Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 - The Year of the Phoenix

Phoenix illustration
Did you know that 2017 is the year of the fire rooster? (The Chinese Zodiac runs on a twelve year cycle, and every twelve years is linked with one of five elements: earth, fire, water, wood, and metal.) I don't know of many fire birds, but the most well-known one is the phoenix.

The phoenix is a mythical bird that set itself on fire every 500 years to be born again from the ashes. The origin of such birds came from Egypt, but the Christians also took the symbol to be a representation of Christ, and the Christian life cycle to die to one's self and to be born again.

When I lived in Australia, the aborigines in Kakadu (the wetlands of the Northern Territory)  told me that real phoenixes lived there, and I saw them.

The Northern Territory has black parrots, but they have a splash of red color underneath them. It's amazing to see the black birds fly in a flock from above. You see a fury of red and black darts soaring above. Apparently, a fireball shot up from a bush fire and hit the parrot's tail, burnishing it a bright red. The smoke forever covered the white parrot, changing its color into a raven's black. And, that's how the Australian phoenix was born.

Globally, there were stunning events this year, from the British Prime Minister David Cameron getting booted to the election of billionaire entertainer, Donald Trump. There were notable deaths of entertainers. El Chapo was arrested. And in Los Angeles, the Academy Awards was boycotted for not nominating anyone of color for its awards. So, a lot happened globally this year.

In Baldwin Park, locally, we've fought (and fought hard) for the people's right to speak freely in this city. The year opened up with the City having to pay $67,500 for arresting, strip-searching me by a female officer, and arresting me, all for leafleting in the park. In January, the year also opened up with the court issuing it's fourth order against the City of Baldwin Park to release records.

In March of this year, I defended local business owner, Greg Tuttle from the Mayor and Council trying to restrain him from being investigated and won. LA Times story here. In April, we were able to get the Court of Appeals to issue an order that Baldwin Park was running a sham non-profit, and that the Director of Parks and Recreation, Manuel Carrillo, was indeed violating the public records act by not telling us where tens of thousands of dollars were being spent and where all the money was going.

Then, around May, we discovered from the City that in a 58 month period, from September of 2008 to July of 2013, the City of Baldwin Park received $2.3 million dollars from towing 15,247 cars; the towing company, Royal Coaches, made $11.6 million.

Before the year ended, we were able to get the famous First Amendment Attorney, Carol Sobel, to file a federal lawsuit against the city for fining people, all because they put up signs on their buildings that stated that Council Member Ricardo Pacheco is corrupt. (I believe this too, in the sense that he's misspending a lot of city's money on himself and not the residents.) Before the year ended, the federal court denied a temporary restraining order against the City, but the court stated that the city's law against putting up political signs is indeed unconstitutional and in violation of everyone's Constitutional Free Speech Rights.

In terms of travel, I hope I brought to my readers a sense of adventure from different parts of the world. This year, I told you tales from Cabo San Jose, Mexico; Quito, Ecuador; the Galapagos Islands; the Amazon Rainforest; Madrid, Spain; Turin, Italy; London; Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin, Goettingen, Munich, and Dusseldorf, Germany.

My final thoughts remind me of my time in Italy. There, I was reminded that we all have a responsibility in contributing to the beauty of this world, and not the ugliness of it. And in order to create that beauty, people need to be free and to live without fear and have such spaces to express themselves. That's the reason it's important to enforce and fight for our rights to enforce such freedoms. I can only hope that things will then change for the people living in this city.

Last year, I quoted scripture from Joshua and stated that it was important to be strong and courageous. This year, for me, it's going to be important to endure.

The Scripture I think that should inspire this year is from Corinthians 9 (GNT):

Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.

Thus, fight the good fight. Run the good race. And endure to the end.

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