Braille Monitor                                                                  August-September 1985


Whistling in the Dark:
A Letter to Paul Harvey

by Jalil Mortazavi

Boston, Massachusetts
July 23, 1985

Dear Mr. Harvey:

My name is Jalil Mortazavi. I was born and raised in the country of Iran, but am now an American citizen, having been so for the past eight years. I am an avid listener of your radio program. Incidentally, I also work for WBZ in Boston, which carries your daily broadcast to hundreds of thousands.

I would like, please, your undivided attention regarding the following: Sometimes, Mr. Harvey, you have accused American media of using sensationalism in order to sell a product. You yourself, however, make such mistakes now and then. Please understand that my aim is not to criticize unconstructively. Instead, I am trying to see if you can empathize with what I say.

In March, 1985, you reported the death of Fred Lawry, the blind whistler. On your "Rest Of The Story" portion of a broadcast made during that period you talked about Fred's life and how he became a whistler. There was nothing wrong in what you did, except for the sensationalism you brought to bear on the story. You told your audience that Fred Lawry knew how to hold his tongue in such a way which enabled him to play two notes at once, and then, having praised the talented musician as you did, you said at the end of it all, "Yes, for more than fifty celebrated years Fred Lawry was whistling in the dark." I know you used the title of Fred Lawry's book to prove your point in the way of sensationalism. You went on to say, "Yes, Fred Lawry was blind." Please understand I am not trying to tell you why you told your audience that he was blind. But you portrayed him as a talented blind musician, not as a talented musician who happened to be blind.

I hope you realize that not all of us are talented. We do not want to be extraordinary. Some of us are talented; some of us are not. Some of us are smart; and some of us aren't. If you are a friend of the blind, why can't you do us a favor: At least once on your program tell the employer that whenever a blind person applies for a job, please don't deny his application based on his blindness, but give the applicant equal treatment, and allow him to prove himself.

Last year you reported an incident in Boston. You said: "In the morning a blind man was mugged, but the mugger couldn't get away, for the blind man wrestled him to the ground. And when the mugger tried to run away, the blind man grabbed some of the mugger's hair so that later on, through the man's description and hair color, the police arrested the mugger." This seems to be a big sensational story, but you failed to say that the blind man, Peter Duran, is a computer programmer who owns his own company which is worth several million dollars.

Mr. Harvey, blind people in America are working in the mainstream of society. They are participating at all levels. I know this from firsthand experience, because I am a blind person. You and I agree about one thing--that the United States is a land of opportunity, as it has always been, for everybody. within this big land, Mr. Harvey, there is a small land which creates this equal opportunity for blind people. I am referring to the National Federation of the Blind. The logo of the NFB is "Security, Equality, and Opportunity" to all blind people. If it hadn't been for the National Federation of the Blind, I could not compete in this great nation. As a result of this organization's leads I was able to win my job at WBZ radio.

I'd like to offer you something, Mr. Harvey. I would like to invite you to come and see the headquarters of our organization, which is located in Baltimore, Maryland. If you could spare at least a few hours of your time, you could sit down and talk with our President, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. I am sure that you two would enjoy discussing the range of issues concerning blind people, as well as discussion with regard to what our organization's philosophy is all about. Please take this offer. I would be more than happy to pay your round-trip airfare from Chicago to Baltimore.

Very truly yours,

Jalil Mortazavi