Yesterday I wrote about Southie. I’ll do that from time to time. It’s an integral part of the Whitey story.
Southie is tribal — it professes to believe it has a uniqueness, like a chosen people. It talks about how it is imbued with long standing admirable qualities which are being threatened by depraved and despicable outsiders who must be resisted. Yet, it acts as though its ideals are mere gossamers easily undone by the slightest breeze of something different. It wants to project itself as a strong people but somehow you get the sense that they live in great fear.
John ‘Red” Shea thinks of himself as Southie’s “Most Honorable Irish Mobster.” He tells of his life in his book Rat Bastards. Red started boxing as a kid. He writes how he becomes as tough as nails, never backing down from a fight or an insult.
Red wrote: “Southie looked after its own. We didn’t like outsiders, wise-asses or people who thought they were better.” The outsiders who he feels are threatening them are blacks, gays and yuppies. (He used the ‘n’ and ‘f’ words in describing the first two.)
Red goes on: “We took care of ourselves and each other.” This was because neither the cops, the politicians or the church would stop this invasion of those outsider who he says “were our enemies.” He said what they had to do to protect themselves. If “everyone just kept their mouths shut, there was nothing anyone could do about it. . . . the law has no chance. That’s what we were taught as kids, and it was the rule on the street, the code. It was what Whitey preached . . .the code wherever and whenever you are at war.”
Red doesn’t seem to get it that the code of silence he extols only protects gangsters. Red’s life revolved around being a tough guy. He shunned and feared anything new or different. He isn’t able to wrap his mind around the idea that when the law is removed the brutish types call the shots. Guys like him, tenth grade drop outs with more brawn than brains, decide what people can do. They make decisions such as making a Whitey their ruler. They believe he is protecting them from barbarians outside the gates without the ability to understand that the All-about-me Whitey knows only how to exploit other people including them.
Red without knowing it partly explains the Whitey phenomenon in Southie. Whitey created the myth that he protected Southie. It was not only from those “others” but also from influx of drugs. The people accepted his evil presence as part of the deal for the protection.