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Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Great Progression: How Hispanics Will Lead America to a New Era of Prosperity by Geraldo Rivera

Much like Geraldo himself, this book is a lot of sizzle and not much substance

Sadly, I have to establish my bonafides here, otherwise I'll just get attacked in the comments section. I am a history and a Spanish teacher (20th year this year!). I live in an ethnically mixed neighborhood in which my best neighbors are, by far, a Mexican family. I live with illegal immigration every day, in my neighborhood and at my work. I am not a raving nut that says "round 'em up!" Nor am I an open borders guy that wants to take in the whole world. My neighborhood has been improved, my workplace has not - thanks to No Child Left Behind, my school's population of non-English speaking Hispanics will doom us to be labeled a failed school (fail just one category, you fail - period!) because they cannot pass the tests in English.

So, now that we've gotten that out of the way, on to Geraldo's book, The Great Progression: How Hispanics Will Lead America to a New Era of Prosperity. It is a lot of sizzle, half-baked commentary and an endless series of attacks on Lou Dobbs (who I must admit that I have not watched for years now since we ditched cable and we don't have satellite - I thought he was the host of a financial show).

Early on Geraldo Rivera attacks Rush Limbaugh for a series of anti-immigrant comments entitled "Limbaugh's Laws." I did an internet search and I found 3 paragraphs of the same title. They are inflammatory. They are awful. But, here's the essential third paragraph of the commentary - the paragraph that Rivera ignores: "I can imagine many of you think that the Limbaugh Laws are pretty harsh. I imagine today some of you probably are going, "Yeah! Yeah!" Well, let me tell you this, folks. Every one of the laws I just mentioned are actual laws of Mexico, today. I just read you Mexican immigration law. That's how the Mexican government handles immigrants to their country."

That's a telling example of the slipshod commentary throughout. Rivera's thesis doesn't even hold up to his own scrutiny. He is critical of those that claim illegal immigration drives down wages and than, a few chapters later, he notes that Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers fame was against illegal immigration for that same reason. He even calls it an economic law.

Rivera asserts that the anti-illegal immigration crowd (he disingenuously calls them anti-immigration) is racist because it is afraid of the gang violence of such groups as MS-13 and than he has a whole chapter devoted to drug-related gang violence on the border. So, the violence is real, but trying to keep it out or even to talk about it is racist? He does a similar thing with ARM mortgages and immigrant families (they aren't overly-represented, but then, a few chapters later they are because they are victims). He gets upset that Hispanics are hassled for ID to prove they are citizens and then notes that the presence of "obviously foreign" day laborers. Is only Mr. Rivera allowed to make such assumptions?

The book begins with "hard hitting" interviews with such political greats as J-Lo, George Lopez and Rosario Dawson. We get lists of baseball players of Hispanic origin (literally - paragraph after tedious paragraph) is a chapter called "Beisbol." I am still unsure as to the purpose of the chapter.

Geraldo Rivera gives us a look into his jet-setting lifestyle (he notes that he is writing in L.A. for this paragraph, Puerto Rico for another and so on) but shows how truly out of touch he is when he comments that America's lawns wouldn't be mowed, their kids cared for or our toilets cleaned if it weren't for Hispanics. Really? I wish I had that kind of money. The only lawn mowed by Hispanics in my neighborhood belong to houses with Hispanic families living in them.

Geraldo Rivera
Is he all wrong? No. Rivera gives an impassioned argument as to why education must become a priority in the Hispanic community. His chapter on "The Hispanic Consumer" is fascinating and entertaining. He makes valid points when discussing allowing illegal aliens to join the military as a path to citizenship in another chapter.

But, more often he wanders afield in commentary such as his on unions - he wants the so-called "Card Check" legislation to pass but isn't quite clear as to why, especially when businesses can just go to newly arrived workers with fake IDs to replace the strikers.

More irritating is his tendency to name call. For example, he calls "Joe the Plumber" a "douchebag".
He labels North Carolina's newest Senator a wonderful progressive for calling for an enforcement of the existing laws on immigration but is outraged that the Bush administration staged raids to enforce the existing laws.

If you want a lot of splash, this is your book. If you want well-reasoned commentary - the kind that has been thoroughly researched, discussed and evaluated, well,this is not it. There is no middle ground in this book. Even attempting to have a reasoned conversation about immigration with Rivera would be cause for attack and liberal use of the epithet "anti-immigrant".

I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on August 3, 2009.

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