Date: February 16, 2012
Governor Wrong to Have Flag Lowered to Half Staff for Celebrities
Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered all New Jersey State and American flags to be lowered to half staff on Saturday in honor of Entertainer Whitney Houston who passed away this week.
Last year, the governor did the same for Clarence Clemmons, the saxophone player for the E Street Band.
In January, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett ordered the state flag to half staff for three days in honor of Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno when he passed.
We take great issue with this practice.
Ms. Houston and Mr. Clemmons are both children of our great state and were both wildly successful. Each has made a significant contribution to music, culture, and the arts, and both are deserving of many accolades.
But just as an American serviceman killed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan is not deserving of a Grammy award, musicians and celebrities are not deserving of the lowering of the American flag.
Simply, not everybody gets every honor.
There are few gestures as symbolic and as loud as an entire state lowering their flags at the same moment for the same amount of time.
Seeing a flag at the half staff position should spawn pause and thought. It should make one a bit unsettled but at the same time thankful. It should make one ask, "what happened?"
A flag at half staff gives publicity to courage and nobility otherwise only mildly publicized. For one day, it is an inescapable message announcing to an entire state that tragedy occurred and reminding everyone that the fruits of each free day come with a price.
Expanding this honor only diminishes its meaning and raises the question: where does it end?
Between Ms. Houston and Mr. Clemmons, entire rooms could be filled with the distinctions they have each received throughout their lives.
In the coming months and years they will continue to be given well deserved recognition for their accomplishments.
But there are certain honors that should and must be set aside.
Rifle salutes, aircraft flyovers, and half-staffed flags are among those honors and they should not be on the public menu.
It is eminently important that we protect the tributes that have become part of the military and public service fabric over the past two centuries. They are part of our tradition and should not be for sale at any price. They should not be available to take, and they should not be available to give.
The manner in which we lay the valorous when they fall helps define how we should carry ourselves while we live.
Lowering the flag to half staff should be reserved only for those who perish as a result of public duty and service, protecting our nation and the Constitution, and for those who served as formal leaders and dignitaries.
This practice must stop.
Copyright © 1996-2013 by the Independence Hall Association