Flags at Half-Staff for Whitney Houston – What’s Wrong With Chris Christie?

Ruler of New Jersey

The fact that a man is elected to high office does not entitle him to re-order the high standards we set for those who we honor and memorialize by displaying the flag at half-mast.  It’s not a privilege of office to discard what has always been the long-standing tradition of honoring those who have served and died by deciding that a celebrity is due the same respect as those whose service to a grateful nation we thereby honor.  This tradition isn’t intended for every person upon whom we wish to heap recognition, and this act by New Jersey governor Chris Christie reveals more about him than it does about his state or its people.  Whitney Houston was a fine singer, maybe the best, when she had been young and at the height of her singing power, but she died not in service to her nation, but in a bathtub, apparently the victim of her own addictions.

Please don’t misunderstand me:  I admired Houston’s singing long ago when she started out, and as I’ve written, I’d prefer to remember her that way.   How she finished her life is another matter, and while it is sad, it is not worthy of remembrance by lowering the symbol of state to half-staff.   To place her on the same pedestal that we reserve for our deceased leaders and for our national days of remembrance reveals a scandalous disregard for what the gesture means.  It’s not intended to show support, attract attention, or curry favor as a political act.  It’s a sign of respect and in mourning, it is intended to highlight the length of the staff above the flag where nothing is now present, indicating the loss for which the mourning is intended.  As a matter of official mourning, it is proper to display the flag at half-staff:

  • Following the death of the President or a former President, the flag should be flown at half-staff for 30 days.
  • Following the death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice, a retired Chief Justice of the United States or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the flag should be flown at half-staff for 10 days.
  • Following the death of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or the Governor of a State, territory or possession, the flag should be flown at half-staff from the day of death until interment.
  • Following the death of a Member of Congress, the flag should be flown at half-staff the day of death and the following day.

The President may order the flag flown at half-staff, and so can the Governor order the flag of his own state lowered. Ordinarily, however, other than the list above, it is only flown at half-staff on the following days of remembrance:

  • Memorial Day
  • Patriots’ Day
  • Pearl Harbor Day

That’s it. Now, as for Governor Christie and his decision to lower the flag to half-staff in memory of Whitney Houston, I am unwilling to listen to his buffoonish, irresponsible answers to criticism because he has not bothered to inform himself of any of the foregoing.  It’s not his place to pick and choose which citizens upon whom to bestow such an honor in such a careless fashion.  It’s not his place to decide that he is the arbiter of what is proper.  We already know what is proper, and Whitney Houston, while a great singer, is not a suitable recipient of this honor.  According to USA Today, Christie said the following:

“I am disturbed by people who believe that because her ultimate demise — and we don’t know what is the cause of her death yet — but because of her history of substance abuse that somehow she’s forfeited the good things that she did in her life,” said the governor during a briefing in northern New Jersey. “I just reject that on a human level.”

This jackass of a liberal disguised as a conservative is simply offering bad excuses.  That he rejects it on a “human level,” whatever that means, is irrelevant, because he is not a dictator, and this is not about his person, or his humanity, or any of those things.  Instead, he is the Governor of New Jersey, and his job in this matter is not to act as the official voice of the state.  The State of New Jersey should remain neutral to Whitney Houston’s death as a matter of official conduct.  Christie’s intransigence to this fact is simply stunning, and the fact that he would inflict his personal preferences on this practice is a shocking display of disregard for his office and this tradition.  Last year, he order the same distinguished honor for Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.  What it appears that Christie is doing is to use this as a hat-tip to celebrities of note from his state, or something along those lines, but I think it could be something even more cynical.

USA Today also reports the remarks of an Anna Simpson, who was at the New Hope Baptist Church, where Houston’s funeral will be held:

After Houston became famous she continued to make regular trips to the public school she attended in East Orange and to which her family has directed donations be sent in lieu of flowers.

Simpson said she admires Christie for honoring Houston because “if it were Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi, nobody would bat an eye.”

“I don’t agree with a lot of things that he does, but I admire him for that,” she said. “Whoever don’t agree, they will get over it.”

What Anna Simpson is implying is that any who complain are motivated by race.  Leave it to USA Today to dig up such an opinion.  The truth is, Governor Christie shouldn’t be doing this for any celebrity, whatever their race, sex, age, or state of addiction.  That’s not the meaning of this tradition.    One New Jersey woman whose son died recently in Afghanistan is offended over this, and for good reason.  It’s not the role of the state to worship at the altar of pop culture, and I don’t care if it is Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi(whoever he is,) so perhaps rather than leading his state like a cheer-leading section for celebrities, perhaps he could impart to his own service in office a bit of the dignity expected of our leaders.  We should expect our leaders to remember with solemn reverence the actual meaning of such official gestures by the state, and one would think Christie would have known better.

Then again, perhaps not.

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  • MaryL

    Just spoke to a NJ friend today and she is appalled! Talent or not, the woman was a junkie. Sorry.

  • http://whammy@yahoo.com whammy

    THIS IS JUST SICK WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THIS ONCE GREAT COUNTRY? OH I KNOW OMUSLIM SLIME WAS "ELECTED" GREATEST FRAUD THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO THIS COUNTRY

  • http://gravatar.com/carlirwin12 carlirwin12

    well I fact checked your article, and as hard as I tried I could find no other state or city that has a policy of flying the flag at half mast and honoring a resident crack head who drinks and drugs and drowns in the bath tub. But I will keep looking, for I know there has to be a precedent somewhere. LOL LOL LOL LOL

  • http://gravatar.com/gggtexas oldtexasgal

    It is a sad day when our American flag is flown at half-staff for an entertainer (ANY entertainer) ard our fighting men and women dying in service of our country are not even honored in this manner. This is a pathetic act on Christie's part and one can only suspect it shall come back to bite him. The hero worship of entertainers and sports figures in America has caused our children to lose sight of what and who is important in their lives. There was a time when a great teacher or a spiritual adviser was the hero to a child; values have been so distorted and morals have been mostly abandoned. Sadly, innocence is almost non-existent in America and a lot of that can be blamed on the influence of Hollywood and so many of the movies produced there. And incidents such as this one by Christie do not help!

  • http://falantedios.wordpress.com Nick Gill

    Elvis Aron Presley

    (and if you think Tennessee lowered their flags to half-staff because of Presley's dedicated years of military service, you need to have your head examined)

    • http://www.markamerica.com MarkAmerica

      Nick, doesn't change my point. I don't feel any different about that either.

      • Intellectual honesty

        Nicky's point is valid…why did you not address it on the merits instead of dismissing it out of hand?
        http://www.angelfire.com/stars3/elvisonmymind/dea

        • http://www.markamerica.com MarkAmerica

          I didn't dismiss it out of hand. I merely stated that I didn't think the Elvis instance was any more proper. That it happened means what? Every time somebody sets a bad precedent, we should adopt it? Nixon had an enemies list. Should all presidents? The Menendez brothers got away with murder. Should all who kill their parents? The point is that because somebody has offered a bad precedent doesn't mean that we must adopt it. Entertainers aren't special in my view. Why not for the guy who invented the Big Mac, or the guy who invented Windows, either of whom brought more value to more peoples' lives than Whitney Houston, if that's your standard? The point is that once we open this up to "cultural icons," there's no end and nothing special about it any longer. It then becomes a tradition signifying nothing.

  • Bobbie

    I and many others do not share your opinion.

    • http://www.markamerica.com MarkAmerica

      And thankfully, this is America where it is still permissible to disagree.

  • http://gravatar.com/tousaint tousaint

    Whatever (I do mean "what"), ****-head that has a problem with it…. get the **** over it!!! Also stop speculating, most of "you all" ****oles have family members who are crackheads and mad because they still are!!! This **** is much deeper than that, you're just jealous of the sister's fame and the only fault you can find to ***** about is her addiction!!!

    • http://www.markamerica.com MarkAmerica

      Let me explain something to you: The sort of profane response you've dropped here won't be accepted. I've edited it. This time. Now, let me explain a few things to you: I liked Whitney Houston circa 1985, and for the record, to my knowledge, I have no family members anywhere who are crackheads. To my knowledge, I've never been within sight, reach, or smell of crack. I abhor drug use, and I abhor the tendency of people who use them to destroy their lives. I felt badly for Ms. Houston, but flying the flag at half-staff is not for whomever some politician may deem worthy. Next time you come around, curb the language.

  • DON L

    This is the most disrespectful thing I can think of to the men and women that served our country. To even think that an entertainer should have the same honor and respect as our military and government servants is completely absurd. And those that cry racism, this has nothing to do with race, color, sex or religion, it has to to do with honor and respect for service to our country and singing the national anthem is not a service it is a privilege.

  • Tracy

    I too found Whitney Houston to be hugely talented but she was just an entertainer. She wasted the second half of her life on drugs and acohol. I do not feel this merits any flag lowering. She did not give her life for this country and it would be the ultimate insult to our brave soldiers and leaders who actually made a difference. Chris Christie is a fool to the highest degree and does not seem to understand that lowering the flag should be an honor bestowed upon people who gave service to our country.
    As far as being jealous, why would anyone in their right mind be jealous of someone who was so talented, so blessed, but who went in such a wrong direction. Why would we be jealous of someone who drowned in a bathtub after years of abusing herself. Only someone who has no clue as to what people are saying here always resort to attack because they cannot come up with any logical response. I feel sorry for you. I, like Mark, also have not ever met a crackhead. I guess we just run in different circles. Maybe you're jealous of us.

  • l

    deaths of crack junkies, legal and illegal med, alcohol and pill addicts should NOT be accorded the ultimate national honor and recognition reserved for those among us who have sacrificed so much for this nation ……………… including the ultimate sacrifice of giving one's own life in defesne of this nation…………chris christie's thoughtless act degraded this lone national ritual……..he should be more than ashamed

  • DWIGHT

    Chris Christie is a food junky ! I dont like him at all ….I loved Whitney Houston as a singer and entertainer but she was a Crack Head and Coke junky ….and the flag should not be flown at half mast for her or any other entertainer……