Listener Has No Sympathy For Angered D.C. Residents

In this week's "BackTalk" segment, host Michel Martin and Tell Me More's "digital media guy", Lee Hill, review listeners' comments on recent conversations. These include discussions on whether Washington, DC, residents were unfairly targeted in recent budget battles. Also, a listener in Paris, France shares her mixed feelings about a new French law banning face veils.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for Backtalk where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy is here with me, as he is most Fridays. Hi, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, there's been a lot of talk about the federal budget and an agreement between Democrats and Republicans was reached last week on the 2011 budget, preventing a partial government shutdown. But, Michel, certain parts of that deal, like denying Washington, D.C. the ability to use its own tax dollars to fund abortions for poor women, reignited the debate over whether Washington, D.C. should be granted more autonomy from Congress. Michel, here's a clip from your commentary.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

MARTIN: I'm used to people saying that if you don't like the reality of being a territory and not a state, just move a couple of miles north or south and achieve full citizenship in Maryland or Virginia. Can I just tell you that is an argument that should shame anybody who makes it, as if the fundamental right to make decisions about one's own community should depend on geography?

HILL: Now, Michel, as usual, your commentary drew several responses online. We caught up with Andre(ph). He's from Chicago, who posted this to our online forum.

ANDRE: Sorry, but I feel like if you choose to live in a district without representation, then why complain about not having it? It seems like your first argument should be for changing the system and getting representation, not complaining about a process or decision that although unfair, is still legally sound.

MARTIN: Well, thanks, Andre. There's a third option here which is that perhaps district residents shouldn't have to pay federal taxes. There are a number of choices here. But thank you. I appreciate it.

Also, Lee, we should mention that later in the week, a number of D.C. officials including Mayor Vincent Gray were arrested in protest of the impact the deal would have on the district.

Mayor VINCENT GRAY (Washington, D.C.): It's time for the people of the District of Columbia to stand up and let this nation know that we want to be first class citizens like everybody else.

MARTIN: All right. Lee, what else?

HILL: Also, this week we talked about a new law in France that bans Muslim women from wearing face coverings like the burqa or the niqab in public areas. Michel, you spoke with a Muslim feminist who supported the ban, and a Muslim journalist who has written in opposition of this law. Here's what journalist Nabila Ramdani had to say.

Ms. NABILA RAMDANI (Journalist): This ban is a violation of fundamental human rights and has little to do with the liberation of women or their dignity.

HILL: And that discussion also prompted a debate among listeners. We heard from Cassandra(ph). Michel, she's an American currently living in Paris. She writes: I have mixed feelings about this law. It may end up isolating the women that it attempts to aid. However, in the long term I believe that it is necessary. While it is important to respect the religious boundaries and desire for modesty on the part of the Muslim population, the burqa and niqab are extreme.

MARTIN: Thank you, Cassandra, for weighing in on this very interesting issue. And thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE, NPR.

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