By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Whitey Bulger, say federal prosecutors in a sentencing memo to the court, is “one of the most violent and despicable criminals in Boston history,” and “has no redeeming qualities” that might argue for anything less than life in prison.

On that first point, I’m in full agreement.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

The evidence of Bulger’s sadism – the drug peddling, the political terrorism, the bloodthirsty serial killing – is overwhelming. He shows zero remorse, and his repulsive defense deserved every bit of scorn the jury had for it.

It’s a shame the death penalty isn’t at least an option for us to consider, whichever punishment would be worse for him.

But I’m not so sure that this creature – and his incredibly destructive life of crime – lacks any redeeming qualities.

Hold the online outrage until you hear me out.

First of all, we do know that there are family members and friends of Bulger’s who still harbor affection for him.

As puzzling and appalling as that may be to those of us who know him only for his barbarity, it still needs to be acknowledged. It can serve as a warning to us that denial is a powerful force, and when we suspend our better judgment we’re capable of rationalizing anything.

And as vile and destructive as Whitey Bulger’s life was, it has value as a cautionary tale that we need to keep hearing.

It’s a lesson in the danger of glorifying thugs, swallowing fraudulent Robin Hood stories, and valuing neighborhood or ethnic or even family ties over basic human decency.

Whitey Bulger may not be worth remembering, as the feds say.

But his ugly story is.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.



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