The world is mourning Whitney Houston. She was a talented performer and artist and met a tragic end. As we pay our respects to her, it is time to reflect on how our society treats our “good and great”. With her funeral scheduled for the weekend, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has been on the receiving end of a great deal of outrage on his decision to have flags lowered to half-staff for Whitney Houston, a New Jersey native. There are two arguments here: One is that it should be reserved for members of the military, first responders and elected officials. The other is that it’s wrong to honor a drug addict.
Surprisingly, there is no formal criteria and it’s not against the law to have flags lowered to half-staff in NJ, but it should require some commonsense! The problem is that we confuse being a celebrity with being a hero, and it’s not! Listen, sure Houston was a good singer, but role-model or hero – no way! Drug-addicted company executives can enter treatment programs for executives and get rid of their addiction, but they aren’t likely to receive any accolades from the management, are they?
What is a hero? Let me put forth the basic criteria:
Did they exhibit extraordinary courage?
Did they make a significant positive impact in the lives of others?
Were they of noble character, a role-model to emulate?
Gov. Christie defended his decision, saying he rejects criticism that she “forfeited the good things that she did” because of her struggles with substance abuse. What sort of message does this send to young girls and boys? That it’s okay to live a life full of drugs, drink excessively and abuse prescription medication as long as you are a talented artist, athlete, or movie star?
Joanne Barron, National Outreach Director for Insight Treatment Center for adolescents properly cautions us and says “Unfortunately, too often what we see or hear about celebrities has to do with a lifestyle of excess — smoking, drinking or drug use, constant parties, and sexually acting out. Whether we like it or not, celebrities are role models for teens. For many years, we have seen the influence of pop culture on our youth. Ever since television and movies became mainstream in America, teens have tried to emulate the speech, dress, and behavior of their favorite celebrities.”
The messages we give to our youth, particularly adolescents who are searching for their “identity” at a vulnerable time of life, is the shared responsibility of our society- teachers, parents, and elected officials. It is incumbent upon us to recognize, and counterbalance, the media glamorization of celebrities and entertainers.
Whitney Houston was not a hero – period. An accomplished recording artist – yes. It is sad to see a talented individual not only waste away their talent, but also squander the opportunity to help others in a deep and significant way. Those who want to honor Houston can do so in their own private way by buying her records and movies. But leave the flags for our true heroes.
About Malcolm Out Loud:
Social and political news commentator Malcolm Out Loud is also the host of WebTV show Malcolm Out Loud TV, an acclaimed motivational speaker, founder of Brink Thinking and the author of the book Smash The Competition. More about him at www.MalcolmOutLoud.TV