In The Comment Thread: Obama's Vacation, Eldercare

Listeners and readers have their say about whether First Lady Michelle Obama’s vacation was insensitive. And commenters share personal stories, following a conversation about elder care. Producer Lee Hill also offers updates on gay marriage in California and an official government response to a recent conversation about the U.S. "No Fly" list.

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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 blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Producer Lee Hill, our digital media guy joins me here in the studio. Hey, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel, you delivered a commentary Monday about First Lady Michelle Obama's recent trip to Spain. And it just about set our virtual world on fire. Here's a clip.

MARTIN: Can I just tell you, this trip was a bad idea and will leave a sour taste in the mouths of any number of people who wish the Obama's nothing but the best. What hurts right now is that there are millions of people who cannot put new clothes on their kids' backs, let alone designer duds or keep a roof over their heads, no matter how hard they try, let alone jet off to pricey vacation spots.

HILL: And between our combined Web audience on Facebook and on npr.org, thousands of people, Michel...

MARTIN: Thousands?

HILL: Thousands responded to your critique of Ms. Obama's timing for her trip abroad. Here's a note we received from Jill. She writes, quote, "I was so in agreement with what Michel said about the hurt we as a nation felt when we heard about the extravagance of Mrs. Obama's vacation. The tone of Michel's commentary was appropriate." And Jill goes on to say, "It's uplifting to have those feelings validated in a public forum such as the radio."

But, Michel, I have to tell you, not everyone agreed with you and Jill. Commenter John posted this to our online forum. He writes, quote, "The Obama administration has done more to help underprivileged Americans than any other administration in recent memory. And criticizing Michelle Obama for an innocent little vacation undermines the work she, her husband and his administration has done to help low income families."

John goes on to write, quote, "If Michelle Obama was blowing her nose with $100 bills, then, yes, Michel Martin, I could understand your reproach. But a vacation with her nine-year-old daughter, not so much."

MARTIN: Okay. Well, thank you, John, and everybody who chimed in with their opinions. Lee, as part of our ongoing look at elder care, this week's parenting conversation focused on a sensitive subject: taking care of parents who didn't take particularly good care of you. Here's a clip from that conversation with one of our guests, a regular contributor, Leslie Morgan Steiner.

Ms. STEINER: My mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer last November, and she came to live with us in February for what turned out to be the last 10 weeks of her life. It was a relatively short period. And my relationship with my mother had always been emotionally complicated. She was there for me during my marriage to an abusive man and my divorce from him, as she had always been physically there. But the problem as emotional. And she was emotionally abusive.

MARTIN: And I want to say that many people wrote to us, and I very much appreciated the sensitivity, the care, the range of views that people expressed. Listener Gray Sand(ph) reached out to us from London.

Ms. GRAY SAND: My mother passed away when I was 21, and I miss her every day. My relationship with my father - never easy - deteriorated beyond repair from the time of my mother's death. And he has never, ever lifted a finger to help me through the difficulties of my own failing health, the loss of my home, and my marriage to an abusive husband. I wish him well and feel bad that the promise I made to my mother to take care of daddy is being broken. For my own health and emotional safety, however, this is the way it will have to be.

You can't behave horribly to someone for so long and then turn to them and request their assistance simply because you now have a need. One's behavior does, and should, have consequences.

MARTIN: I want to thank Gray Sand for having the courage to share that story, as well as all those who wrote in with these very personal stories.

Lee, anything else?

HILL: Michel, we have an update to a discussion we had last week about the government's no-fly list, and we talked to Ayman Latif. He's a U.S. citizen and former Marine who moved to Egypt from Miami in 2008. But earlier this year, Latif went to the airport attempting to return to the U.S. to visit family when he was told he was on the no-fly list.

Now, Michel, this week, we received an official government response to that conversation, and we'll post the statement in its entirety on our blog. But here's an excerpt, quote, "The no-fly list is well-grounded in legal authority. Congress has expressly authorized airlines to prevent an individual who's been identified as a threat to civil aviation or national security from boarding an aircraft," end quote.

MARTIN: And I do want to emphasize that we did invite a representative of the government to participate in our conversation, and they declined. But we do appreciate their perspective as expressed in this statement, and, as we said, we'll have it on our site.

Lee, we've also been reporting on the fight for same-sex marriage, especially in California, where a federal judge last week overturned the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. But yesterday, the same judge, Vaughn Walker, ruled that gay marriages should remain on hold until at least August 18th. His ruling will give opponents time to appeal his earlier decision to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

HILL: And, of course, we'll continue our coverage as that story unfolds.

MARTIN: And we will. Thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To read what listeners are saying and to weigh in with your own thoughts, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Again, that's 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. And you can also go to our Web site. Log onto npr.org. Click on Programs, then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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