NJ Governor Chris Christie defended his decision to lower the flag on NJ state buildings on the day of Whitney Houston’s funeral. He received severe criticism for this decision from several quarters, much of which was based on Whitney’s known drug problems.
Christie responded humanely and properly to the drug-based criticism, rightly recognizing that any drug use on Whitney’s part does not take away from her artistic ability or artistic contributions. He also recognized that Whitney was not a role model in every aspect of her life. However, the overriding basis for his decision, that Whitney was a cultural icon, is flawed.
Traditionally, lowering of the flag has been reserved for military personnel and politicians who made notable contributions through public service. Bestowing that honor on Whitney Houston by subjectively determining she is a cultural icon lowers already sinking standards and sets the stage for further abuse.
“Cultural icons” are not always positive in nature. Often, the media brands someone as a cultural icon simply for being popular or getting a lot of press. Many of these “cultural icons” have had a less than positive impact on society or have been labeled as icons strictly for political reasons. Once politics becomes a factor, resulting controversy is a given and partisanship takes over.
Christie’s decision sets a precedent for lowering flags in the future for Al Sharpton, Jane Fonda, Tom Brady, Michael Moore, Kim Kardashian, Bill O’Reilly, Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga, 50 Cent, Sean Hannity, or even Joe the Plumber. It doesn’t take a genius (a similarly overused label that has now lost meaning) to see the controversy and problems that would arise over that.
As the bar lowers, so does the honor and, eventually, it can turn into nothing more than a personal or political statement. We already have too many of those.
David J. Hentosh