Sunday, February 13, 2011

Surefire Signs

I believe I’ve made this observation before—though sadly I can’t find it in my own archives—but you can really tell when a journalist doesn’t like the subject of his story when he describes the subject as ugly. Here’s another example. So the Times has an article on Muslim speed dating in Queens, and by way of introduction features a pompous gentleman who wants his (silent) daughter to marry a Pakistani lawyer or doctor (though he’d settle for an Indian) and is described thusly:
As his daughter approached graduation, Mr. Baig, a Queens wholesaler whose thin black beard adorns a pudgy face, had been on the lookout, going to the mosque more often, asking more acquaintances about their unwed children.

I guarantee if Baig were a friendly cook of a good restaurant, he’d be described as having a “vivacious largeness” or as “jolly” with a “twinkle in his eye,” or basically anything that made him sound like a department-store Santa. But since he’s a big jerk who doesn’t let his daughter talk he’s not-so-good-looking. It’s an understandable human reaction to let physical and personal attractiveness blur together, but part of being a journalist—even if you’re a partisan, opinionated one—is to stick to the facts as best you can.

Anyway, the whole article is worthwhile to read: it’s a nice little picture of a lot of different trends colliding, as you can imagine—entrepreneurialism, technology, immigrant’s experience, religion in a secular culture, all that stuff:
“It’s a combination of East and West,” said the organizer, Jamal Mohsin. “Back in Pakistan, everything is arranged. Here, on the other extreme, individuals pick everything and parents, who raised you, aren’t involved. So I’ve created an event with both of these extremes. I’ve kept parents in the loop so they feel involved. At the same time, it’s speed dating. We’re being American.”

It’s always fascinating to see how immigrants make the U.S. their own place. They have to: otherwise they’re lonely—there are anecdotes of Muslims trying to connect from Seattle and Arkansas in here, to give you an idea of how far the strands stretch from Queens. It’s a good story, and cheering in its own way.

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