By now, anyone paying attention knows that pop music star Whitney Houston is dead. Like many music icons, her life ended in Hollywood, under questionable circumstances. Anyone paying attention to this website can probably guess that her death means little to me on a personal level. I have only minimal regard for pop musicians, and believe the majority of them to be self-aggrandizing fools.
But the self-aggrandizing fool of the moment is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. His office has announced that the American flag will be lowered to half-staff in his state, in honor of Houston’s death.
Think about this for a minute. This means that Governor Christie, or someone of influence in his office, believes that Houston, whose illegal drug use was publicly admitted and widely known, is deserving of the same level of honor as our veterans. The assertion is laughable.
The lowering of the flag to half-staff is an honor, and official practice is quite clear on the matter. It is reserved for members of the military, veterans, and certain public servants. It is a solemn event, and is done with deliberation and gravity. To extend this honor to a pop singer, no matter how popular, is a slap in the face to American service members, veterans, and their surviving families. Governor Christie’s action is nothing more than a play to the cheap seats. He is lending official sanction to the singer’s death, in an attempt to attach his name to the endless media coverage, and to momentarily raise his profile among those who believe Houston’s passing to be a matter of national importance.
Whitney Houston’s death, while painful for many, does not rise to the level of official honor. If Governor Christie sees some political expedience in the matter, he has other avenues open to him. He could designate a day of remembrance, or ask the New Jersey legislature for recognition. (Either of these would be more than is done for the combat-related death of a Soldier…but I digress.) The Governor should not, however, extend flag honors to a person who performed no public service, used crack cocaine and other drugs, and whose death is a matter for official investigation.
There will be enough tribute for Whitney Houston in the private sector. The media will be relentless in their coverage. Crowds will gather, candles will be lit, flowers will be placed, and sales of her music and films will skyrocket. Regardless of her failings, she will remain idolized. This is what the public and the media demand.
It is more than enough. Flag honors must remain reserved for those who have served others in life. It is our final tribute to them as a nation and community. Governor Christie’s order is, to say the least, misguided. It sets a disturbing precedent and diminishes the sacrifices made by our military and others who have served the public. It is probably too late to change things…but it shows a side of Christie that I will remember for a long time to come.