Listeners Sound Off On 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Host Michel Martin and digital media producer Lee Hill talk about the stories that have Tell Me More bloggers talking, including a recent soldier's story about being ordered out of the military after disclosing he's gay. Also, listeners chime in after New York Daily News columnist Stanley Crouch says late pop icon Michael Jackson really wasn't so talented.

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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 a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital-media guy, is here with me, as always. Hi, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, on Monday, we visited the growing debate surrounding Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's the policy barring gays who are open about their sexuality from serving in the military.

We spoke to Lieutenant Dan Choi. He's an Iraq War veteran and a West Point grad. And a military review board in New York, where Choi is currently serving in the National Guard, recently recommended that he be separated from the service because he publicly disclosed that he is gay. Here's a clip from our conversation with him.

Lieutenant DAN CHOI (United States National Guard): When I returned from Iraq in late 2007, I finally started my first love relationship, and I understood for the first time what everybody talks about in movies and in books and in poetry when they talk about love. This makes me a better person. It makes me a better citizen. It makes me a better Christian. It makes me a better soldier.

HILL: A ton of comments on this, and many agree that Choi should have been allowed to stay in the military - but not everyone. Blogger S.R.(ph) writes: All he had to do was refrain from discussing his sexuality. If he couldn't follow that simple directive, how could he, as an officer, be expected to discipline and lead troops?

MARTIN: Thank you, S.R. Lee, Michelle Obama's almost six months into her role as the nation's first African-American first lady, and we talked about how some people think the White House has changed the mom-in-chief and not necessarily for the better. Here's our regular parenting contributor, Leslie Morgan Steiner.

LESLIE MORGAN STEINER: She's overdone being safe by focusing on extremely tame, non-controversial subjects, which are all fine: her children, growing an organic garden, talking at educational events. But for a woman of such substance to be so constrained by traditional, and traditionally white, gender roles has been a real disappointment so far.

MARTIN: Well, blogger Rhonda(ph) thinks Leslie misses the point. She writes: Michelle Obama is accomplished, period. Michelle was damned when she asserted herself to be a strong, intelligent woman, and we damn her for being soft and matronly. Stop suggesting that she be all things to all people all of the time. Well, thank you, Rhonda.

Finally, here's a conversation we had with New York Daily News columnist Stanley Crouch. We were talking about all the hoopla over the late pop superstar Michael Jackson.

Mr. STANLEY CROUCH (Columnist, New York Daily News): Do I think he was as talented as people are claiming that he was? No. Was he a great singer? No. Was he a great dancer? He was a great rhythm and blues dancer. I think he was an entertainer. I don't think he was an artist because his material doesn't contain much human understanding or human value beyond an adolescent vision of life.

HILL: And Michel, not a whole lot of love for Mr. Crouch on our blog except for this post from Patricia(ph). How does someone with so much in terms of talent, success and money end up such a tragic figure? Everyone was making too much money off of him - speaking of Michael Jackson - and she says she didn't see Crouch's comments as a slam at Jackson, but it just wasn't the vacuous idealizing that has been dominating the airwaves.

MARTIN: Well thank you, Patricia, and thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more about what you think, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log on to our Web page. Go to npr.org. Click on the TELL ME MORE tab, and blog it out.

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