Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Attorney Sam Checks In With A Bullying Update

Hello there. Attorney Sam Goldberg here with a question. What do the new motion picture “Patriots Day”, the issue of bullying and this blog have in common?

The answer is a certain hip hop artist I have mentioned from time to time by the name of Token. Token has a very small part in the movie…and a non-musical one at that. However, he has also recently released his latest music video, “Exception”, which can be found at various places.

Without going through the entire story line and it tragic ending, suffice to say that the video takes the march against bullying from a different perspective. Sure, the song is anti-bullying. But, then again, most people are.

This song, though, focuses it’s attention on the witnesses to events of bullying. In fact, as in various interviews, 18-year-old Token admits that he, himself, has been guilty of sitting back and simply watching such events in silence. He further explains that the reason for the title “Exception” refers to a line in the song indicating that the high school in the video is a typical suburban location where most people figure is an exception to the bullying issue…so nobody has to worry about it.

You may recall that the issue of bullying was front page news not so long ago. I was writing blogs indicating that the then-new movement to bring all such cases into criminal court was a mistake. That such a road would lead to worse bullying and the destruction of more young peoples’ futures…and that the cycle would renew itself.

Well, after all the political posturing of our legislatures, the issue has seemed to quiet down. No, bullying has not gone away, it is just not front-page news anymore, except in cases of youth suicide. Even then, there is nothing like the fervor that there was before.

The sad fact remains as it always has. Bullying exists. In schools. In offices. In presidential races. In the latter, is seems to also be appreciated and enjoyed by an audience of voters.

I must admit that I am glad that the histrionics that politicians and criminal justice types demonstrated did not take hold. True, we were left with nonsensical legislation, but, thankfully, it had little-to-no teeth so it did not matter.

“What do you mean, Sam? Are you finally admitting that you are pro-bullying?”

Of course not…and nobody in their right minds would be. Particularly when it comes to our kids. But attempting to treat the problem in the halls of justice is a mistake.

Generally, bullying is a social ill, like racism and addiction, which does not always lead to something that should be grist for the prosecutorial mill. It needs to be treated with awareness, education and, most of all, social consciousness.

Admit it or not, we have a society which actually rewards things like addiction and bullying. There are plenty of things which cause addiction which we keep legal and available. Adults who bully in the office or political arena are often rewarded for their “wit”. So, we need look no further than our role models to see where such behavior takes root. Especially when such behavior tends to come naturally unless and until we learn better.

“So we should just give up and accept it?”

Again…of course not.

My position is similar to that of Token…and not simply because he is my son.

The potential audiences out there are the only way we are going to teach that certain behavior, while not necessarily criminal in nature, is not acceptable. It is not funny. It is not clever. It is cruel, hurts us all and is to be avoided.

Not rewarded.

And so, during this holiday season and as we look hopefully toward a new start in a couple of weeks, let’s try to learn. Learn what is in our hearts. Learn from what we want to teach our kids. Learn from what we want our society to be.

If a few folks do that…it may spread and become the norm.

Now, what kind of Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa gift to us all that would be!

Have a great, safe and law abiding holiday season!

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