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Lowering flags half-mast in danger of becoming political prop

Lowering flags half-mast in danger of becoming political prop

Lowering flags half-mast in danger of becoming political prop
March 23
12:00 2021

In recognition of over 500,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 in the United States, President Biden ordered flags on federal property to be lowered half-mast. As a symbol of national tragedy or grief, lowering the American flag half-mast for reaching such a disturbing milestone is perfectly justified, especially with the recent rollouts of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Such an honor is usually reserved for fallen government officials such as presidents, members of Congress or Supreme Court justices such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Memorial Day and the anniversaries of 9/11 or Pearl Harbor also get the half-mast treatment. It’s hard to see anyone argue about those instances for the obvious reasons of massive losses of life and their significances within American history. Recognizing elected officials, in concept, makes perfect sense since they devote their lives to the service of their community (political corruption aside). For the life of me, however, I see no rhyme or reason to justify bestowing such a sacred honor upon conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered for the flags at the State Capitol to be lowered half-mast for Limbaugh from sunrise to sunset on Feb. 24. Reactions to Limbaugh’s death varied depending on which side of the aisle one sat in although most would agree his radio show was hardly a legitimate institution. His show was political editorializing at its most potent and destructive. While it is head-scratching for the Florida governor to make such an outrageously indulgent decree, there’s little surprise given the current political climate.

Both sides of the aisle are obsessed with their image and their relationship with the media. Conservatives are quick to paint the “mainstream media” as enemies of the state, stroking their god complexes, which makes DeSantis’ actions make ideological sense: Limbaugh was a man of the people, they would say, telling it like it is even if his frankness of “brutal honesty” offended others. Using that logic, DeSantis sees Limbaugh, his friend, as a political martyr in this “snowflake” era – honoring his “contributions” to American politics would be a no-brainer. Trump gave him the congressional medal of honor, so where does the buck truly stop?

Lowering the American flag half-mast for Limbaugh, a man whose body of work is vitriolic and divisive is a political Pandora’s Box. Not only does it fly in the face of a well-respected tradition, but creates a slippery slope that could turn the “exception to the rule” into the rule itself. It’s a reckless abuse of power that shamelessly shows the governor’s biases.

As we’ve established, striking the flag half-mast is a sacred act reserved for the deaths of elected officials or to commemorate national tragedies. Rush Limbaugh left a legacy ripe with bigotry, delusion and lies. It doesn’t matter if DeSantis considered him a close friend – doing this in his honor runs the risk of bastardizing an honored tradition.

Deciding when to and when not to strike the flag half-mast has also painted a stark contrast between presidents and their apparent priorities. The twilight of Donald Trump’s presidency was host to the Capitol Riots. His White House initially did not their lower flags to honor fallen Officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood. Trump eventually relented and ordered the flags to be lowered but it was too little too late. Here, the act of lowering the flags wasn’t a cordial remembrance of national tragedies nor was it the brash insistence of recognizing a stain on American journalism. A moral obligation was nonexistent as Trump made the order out of public pressure. Although the act was justified in those who were honored, the reasons why Trump relented were hollow and lacking of conviction.

We live in a political climate obsessed with good press and publicity. Politicians’ social media accounts never let a good deed go unnoticed as they prioritize likes and retweets the same way they do votes. While President Biden’s order to lower the flag half-mast is a solemnly appropriate action, Gov. DeSantis’s tribute to Rush Limbaugh is a blatantly brash subversion of an American tradition. This is yet another example of a politician turning the sacred into the superfluous.

Featured Illustration by Olivia Varnell

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Kevin Diaz

Kevin Diaz

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