A New Low in Recognition

June 19 was six days ago. It was the day that James Gandolfini died of a heart attack at age 51. He was an actor. The height of his acting accomplishments was being the star in the six-season TV series “The Sopranos,” a story about the life of a Mob leader.

As of this morning, it is truly legitimate to say he has surpassed all international dignitaries and American presidents as far as recognition. His death has been part of news headlines each and every day since June 19. Earlier today it was noted that government flags in New Jersey will be flown at half staff in honor of Gandolfini and his timeless impact on television and film. We’re given minute and detailed information about the time and place of his funeral.

Perhaps all of this brouhaha over a 51-year-old actor is because we are in such need to find something of significance in our lives. We need something to latch onto as something to shoot for in terms of accomplishments in these days of reality TV. Actors have become our role models in new, more palpable ways and it’s become increasingly more difficult to separate fact from fiction in terms of how to conduct ourselves in real life.

If that is the case, then each of us deserves to be remembered for the stellar work that we did during our lifetime, whether it was as the garbage collector, the copy center operator, the crossing guard, the homemaker. We, each of us, without regard to our station in Life, should be examined for the tribulations we had about making the right decision about matters, the reach of those decisions, and the lives that were (or were not) affected by them. We should have tributes paid to us for the “tough love” we used on our kids (or those who were in our sphere of influence), how we enforced the rules, how well we obeyed the rules, and most importantly, whether we understood the rules.

So in these days of reality everything that impacts us via social media, here we stand in our own realm of importance. It is now possible to be “J Average” (even less than average) and still gain mainstream recognition for our accomplishments. Having the flag flown at half staff is no longer reserved for unique and meritorious service to our country. (Perhaps we should be doing this on a daily basis for the troops involved and dying in foreign wars.) It is done because we caught the attention of someone who has the power to make the order. We can be remembered not only during our memorial service, our funeral, or during our “going home ceremony” by all those in our immediate neighborhood and community.

Now these events can be celebrated over vast regions by all who came into contact with us in whatever way in order to remember how they were affected by the experience. So have we reached a step down (a diminution of) in the significance of paying tribute to those who have died? Or have we made acknowledgement of others more significant because of the recognition of how far reaching in many ways their presence had on so many other lives?

Additional Resources:

On this morning’s “Today Show,” one of the newscasters presented her news story that used the Gandolfini death as her launching point. Although my tolerance level for the subject was destroyed, she seemed to appreciate the extent to which media has plunged audiences. Her story very quickly moved into an explanation of the term “home-going”, its history, significance, and meaning. It was a very good and insightful report. Unfortunately, I cannot find that footage. Thus, I offer you some antecedent explanations of the term from other sources.

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3 thoughts on “A New Low in Recognition

  1. “Having the flag flown at half staff is no longer reserved for unique and meritorious service to our country. (Perhaps we should be doing this on a daily basis for the troops involved and dying in foreign wars.) It is done because we caught the attention of someone who has the power to make the order. We can be remembered not only during our memorial service, our funeral, or during our “going home ceremony” by all those in our immediate neighborhood and community.”

    I knew Jim, and your post smacks of self-serving, uninformed small-mindedness.

    Yes, he was an actor on a popular television show. Yes he played a mob boss.

    He also put his own money–a lot of it– into making documentaries about our troops, in an effort to focus some attention on them. He would be the first to tell you, “I am an actor. Who gives a fuck about what I do, what about these people who lost a leg defending our country? They are the ones who a movie should be made about.” So, he did it. He gave them their flag-at-half-staff moment, the best he could, because he knows that they probably wouldn’t get it any other way. You should watch it, because it is obvious you haven’t. Where is your documentary?

    He took care of friends, co-stars, crew members, and random people he met on the street. He didn’t think it was a big deal, and he did a lot behind the scenes that only his friends and family know about–things you’ll never read about on twitter or in the Post, because he wanted it that way.

    “So have we reached a step down (a diminution of) in the significance of paying tribute to those who have died?”

    No. We pay respect by flying the flag low, for someone who knew his place, and tried to give others a leg up. Titling your post, “A New Low in Recognition,” taints the memory of someone who cast a very large shadow both in his profession and his personal life.

    At his funeral today, St. Johns, one of the largest churches in the world, was packed to overflowing, with a line outside of people trying to get in. Yes, of course, their were the fame-mongers, people who came by chance, and people who attended for the sheer ability to say “I went to Tony Soprano’s funeral.” But the majority of people, thousands, were there for the same reason I was there–we lost a friend.

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    • I respect your right to have a view that differs from mine. I especially appreciate the fact that you chose to use respectful language and to outline information not generally known.

      What I regret is that you omitted the title(s) of the documentaries he produced.

      Some people are still living their tributes so there are none to mark their passing. The the public forgets.

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