Quality Time With Pete and Deb — Immigration

Peter Grosz and Debra Downing are alums of The Second City Theater, writers, actors and husband and wife. This piece was composed at home on their computer exactly as you see it. One person would write and the other would respond, essentially like an improvised written “conversation”. The content was not pre-planned. They only decided to talk about immigration. They wrote it on August 26th 2016.

DEB: Immigration anyone? I always kinda work backward on this one. I don’t think being an illegal immigrant is what anyone wants to be. I think many people come here any way they can to avoid horrible conditions (often life threating) in their native country. And once they get here, many are routinely taken advantage of with low wages and bad working conditions. I grew up on a cotton farm and often there would be Hispanic families that would come out, everyone from baby to grandma, and ask if they could work in the field for a day. It struck me how fragile their lives were. Not knowing if they would get work that day, not knowing if they would they eat that day. Where I grew up, the term “Wetback” was thrown around a lot. If you don’t know, the slur refers to people from Mexico crossing into the US by wading through the Rio Grande. I didn’t know what it meant, but I new it was a vicious term and it made my stomach turn. That slur was attributed to many Mexicans, whether they were legal or not. There was, and I believe still is, a lot of racism in Texas when it comes to Mexican Americans. (Please watch the movie Giant). I think when we talk about immigration, the first thing we should do, is have compassion, not anger.

PETE: First of all, I knew what “Wetback” meant. And the idea that I wouldn’t know what that means offends me more than anything else you wrote about. No, obviously it’s horrible and cruel. Look, if you aren’t a descendent of Lakota Sioux or Cree or Comanche or another native tribe your people migrated to this country. And even some of those tribes probably walked across an ice bridge 10,000 years ago to get here. Plus, there were no moving vans back then so they had to hire Moishe’s Mastadon Movers to haul all their pelts and whale oil and old CD’s they never listen to anymore but can’t seem to let go of.

DEB: Speaking of which, have you noticed how many people in Park Slope are leaving their old whale oil out on their stoops for anyone to take? I’ve been tempted to take some, but our apartment is cluttered already with that year round igloo I built in the living room.

PETE: I got news for you, that’s an indoor pool now. Park Slope and other NYC neighborhoods are a good example of the ironic flip side of immigration — gentrification. People (white people with money) want to move to a “cool” neighborhood where non-whites or non-English speakers live but they only want a few other white people to live there. As soon as they live there for a year and more white people move in they start complaining about how the neighborhood is changing and how it’s not the same as it used to be. Sound familiar? There’s something about people wanting to be the last ones to move somewhere then complain about how everyone after them is ruining it for them.

DEB: If you were going to move to another country, where would it be and why? (This question is usually reserved for beauty pageants, but since Peter is wearing a stunning blue one piece women’s bathing suit with a sash on it that says “Little Miss Scarsdale” on it, I think it’s ok.)

PETE: I would always because the United Country of Americans are number one in my heart so in contemplation of where to ask me to move and such as I’d have to say that when because thinking of issues like this importance are questioning, I would Ventura to say… Mars?

DEB: It’s a good thing you got personality, sweetheart. By the way, remember Donald Trump and the Miss Universe Pageant? I guess in a way, he has already been President… of the world’s most beautiful women. Which is just like being President of the United States just with more chance for nuclear war.

PETE: You said it, not me. Women be cray cray. By the way, a former Miss Universe form Venezuela has become a citizen recently and she said she wouldn’t vote for Trump. Why? Because after she won he called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”. Which brings us back to jobs immigrants will do that Americans won’t. I just don’t buy that immigrants (documented, undocumented, legal, illegal, barely legal) are taking our jobs or committing more crime or committing voter fraud more than US citizens are. Obviously some immigrants are bad people but the worst person I can think of in America right now is that guy Martin Shkreli who hiked up the price of drugs by 500% and he’s a citizen, not an immigrant. Although with a name like Shkreli I’m sure his people immigrated from Consonantistan at some point.

DEB: Also, the increase in price for Epi-Pens has risen from like $100 to $500. If Trump is gonna have some kind of questionnaire for immigrants, maybe he should ask, “Would you ever raise the price of a life saving medication just to make a profit even if it meant people who can’t afford it would die?” Oh wait — those people are already Americans. (OMG I am being super duper sarcasmo right now! Which I think will be my Halloween costume this year.)

PETE: Super Duper Sarcasmo with his secret power of not meaning what he is actually saying! Criminals cower with fear!

Not to segue too much but… speaking of not meaning what you’re saying, what are we supposed to believe about Trump’s immigration policy? He’s like a musician. During the primaries he was playing all the hits the crowds wanted to hear. Songs like “Build The Wall (And Make Mexico Pay For It)” and “Deportation Force” and now his people have booked him some gigs in front of Republican suburban moms and they don’t like those songs so now he has to scramble to write new songs like “Criminals Are Going To Have To Leave The Country And Some Other Guys Are Going To Pay Back Taxes And Then Some Others Can Stay” and honestly, that song title is way too long and confusing and it’s a cover of a Jeb Bush song from last year.

DEB: Well he should just learn Free Bird and get on with it. I once was in a band called The Caterpillars which was a two-person guitar group with me and the very talented Stacy Patinkin. Our album was called The Confused Feminists and we mainly did original comedy songs and some covers. And no kidding we played at my 10 year high school reunion. I told Stacy we better learn Free Bird just in case somebody yelled it out. They did. And we played it.

I guess Trump is figuring out (or someone is telling him) not everybody is so crazy about the cruel attitude toward people (immigrants, people of color, women, people with disabilities, babies, the press). I know the election is only a couple of months away but I keep waiting for the Republicans to pull the plug on this guy and just say, we can’t be a party to this. (Pun intended.)

PETE: For Halloween you should go as Pun-dora The Pun-tastic Pun-dit! Look, part of “The Republicans” (whoever that actually is) problem is that Trump won legitimately, he just happened to win with policies and a personality that plays horribly in the general election. And a big part of that was his hard line stance on immigration. What’s crazy is that if he’s willing to bend on that he might gain support from moderates and lose support form the far right. After everything that Trump has said and done over the last 14 months can you imagine someone saying “Trump? No way. He’s too liberal for me.” I mean at that point who are you going to vote for? An ICBM pointed at Tijuana?

DEB: At that point I think I’ll have take a Tijuana BM. Wow. Sorry I said that. I lost a beauty pageant once using that line. I placed 6th… outta six. I really did come in 6th our of 6 at a pageant. It was called the Cinderella Pageant. Let’s just say I stayed home and cleaned the bathrooms while the other 5 advanced to the ball. What can I say, I gotta face for radio and a voice for print.

PETE: Wait, how old were you when this happened?

DEB: I think I was in 7th or 8th grade? For my talent I sang Coward of The County and played guitar. If I had only known how to play Free Bird at the time I coulda come in at least 5th.

PETE: Maybe we should warn people who want to come to America that their daughters might be subjected to 7th grade beauty pageants. Might convince them not to move here. Not to segue too much but… speaking of 7th grade beauty pageants, my father moved to America in 1962 and was part of a United Nations refugee program because he was coming from a communist country, Romania. America wanted people like him to move here, renounce communism, become citizens, go to school, pay taxes, not understand American sports and embarrass their sons by reading the New York Times at Yankee games. I think we’re at our best when we inspire the world with our example and we’re at our worst when we let our fears dictate our actions.

DEB: I only wish that whole thing you just said was a voice over while you were crowned Miss America and doing your victory walk across the stage! (Since you are still wearing the bathing suit.)


PETE: Because we always win when America wins and when America is losing we have lost as well too. For many because as when gold medal support ourselves. Only freedom apple pie legal immigration makes our American dream an American real. I am honored to be the your Mister America of U.S.A. such as. Because, as a great American once said, “Hello, welcome to the United States. Are you a Muslim? If so, go home.” Thank you.


BURT: Sorry I’m late, what’d I miss?

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