Monday, July 06, 2015

Desperate for Work

few weeks ago, on the job front news, we found that Donald Trump had done a casting call for extras to populate his presidential announcement rally. Their job was to wave signs and givie an occasional lusty huzzah to some Trumpian pronouncement about his wealth, his tough guy-ness, his opinion of Mexican immigrants.

You’re an actor in NYC. Fifty-bucks for showing up and cheering. A free tee shirt (even if you can only wear it in the privacy of your home). But, hey, a gig’s a gig – even if it’s not the kind that makes it on to your resume.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I’m guessing that the lives of plenty of young NYC actors are pretty downright desperate. I don’t know any actors, but I know quite a few poets and writers, so I get to see plenty of struggling artists up close and personal. Fortunately, I’m in something of a pick-and-choose situation, work-wise, so I’ll never have to confront the question of, say, whether or not to take fifty bucks to write ad copy for the Trump campaign. But if I were desperate? I like to think I’d pass on the job. But acting’s different than writing. You can certainly convince yourself that you’re only acting the part of a Trump supporter, and that everyone pretty much knows that his entire campaign is little more than show-biz farce. At least we hope they do… With writing, however, it’s always best if you actually believe in what you’re writing about.

Anyway, while I was mulling over just how desperate you’d have to be for work that you’d rally ‘round The Donald,  I read about a group of Mexican laborers, decked out in tzitzit, who were paid to demonstrate at NYC’s Pride Parade. Among the signs they held were one that read “Judaism prohibits homosexuality,” which, when you think about it, can’t possibly be true.

They were working for Orthodox Jewish group that wanted to show their opposition, but who couldn’t fill the ranks with their own protestors. Under ordinary rules of protest engagement, the group would have used students. Not this time:

“The rabbis said that the yeshiva boys shouldn’t come out for this because of what they would see at the parade,” Mr. [Heshie] Freed [Jewish Political Action Committee] said. (Source: New York Times)

This speaks, of course, to the wonders of protesting, the genius of American capitalism, and the brilliant meshugas of New York City. As well as to the generally unsuccessful desire of the old to protect the young from tings they don’t want them to see.

It also speaks to the desperate willingness of so many hardworking immigrants – Mexican or other – to take on whatever job is out there, however poorly paid, because it beats the back home alternative. Picking up a few extra bucks on a Saturday afternoon, in between whether else these guys do to hold body and soul together – laborers on job sites, kitchen help in restaurants. Maybe life will get better for their kids.

But what was going through the heads of these guys when Heshie Freed or one of his compadres asked them to don tzitzits? What’s Spanish for WTF? Loco gringo?

Does this willingness of these Mexican workers to take on  whatever task comes their way, no matter how grubby or downright weird, place them among the “good people” that Donald Trump “assumes” that “some of them are”?

Next thing you know, we may find him spending some of his billions to get them to come out to rally on his behalf. I hope they’re not that desperate for a job. Putting on someone else’s religious garb and holding a crack-pot sign is one thing. Not that I blame the actors who did so, but standing up for Donald Trump is quite another.

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