If we are to gauge the level of respect and honor in our civil society, we need only look to those we – or our elected representatives – consider deserving of special hero worship. Some of these high honors include the flying of Old Glory at half-staff, the honor of having Naval vessels named for an individual, or perhaps being the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Considering several events of late, I can not help but think that the standards that our society deems iconic have hit some unacceptable lows.
Three examples of late have had me shaking my head in bewilderment, tho I’m quite sure these are not only examples.
to fly half-staff for Whitney Houston funeral
The Republican governor has ordered U.S. and state flags flown at half-staff at all state government buildings on Saturday, the day of her funeral.
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.”
According to official Flag Code, Gov. Christie has all rights as the Governor of the State to order the Old Glory’s half-mast status to honor whomever he wishes. That is not in question. What may be in question is his judgement in applying such an honor to a woman who can hardly be considered a role model to the young, and ended up abusing her extraordinary gift of song. Or perhaps this is what our society has come to… that our focus, adoration and attentions gravitate to drug addicted entertainers instead of genuine heroes amongst us that do not enjoy national fame.
It’s also embarrassing that this extends even to our 24/7 news outlets, i.e. Greta Van Sustern interrupting an interview with Karl Rove about the new Obama budget for the “breaking news” of the jet, carrying Whitney Houston’s body, hitting the tarmac in New Jersey. You’ve gotta be kidding me…
In a society where few can name the Vice President or Speaker of the House, but can name the past four season’s winners on Dancing with the Stars, I suppose it’s not all that surprising that ratings conscious broadcast entities cater to this mentality. But I do find it disconcerting that arrangement of priorities has reduced our fates, and that of our children and grandchildren, as nothing more than a side note or also ran…. preempted by another pandering opportunity to mourn sundry entertainers – like Houston and Michael Jackson – who also happen to be junkies that ended up engineering their own deaths.
What have we come to when we telegraph to the young that these people are deserving of some of our highest honors?
to be named for Gabrielle Giffords
I have to admit, as a Navy wife back in the era of Vietnam, the announcement by Obama Naval Secretary appointee, Ray Mabus, to name the latest littoral combat ship off the drydock after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, really stunned me. While I have nothing against Ms. Giffords personally, and wish her well in her recovery, I find that such an honor bestowed on someone because they were the target of a lunatic falls fall short of our traditional standards for naming naval vessels in the past, as documented by this 2011 CRS report. Generally, the LCS class is named for small and medium sized American cities.
But this is not Mr. Mabus’ first, or only controversial choice of names. In April, 2010, the Naval Secy announced the LPD-26, the 10th ship in the class, would be named for the late Representative John P. Murtha. Needless to say, this was not a decision that was received well by the masses. While Pelosi saw him as a tireless advocate for the troops, more than a few of us instead remembered his 2005 accusation that US Marines killed Iraqis in cold blood…. Marines that were later exonerated of charges.
The proposed LCS Gabrielle Giffords is not only an off tangent honor for that class of ship, but also in the fact that very few ships are named after the living. This places the former House member in the exclusive company of Carl Vinson, Adms Rickover and Burke, John Stennis (weird in itself that a ship is named after a racial segregation Senator…), Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and George Bush the elder. And why? Because she was the unfortunate victim of a shooting?
Mabus comes up with a pretty flimsy reason… as quoted from the Washington Times editorial I linked above.
Mr. Mabus said Mrs. Giffords was a source of “great inspiration” who represents “the Navy and Marine Corps qualities of overcoming, adapting and coming out victorious despite great challenges.”
I’m sorry, but I have to agree with the Times editorial staff… if overcoming, adapting and achieving victory over great challenges is the criteria, one need look no further than Walter Reed Hospital for heroes who willingly took bullets for our nation for that inspiration.Perhaps the line in the sand has been unmistakeably crossed with Mabus’ late 2011 announcement that a dry cargo and ammunition ship under construction in San Diego is to be named after labor activist, Cesar Chavez.
Although the authority to choose naval vessel’s names has been the Secretary of Navy’s privilege since the late 1800s, this does not eliminate Congressional interest, and influence, when controversial suggestions arise. Incidents where Congress and the POTUS have interceded are documented as examples from the CRS background report:
For example, one source states that “[the aircraft carriers] CVN 72 and CVN 73 were named prior to their start [of construction], in part to preempt potential congressional pressure to name one of those ships for Admiral H.G. Rickover ([instead,] the [attack submarine] SSN 709 was named for the admiral).”20 Another example was
a rivalry of sorts in Congress between those who supported naming the aircraft carrier CVN-76 for President Truman and those who supported naming it for President Reagan; the issue was effectively resolved by a decision announced by President Clinton in February 1995 to name one carrier (CVN-75) for Truman and another (CVN-76) for Reagan.21 One press report suggests that the decision to name CVN-77 for President George H.W. Bush may have been influenced by a congressional suggestion.22 Section 1012 of the FY2007 defense authorization act (H.R. 5122/P.L. 109-364 of October 17, 2006), expressed the sense of the Congress that the aircraft carrier CVN-78 should be named for President Gerald R. Ford, and the Navy announced on January 16, 2007, that CVN-78 would be so named.
And apparently this discernible trend by Obama’s Naval Secretary appointee has begun to raise Congressional eyebrows. So this past December, “…a clause in the Dec. 12 congressional report accompanying the defense authorization bill calls on the defense secretary to review the policy for naming vessels.” This is not exactly a vote of confidence in the trend of name choices and defining the acts which are deserving of this honor.
This was done prior to the announcement of the USS Gabrielle Giffords. And I honestly believe that few Congress members would have the fortitude to stand up and say that one of their own is not worthy of this honor for fear of public repercussions. But I will. And frankly, I do believe that not only should Ray Mabus.. who served two years in the Navy in the 70s… be bounced out with nothing but skivvies in hand, but that his choice of names should be reviewed and reversed before the paint is dry on the hull.
The last example of the decline of US moral society, as reflected in “honors”?
By gum, there’s not much to say about this abomination of choice. Why did Obama feel Buffett, a close crony to his admin, was worthy of such an honor?
Obama said Buffett “uses his stature as a leader to press others of great means to do the same.” “
Apparently, this POTUS believes that if one of wealth decides to gift their inheritance to those they don’t know instead of relatives, it’s an example of leadership.
So what do we have here? Flags at half-staff for junkies, ships named for labor leaders, and Congressional members who either accused and disgraced our military, or simply were a victim of a loon, and the celebration of any-one-but-family charitable giving. Is our society in such moral decline that this is an acceptable trend by our elected leaders?
Or have our thresholds gotten so low that one really knows, or cares, what constitutes a hero/heroine, worthy of honor anymore?