First let us be plain. The teen Mark Robert Michael Wahlberg was a racist punk. By police records, he was caught over 20 times in various violent or drug acts. By his own admissions and court findings he attacked black school kids with rocks (and slurs) as well as beating two Vietnamese Americans with sticks, one so viciously he lost the sight of one eye.
Second, he has applied for a pardon from our commonwealth. He wants a clean record, apparently to make his business dealings easier (the hamburger restaurant biz).
Third, despite his fame, wealth and connections, he has made no effort to find, apologize to or make any restitution to his victims.
Fourth, on the other side of it all, our goofed up culture of perpetual punishment mocks the paid-his-debt-to-society construct.
The news stories of his pardon request an even his Wikipedia page are not terribly convincing. He returns to the idea that as he has done positive things that should settle the matter. Done and done. He loves pointing to this egotistically eponymous foundation to help poor kids. (Pic note: image adapted from his foundation site, for which I claim fair usage.)
Not so fast and easy, underwear boy.
Let’s consider the moral and even religious angles here. Massachusetts in general and Boston specifically are largely Roman Catholic in culture, except for the WASP laws. That’s key to the likes of pardons and criminal records.
Sure Catholics are used to confession and absolution. The stereotypical “Say 10 Hail Marys and five Our Fathers” does not conflate with the Protestant secular laws and regulations. Catholics may get a clean bill from the Church, but Protestants carry their sins around for their whole lives…and they wrote the laws around here.
Now that we are all paying attention again, I’m betting he’ll hear a lot about this. I’m also betting that he’ll have minions track down some of his victims, maybe the former kids he terrorized or the two men he beat with clubs while calling them racial slurs. Then he can make a display of atoning before them. They are likely to be harder sells than a priest, as it should be.
Pardon? Pardon me.
He doesn’t deserve a pardon though. He was caught fair and square numerous times. Who knows how many racist and violent crimes he got by with?
While sentenced for two years for beating that blinded man, he served only 45 days in jail. That is a small price to pay for permanent, life-altering injury. What’s to pardon for a vicious, intentional crime?
The big however is the inherent vindictiveness in the records laws. We know from thousands of instances that CORI papers prevent ex-offenders from getting jobs, putting them at economic risk and holding them down in society. We are slowly reforming that stigma system.
In some few cases it makes sense, such as the sex-offender registry. Where mentally, emotionally disturbed types are likely to commit those crimes again, the stigma makes sense to society.
On the other hand, consider Wahlberg. He has his stacks of money and an overhauled reputation, replete with over a decade of good deeds. We have zero reason to suppose he’ll pick up a big stick and go into a racist rage while beating this or that person of color.
The only point of the alleged character laws is perpetual punishment. Again, it comes back to the Protestant concept of only God can cleanse you and only on Judgment Day. If you pardon the expression, what a hell of a way to write laws.
No. Wahlberg does not deserve a pardon to pretend he never did the dreadful racist attacks. However, his point of the unfairness of stenciling his life perpetually with a stencil from his 16-year-old sins is crazy.
Yes, he should forever he known for his bad deeds as he wants now to be known for his good ones. But the business regulations should not add perpetual real-world punishment to the shame.
Assuming Wahlberg really wants to do some good, he can lobby (or pay someone to lobby). Go to the new governor and a few key legislators. Reform the post-conviction system so that pointy-headed, rules-are-rules bureaucrats can’t perpetually harm former offenders in unrelated aspects of their lives. That would help thousands a year, not just make opening more hamburger joints easier for one guy.