Folks, can we talk about the hullabaloo surrounding singer Whitney Houston? Her death last Saturday in a bathtub in California was certainly tragic. But here's what it wasn't: worth lowering the American flag to half-staff (or half-mast) -- no matter what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is telling the public today.
Now before the Whitney fans jump down my throat and give me a line about her incredible voice and her addition to the American songbook, let me point to sentence number two of this here blog post. The fact that a young girl lost her mother, that a woman with such great talent saw it snuffed out at just 48 is sad. But let's talk about who Whitney Houston wasn't for a moment, shall we?
She wasn't a government official.
She wasn't a foreign dignitary.
She wasn't a member of our nation's armed services.
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Whitney Houston was just a celebrity. A talented one? Sure. One who could do an incredible rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner"? Absolutely! She even did some nice things for our troops (anyone remember that free concert she did for the folks coming home from the Persian Gulf War?). But still, the New Jersey native doesn't fall under any of the categories delineated in the flag section of the official United States Code as worthy of lowering Old Glory.
Christie has been spending a lot of time defending Whitney from comments about her history of drug abuse, saying it doesn't mean "that somehow she's forfeited the good things she did in her life." He's right. Drug abuse or no drug abuse, Whitney Houston did some very good things. But what he forgets is that for all the good things she did, Houston didn't do the ones that would earn her this particular honor.
By lowering the flag tomorrow during her funeral in the Garden State, Christie is thumbing his nose at the entire code and at the nation as a whole. He's treating the flag like the symbol of our nation is a play toy, one he can meddle with on a whim. He's laying an insult at the feet of the men and women who have gone into public service, the men and women who have worked so hard to ensure that we live in a country where that flag still flies. If the flag can be lowered for just anyone, what does it say about the country's ultimate tribute to their service?
Who do you think flags should be lowered to half-staff for? Celebrities? Politicians? Who?
Image via asterix611/Flickr