Governor Chris Christie just announced flags will be flown at half-staff to honor Whitney Houston as an iconic figure in New Jersey’s storied history. Could such a decision represent an attempt to placate a powerful constituency or another example of the decline and fall of a culture?
The warning about the death of our cultural institutions has been made by such scholars as Larry Arnn, Victor Davis Hanson, Charles Murray, Thomas Sowell and Mark Steyn in eloquent and urgent tones. They argue that we are on a deliberate course to cultural and intellectual oblivion because of liberalism’s mandated political correctness.
How else can we understand the rise of gangsta’ rappers Biggie Smalls, FiftyCent, Snoop Dogg and MIA and fall of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart or to explain the substitution by high school superintendents of Beloved or Jazz by Toni Morrison or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou for Hamlet or Macbeth?
President Obama recognized Barbara Cook, Neil Diamond and Sonny Rollins in 2011, Merle Haggard, Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey in 2010 and Mel Brooks, Grace Bumbry and Robert DeNiro in 2009 for their contributions to the enrichment of the cultural life of our nation and the world! How do we explain the choices honored at the Kennedy Center as National Treasures or in Oslo as Nobel Laureates in literature?
Are liberalism and secularism threats to the recognition of what is great from what is dross? Are we held hostage to a national, perhaps even global refusal to make judgments? Is this deliberate blindness critical for our continued greatness and survival?
The Founding Fathers said we must be treated as equals in the eyes of the law, not in the eyes of the national citizenry. When flags are flown at half-staff by order of a state governor to honor not a fallen national hero but a songstress cum drug addict, is our culture not so different from that of Rome in the final days before its fall? While Houston’s powerful rendition of the national anthem in 1991 will always remain the gold standard, public sympathy and admiration do not merit public honor by government decree.
Perhaps we need to reassess the admonition in Matthew 5:39 and again in Luke 6:29 to turn the other cheek. Perhaps we would be better advised to follow Van T. Barfoot, a Choctaw who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in WWII.
Charles Krauthammer noted with great prescience several years ago that decline is a choice. We must, therefore, eschew the instruction of the New Testament and choose not to decline. If we don’t defend the values and principles which are at the heart of our greatness, we may one day lower the flags to honor the death of our own country.