Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Jersey Gov Christie's Decision to Lower Flags for Houston a Good Call

A lot of media hype was spawned by the death of Whitney Houston, and when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered flags across the state lowered to half staff in honor of Houston there were some who loudly disagreed.

Let's face it Jersey doesn't have a lot going for it and Whitney Houston was a small bright spot in New Jerseys' history, although she hadn't lived in the Garden State for years. While anyone has a right to disagree it is the Governor of each states right to dictate where, for whom and when such honor is bestowed.

The claim that giving this honor to Houston is a slap in the face to all service men is just outright stupid and there is no argument for stupid. But that is what some guy in Wyoming, Michigan claimed while he burned the New Jersey state flag on his outdoor grill in response to Christie’s order.

“It was a slap in the face. It cheapens the meaning of lowering that flag,” John Burri, 60, told the Detroit News. “They're watering down the meaning of a hero.”

Burri’s son, Army Spc. Eric T. Burri, was killed by an improvised explosive device while he was on patrol in Iraq in 2005. He was 21.

At least one New Jersey town, also, ignored the governor’s executive order. Wayne Township, population 54,000, did not lower its flags at the request of Mayor Christopher P. Vergano.

“As of today I have received 13 emails in favor of not lowering the flags and one opposed to my decision,” Vergano wrote Monday in an email to the Los Angeles Times. “The emails came from as far as Florida, Texas and Virginia. My personal feeling is that the flag should only be lowered as an honor for military personal and fallen police officers. Most of the people that contacted me were in the military service and thanked me for my decision.”

Mayor Vergano is wrong, in as much as when the Governor of your state orders something you follow that order. If every mayor in the state followed his "personal feelings" we would have nothing but chaos.

The lowering of flags to half staff is not, contrary to some of the uninformed public, reserved for those is uniform or high public office. There are dozens of ordinary citizens who are given this honor each year. Pennsylvania recently lowered their flags in honor of Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno.

Christie noted that Houston, made significant cultural contributions to her home state.

“For those people who say, 'I don't think she deserves it,' I say to them, ‘I understand that you don't think that. I do, and it's my executive order,’”

Flags have flown at half staff for many Americans who were not police or military personnel. State Governors have in the past ordered all flags flown at half staff for Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, and Ted Williams. The president has ordered that flags across the nation be flown at half staff for, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the 2006 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the death of Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks, and the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre.

Yet some questioned the idea that Houston was a good role model in light of her reported prescription drug addiction.

“I’ve seen these messages and emails that have come to me disparaging her for her troubles with substance abuse,” Christie said. “What I’d say to everybody is: There but for the grace of God go I.”

Christie noted that he has ordered flags flown at half-staff for all 31 fallen New Jersey soldiers and every slain police officer during his time in office.

He also ordered flags lowered last year for Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.

I wasn't a big fan of Whitney Houston, when she was at the top of her game she competed with the likes of Nirvana and lost out hands down. But still I understand her contribution as an entertainer and as a favored daughter of the State of New Jersey.

Cedar's Bonus: Ever wonder why flags in your state are at half staff? Well wonder no more, Flag Status updates their list twice daily collecting the orders and proclamations from around the country on their web site which is here.


Garth Vader said...

United States Code. Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 4(m) states that a Governor may order the flag flown at half staff ONLY "in the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States, or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from any State, territory, or possession who dies while serving on active duty".

Anonymous said...

So an "entertainer" gets the honor of a state flag flown at half-mast? I can't wait for the next New Jersey pornstar to take a dirt nap! It was and is completely ridiculous. Ms. Houston was completely self absorbed during the course of her entire short career and remained so through her addiction and death. She has done nothing to advance our society by any stretch of imagination no matter how well she USED to sing! She did not give up her life for another, she sold it for the price of the next drug. Granting her this honor is pathetic and graphically demonstrates just how shallow we are as a society.

Anonymous said...

To: Garth Vader,
You didn't copy the whole section that relates to the issue of authority to lower a flag to half staff.
It reads:
By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law. In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from any State,territory, or possession who dies while serving on active duty, the Governor of that State, territory, or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff, and the same authority is provided to the Mayor of the District of Columbia with respect to present or former officials of the District of Columbia and members of the Armed Forces from the District of Columbia. When the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, or the Mayor of the District of Columbia, issues a proclamation under the preceding sentence that the National flag be flown at half-staff in that State, territory, or possession or in the District of Columbia because of the death of a member of the Armed Forces, the National flag flown at any Federal installation or facility in the area covered by that proclamation shall be flown at half-staff consistent with that proclamation. The flag shall be flown at half-staff 30 days from the death of the President or a former President; 10 days from the day of death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until interment 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; and on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress. The flag shall be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day, unless that day is also Armed Forces Day.

Based on this, it might seem that only the President can authorize that the flag be flown at half staff for "other officials." Whether it was or was not appropriate in the case of Whitney Houston, it doesn't seem that Governor Christie had the authority he exercised.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I disagree with you on this Cedar. I loved Whitney Houston and her music, but she did nothing to "serve and protect" our freedoms...

Garth Vader said...


You posted nothing that grants Christie the authority to order half-staff. Whitney Houston does not fall under any enumerated category of individual for whose death half-staff may be ordered.

Anonymous said...

This was an act of future pandering, nothing more, nothing less.

Anonymous said...

Garth Vader,
Exactly the point I made at the end of the post. The flag can be flown at half staff for more than the circumstances you highlighted, though. I just wanted to make sure all of the information regarding the Code for the flag was there, is all.

Garth Vader said...


Where are such additional circumstances codified?

Anonymous said...

They don't even fly the flag at half mast/staff at the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.....