Saturday, January 17, 2015

Times Editorial on Wahlberg

We have had our say on Mark Wahlberg's pardon application for some time now (see previous posts here). In Today's New York Times, Frank Bruni give us his two cents worth on the topic. Bruni believes Wahlberg is now "confronting" the fact that "life" is not so easily "manipulated" because his application has "rightly" been the focus of "negative" attention.

Bruni understands that the 43-year old Wahlberg committed his offenses when he was but 16 years of age. While Wahlberg's offenses involved physical violence and - it is said - "racial slurs," they were not considered serious enough to result in a jail sentence of more than 45 days. Bruni notes that, more than two decades ago, as rapper "Marky Mark," Wahlberg "was known for using crude language about women" and was "implicated in brawls." The cynic might note ...

Today, however, "several prominent Hollywood producers" insist Wahlberg's reputation "in the industry" is "sterling." He has also donated a considerable amount of time and energy for charitable causes. But Bruni dismisses all of Wahlberg's generosity because "he can afford that in a way that very few ex-cons can." Or, as Bruni puts it:
Financial generosity shouldn’t be a factor in his (or anyone else’s) favor: That’s just the criminal-justice system’s version of income inequality.
Ironically, Bruni is critical of Wahlberg for not having "reached out to the Vietnamese community in Dorchester or to the victims of his crimes." We assume that Wahlberg could, in a way that "very few ex-felons can."

We respectfully disagree that such good works should be summarily dismissed when considering the rehabilitation of an offender and his/her contributions and benefits to society. Wahlberg, for example, spends some time working with troubled youths, encouraging them not to go down the paths that he did - for they may not be so fortunate. Presidents have certainly considered such things in pardon applications, for hundreds of years. It is very American to do so.  What may seem cutting edge in sociology does not always fit well into the logistics of mercy.

Yes, we get it. A multi-millionaire can - potentially contribute more than non-millionaires, but evidently blinded by the bright light of dollar amounts, Bruni misses the ginormous train it is attached to - the willingness to do so! Many persons, of all levels of wealth, could see, think and feel beyond their own noses, and contribute ... but they don't!

Bruni is also critical of the fact that very few pardons are granted in Massachusetts - who on earth isn't? - but then, amazingly enough, writes:
In his application [Wahlberg] argued that getting a pardon could be an inspiration to people trying to turn their lives around and hoping for forgiveness. But to the less advantaged of them, it would be the opposite: a confirmation that being white, rich and famous earns you special treatment. 
And that, of course, is the classic media stink bomb that discourages governors from granting pardons and leaves them with the distinct impression that to do nothing is to intelligently err on the side of caution. Those kinds of boiler-plate "criticisms" of pardons have always been around. And they always will be. Journalists, editorialists, partisan hacks and commentators always have them at hand, ready to smear

The fact of the matter is, Wahlberg's offenses were committed long ago, when he was young, and intoxicated. They were punished lightly because, in the big scheme of things, they were not so serious. Bruni fails to mention that one of Wahlberg's victims thinks he deserves a pardon. Seems like more than a minor detail. Racial slurs are great copy and slap the emotional hot buttons. But, in all of these weeks of negative commentary, not a single person has stepped forward, or even anonymously claimed (!), that Wahlberg is a racist, or that these behaviors characterize him in the current decade, or recent decades.

Wahlberg's application deserves scrutiny, criticism, sure. But, if there is anything that the politics of pardons teaches us, it is that the results of generic, biased, partisan, emotionally-charged and unfair criticism are predictable enough: more people in prison, more people suffering from the collateral consequences of convictions, more governors and presidents doing nothing at all in order to avoid criticism from those with access to media. See the full editorial here.


Anonymous said...

What is often overlooked by those with the anti-pardon agenda, is that many seeking pardons are simply seeking forgiveness, & or closure of a bad or dark chapter in their life.

Many underestimate the power of forgiveness, & or closure. It is not a tangible right, or privilege yet, can have an overwhelming affect on someone, & their own self worth.

Too many enter the judicial system in one way or another deserving of punishment. However, should all punishable offenses become life sentences of rights revocation, & denial of closure..??

I'm betting someone of Wahlberg's status simply seeks what so many applicants desire......closure.


Anonymous said...

It is ironic that many of the same people who are very supportive of the Pardon Power are resistant or opposed to a Pardon for Mr. Wahlberg. That's disappointing.

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