Mark Wahlberg is making us all think long and hard about what it means to reform one's ways after youthful transgressions. And, whether that redemption gives a person the right to have the slate wiped clean.
The actor applied to the Massachusetts Board of Pardons to have a racially charged assault conviction from 1988 erased from his record. In the incident, the then 16-year-old was one of a group of teens who attacked two Vietnamese men. He hit one man, Thanh Lam, over the head with a 5-foot stick and punched another, Hoa Trinh, blinding him in the eye. All while yelling racial epithets, according to police reports.
By his own admission, Wahlberg was a troubled teen growing up in Dorchester and was involved in drugs and the wrong crowd. While in that crowd, he also reportedly yelled and threw rocks at a couple of young Black girls, hitting one 9-year-old in the head.
Since then, he’s supposedly done a lot to make up for the past, establishing the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation to help at-risk kids, and has worked with the Boys and Girls Club. In his petition, he claims he wants his record cleared because it would send a message to other troubled kids that they can turn their lives around.
But, we’re not sure you can send that message while also asking for the past to be erased. To the contrary, wouldn’t you want to hold up that conviction as an example of the error you now regret? Wahlberg served his time (well, 45 days of a two-year sentence) and says he changed, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t irrevocably alter another man’s life. As he makes the awards-show circuit again this year (with The Gambler) and expands his Wahlburgers business with his brothers, this is an odd move for him. Is it a misguided publicity ploy?
Another glitch in this story is what he told ABC News in 2006: "You have to go and ask for forgiveness and it wasn't until I really started doing good and doing right, by other people as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away. So I don't have a problem going to sleep at night. I feel good when I wake up in the morning.”
All that said, Wahlberg has never actually sought out Lam or Trinh for their forgiveness. If one of them were to petition for the pardon, then maybe we’d feel a little better about this process. (Boston Globe)