I’ve often wondered what individuals who are blind or deaf think when encountering somebody using the phrase “turning a deaf ear” or “turning a blind eye” to something.
I hear the saying so often by news and sports broadcasters and just people in conversation. “Blind” and “deaf” are used as an adjective, meaning “ignoring.” The irony is, individuals who are blind or deaf or both are usually NOT ignoring anything — they are as alert to their surroundings as any human could be.
In the movie Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino, though blind, can tell that the teenager accompanying him on a holiday in New York City got so upset at the retired Army officer, the kid mockingly saluted him.
“What was THAT?” Pacino immediately said.
Knowing what the teen did, Pacino says, “Next time…thumb to the palm…fingers smartly aligned…SHARP to the eyebrow!”
The kid is stunned that he’s been found out.
“This bat,” Pacino informs him, “has finer radar than the Nautilus.”
In seminary, a classmate was legally blind. I sat next to her in a class on Christology — in which the set-up was a roundtable. Discussion was expected. On the first day of class, the professor (Susan Nelson) prepared all of us for the semester of discussion by thoughtfully asking Claire, “Are there any phrases that you find objectionable?”
Claire replied, “Yes–just don’t use BLIND FAITH.”
The same goes for “blind ambition,” the title of the best-selling book about the Watergate scandal by President Nixon’s former attorney, John Dean. “Blind” in this case means “ruthless, unethical.”
“Blind” and “deaf” and “mute” — when used as adjectives for the worst of human conduct — are better avoided first out of respect for individuals who live with these disabilities; secondly, because the sizable population of those individuals who ARE living with these disabilities find that the figure of speech means the opposite of the way so many people use it.