Personally, for the state of New Jersey and Governor Christie, this is a bad judgement call that they get to make. Governor Christie is ordering the flags flown at half-mast at state buildings in New Jersey for Whitney Houston as a cultural icon. Can't wait for "the Situation" to pass on (well, also to see if he gets the same treatment).
Christie defends his decision by deeming the singer a "cultural icon" of the state, along the lines of Jersey musicians Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and Bruce Springsteen.
He goes on to say, "Whitney Houston was an important part of the cultural fabric of this state … Her accomplishments in her life were a source of great pride for many people in this state and for this state as a whole. On that basis, I think she's entitled to have that recognition made for her."
I don't know much about Whitney Houston except that she sang one helluva a national anthem once, was a chart sensation, and was mixed up with drug addiction and all kinds of trouble. We all know that she could sing. Did she give millions to charity in Jersey? Help the poor? Change someone's life?
It just seems like a bad decision to me, but, again, that is Governor Christie's call.
I guess it depends on what you believe - that flying the flags at half-mast is a symbol of recognition (for some accomplishment) or done in honor of your service to our country or state (did Whitney Houston help New Jersey?).
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. 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. As used in this subsection —
- the term "half-staff" means the position of the flag when it is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff;
- the term "executive or military department" means any agency listed under sections 101 and 102 of title 5, United States Code; and
- the term "Member of Congress" means a Senator, a Representative, a Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico.
That said, it looks like the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, got the signal and stopped naming ships after politicians:
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the next five Navy ships; three Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers, the USS John Finn, the USS Ralph Johnson, and the USS Rafael Peralta, and two littoral combat ships (LCS), the USS Sioux City and the USS Omaha.
I'm glad that he's back on track, although I don't think I'll ever forgive him for the USS Murtha. That's just @#$%ed up like polio.