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Suzette Martinez Standring: Pardon Mark Wahlberg

Public mercy seems to be in short supply even though actor Mark Wahlberg, 43, meets the requirements of a Massachusetts’ governor’s pardon: no risk of reoffending, and having made extraordinary contributions to society.

Yet the punishment-minded want him to pay for the rest of his life for the assaults he committed while a teenager. One past victim, Johnny Hoa Trinh, the Vietnamese immigrant who was beaten by Wahlberg in 1988, has forgiven him. (Note: Contrary to erroneous reports, Trinh was not blinded in one eye from Wahlberg’s assault. He lost his sight in Vietnam while fighting communists.) A then 16-year-old Wahlberg was tried as an adult and sentenced to two years in jail, but served 45 days.

Now the public finds Wahlberg’s petition for a pardon controversial. There are cries that he doesn’t deserve one, that the racism of his youth cannot be overcome, that’s he’s just buying his way to a clean slate.

Wahlberg wants to expand Wahlburgers, his family burger business, and his criminal record is an obstacle. Critics say too bad; live with your consequences.

As an adult, Wahlberg has built a notable career as an actor and producer. He’s a family man who gives generously to charities, especially those that serve underprivileged kids to whom he is a role model for turning one’s life around. Yet some critics will not let his past go.

The bigger issue is this: If Mark Wahlberg cannot be pardoned, what hope is there for thousands of ex-felons seeking to reclaim their lives as better people?

Wrongdoing has its consequences, but at what point can a person be given a full opportunity to make amends as a productive member of society?

Like many, I’ve taken regrettable actions in my youth, but I am not the same person I was as a young adult. Are you? His petition highlights the difficulty of overcoming the punitive mindset of society.

I remember volunteering in a men’s state prison to teach Bible study, meditation and journaling. One young man was doing time for manslaughter. He got drunk one night and killed someone in a car accident. Every time he came up for parole, the victim’s family blocked his early release.

During a Bible study, in great frustration, he complained to me, “Why can’t they find Christian charity in their hearts to forgive me?”

I said, “Because of you, someone they loved is dead. It is not for you to demand their forgiveness. But someday when you finally get out, it is for you to live your life in a way that would make it hard to believe you would ever commit a crime like this in the future.”

Mark Wahlberg has done just that and has fulfilled the legal requirements of a pardon. Understandably, many struggle with forgiveness, but the laws of our land provide for justice tempered with mercy. His pardon would be a sign of hope for thousands who have learned important lessons from having made terrible mistakes, and paid their debt.

Email Suzette Martinez Standring at suzmar@comcast.net or visit readsuzette.com.

Suzette Martinez Standring: Pardon Mark Wahlberg