figure. He wasn’t Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. Nothing good came of his crimes; the one supposed positive aspect of his reign of terror was a lie. South Boston locals credited him with keeping drugs out of South Boston when he actually provided protection to cocaine dealers. Also, it’s sad how much war on drugs propaganda we’ve metabolized when we excuse torture and murder if it keeps people from getting high.
Whitey was a monster and a brute. He didn’t even bother to innovate criminal operations. He just borrowed a playbook from the mafia and created a protection network where businesses had to pay him under threat of violence.
His rise to power was fueled by treachery and luck. A dopey FBI agent named John Connolly made Whitey an informant during a crackdown on Boston’s mafia. Whitey was ultimately a crummy informant but the crackdown was a huge success. Once the Italian mob was neutralized, Whitey’s Winter Hill gang took over. Incidentally, Connolly’s serving a 40-year prison sentence. term.
He didn’t even have any gangster swagger. He was an Irishman who didn’t drink. He had a puritan disapproval of drugs but that didn’t stop him from profiting from cocaine.
So good riddance, Whitey. If there’s a hell, he’s in it. Meanwhile, I’ll continue my work of keeping the Bulger name associated with wit, compassion and being chill.
Maybe I’ll finally watch that Johnny Depp movie now.