Mark Wahlberg’s latest bid to change the mistakes of the past—in this case, the mistakes made by Mark Wahlberg, when he was just a violent, racist teenager running rampant on the streets of Boston—has been met with greater stumbling blocks than the usual realities of linear time. His request to be pardoned for the 1988 assault of two Vietnamese men has been greeted with serious public derision, and held up as some unfortunately timely evidence of the way privilege can excuse even the harshest of crimes, when others get killed for, say, selling loose cigarettes while not starring in major movie franchises. The fact that Wahlberg wants his past excused so he can open more Wahlburgers chains and play at being a police officer has only added to that outrage.
But Wahlberg should get his pardon, according to one unexpected source: The Daily Mail tracked down Johnny Trinh, one of two men Wahlberg brutally attacked that night, who now says that Wahlberg should be absolved—and added that, contrary to numerous press reports since the incident, it wasn’t Wahlberg’s assault that left him partially blind. “He did hurt me, but my left eye was already gone. He was not responsible for that,” Trinh says, explaining that he had already lost his eye to a piece of shrapnel while fighting with anti-communist forces in the Vietnam War, with Wahlberg actually punching him in the glass eye that had replaced it.
Trinh also says he had no idea his assailant had since become famous actor Mark Wahlberg—but regardless of who he is, Trinh says he’s already paid for his crime with his 45 days in prison. “He was young and reckless but I forgive him now,” Trinh says. “Everyone deserves another chance. I would like to see him get a pardon. He should not have the crime hanging over him any longer.”
While it remains to be seen whether the state of Massachusetts agrees that the famous multimillionaire model, musician, actor, producer, and entrepreneur should at long last be given a break—allowing him to also obtain a concessionaire license for his restaurants, or be handed a gun as a reserve officer with the LAPD—Trinh can at least take solace in knowing that his wish has already been granted, as Wahlberg long ago forgave himself.
“You have to go and ask for forgiveness,” Wahlberg told Nightline in 2006, of the people involved in those many, documented, racially motivated attacks whom he’s since contacted to ask for forgiveness—a list that so far includes Mark Wahlberg. “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,” Wahlberg said, no doubt to Trinh’s relief.
But while Wahlberg has already received forgiveness from at least two of those hurt by these crimes—Trinh and Mark Wahlberg—Wahlberg would still like the more formal pardon. Not only for the sake of those innocent hamburgers with his name on them, but for all the other, not yet fully formed mounds of meat he’s left his impression on. As he explained in his original petition, Wahlberg hopes that other “troubled youths will see this as an inspiration and motivation that they too can turn their lives around,” mostly by showing them how their misdeeds can follow them around forever—at least, until they become famous enough that they can ask to have them expunged.
And yet, “whether it happens or not,” Wahlberg tells The New York Daily News, “it won’t change how hard I’ve worked at becoming a better person.” Which is, of course, an actual lesson he could be imparting to troubled youths, rather than teaching them that anyone can be officially sanctioned as a “better person” with enough money and celebrity.
UPDATE: Vulture spoke to Wahlberg about Trinh’s statement, and not surprisingly, Wahlberg is left “reeling” at the revelation that he never actually blinded him—“especially because I’ve carried the burden around for so many years thinking I had caused this guy to go blind.”
It also provoked an emotional response: “The graciousness, the kindness in his heart to forgive me anyway for my unnecessary and horrible actions….,” Wahlberg said. “You know, there are many things that I’ve dealt with in my past, and being a devout Catholic and knowing that I can’t be forgiven unless I can forgive, I just thought that what he said was very special. I was overwhelmed with emotion.”