Sunday, August 16, 2015

On Forgiveness - Letter to My Boxers

Dear Boxers (especially Lyle, Christian, and Alex),

It's been awhile since I wrote a letter to you. I don't even know where any of you are anymore or if you're reading my letters or my blog. Maybe, one day, you'll find this letter and know it was from me to you.

In the past, I mainly stressed perseverance - the art of endurance.

This letter is a bit different. It's on something I'm actually not very good at: the art of forgiveness - to ask and to give it.

I guess the issue came up because it's something I'm struggling, have struggled, and will struggle with. Forgiving is hard.

My Christian faith says I need to forgive infinitely - that means a million times. I think that also means I need to ask for forgiveness every time I do something wrong. Either way, I'm not very good at it.

Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone. He proposed to Jesus, is seven enough times? Jesus basically says, No, you need to forgive 77 times (GNT). (Incidentally, 77 wasn't literal, Jesus was saying, no you forgive all the time. I'm not an expert in numerology, but from my understanding, 77 represents absolute completeness and union with the universe in Jewish understanding. I suppose Jesus came up with the perfect mathematical formula for relationships - infinite forgiveness leads to wholeness for both the receiver and the issuer - or in other words - victim and perpetrator.)

So - why am I bringing this up? I suppose the triggering event was this silent war I've had with one of the boxing coaches. Finally, it came to the point where we finally talked about things (which I have to say was better than the silence). And it came out, and he said, "Well, what about the time that you did this to me?" The details of the incident aren't that important.

I knew I was wrong. I knew what I had done, I did in anger and frustration. In that split second, where he pointed out what I did - I thought about a lecture my mentor told me about disciplining children.

He said, "Children have a way of knowing where a parents' boundaries are. And then, they do it - they push you passed that boundary. They always do it. They do it to see what they can get away with and what they can't. They do it to see your reaction. And you always get angry and upset when they push you too far."

And I said, "So - what do you do?"

"Well, you stop and don't do anything, until you calm down. And if you don't calm down, you punish them in anger and go too far. They always know - the children. And then, you'll know you went too far."

"Well, what do you do when you go too far?"

"Well, you have to ask for their forgiveness."

Now, I know this seems obvious, but I still asked: "Why?"

"Because you have to show them that it's no beneath you to do, so that they learn that it's not beneath them to do."

I understood.

I knew I went too far with this  boxing coach with venting my frustration at him. The split second only reminded me of what I needed to do.

I said, "You know, I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry."

And he said, "I can't believe you did that." He kept trying to go on with the incident.

I said, "You know, I just said I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry."

That put an end to that incident. It made me wonder if anyone ever really apologized to him. It made me wonder if anyone's ever apologized to these city administrators and public officials - whom I never seen apologize for their harms.

Now, I probably could have told him why I did what I did by blaming him. But why hurt the person doubly. And doing so - only says, Hey, I'm not in control of what I do. The environment controls me - not me. In other words, I can't change because I'm not in control. Forget that. Maybe, change is hard, but I can at least try.

The boxing coach went on to say that whatever is happening between Manny Carrillo Jr. and me should stay out of the gym.

I'd like to comment on that. It's not what's happening to Carrillo and me. It's the harm that Carrillo and Council Members have already inflicted on our boxing club. It's a sad story.

In the winter of 2012, Carrillo tried to close down the boxing gym, which was only open three days a week. The boxing club, including the coaches, took a stand against him. His staff also took a stand against him, accusing him of sexual harassment and racial discrimination. We would have lost our boxing club, if we didn't speak out against the Director of Parks and Recreation.

As a result, we got back our hours. But it wasn't enough. He gave the head boxing coach at the time a 40 cent raise after working there for 17 years. We complained. Then we discovered that he was making $200,000 a year and laundering tens of thousands of dollars in a sham non-profit corporation.

One night, we took the boxing teenagers to a Jewish Passover dinner. Even though it was during Spring Break, dinner took longer than expected. The mother complained. Carrillo found out.

Then he constantly harassed and intimidated her to come to an innocent interview. He extorted a complaint from her. He trumped the charges, painting him as a child abuser and a monster by saying, "He had an inappropriate relationship with a minor."

They called the head boxing coach in with two attorneys for another "interview". I showed up to surprise them. I ended the interview, when it was apparent that the whole "interview" was a sham to set him up to give answers to confess to harming children - which by the way never happened in 17 years that he worked there.

On those charges, they fired him on charges of inappropriate relationship with a minor by destroying his reputation as the sickest type of people our society finds. None of it was true, and now the city doesn't want to talk about it.

When the mother and teenager found out what happened, they were angry, bitter, and ashamed that they had been used in the nastiest way. Carrillo did all this, so that he could say that we weren't credible about the harm he had done to us and to the citizens of our city.

After, the city turned on me next. The City arrested me and jailed me for passing out leaflets. If that wasn't enough, the Mayor falsely accused me of being mentally unwell and sought a Temporary Restraining Order against me.

What impressed me most, was that my boxers showed up to support me. When I asked Julian, the coach, why they showed up, he said, "Because - they feel attacked too by what they're doing to you." I nearly wept when I heard that. I didn't know they were feeling the pain too.

But unlike Julian, I was lucky. I prevailed; they failed. Their deeds were exposed to the world. And the public was outraged over it.

One year later, from all of this, the wounds are still open in the club. Some obvious examples are the fact that the boxing coaches don't develop relationships with our youth. It's not safe for them. Maybe, Carrillo will trump up new charges against them.

There's also a new policy against filming in the gym. This policy was promulgated because I filmed a supervisor of the city's program lying through his teeth. (The matter is collateral.) But when I asked why there was this policy, the boxing coach said, more or less, we don't want people filming children for illicit purposes. Such a sick, city response.

Yes, that could happen, but it wasn't a concern before. It's sick because once again, Carrillo shields himself behind the protection of children and damaging the reputation of those who actually care. In reality, he has no idea how much he's hurt our youth.

For instance, to keep me in check, Carrillo hired Rene Zepeda. It appears he had an informal agreement with him to report to him anything I was doing, and in exchange, he'd have free reign over the gym. Carrillo knew Rene and I didn't get along well.

After losing their beloved boxing coach, the youth needed someone badly. They attached themselves to Rene. And since Rene's brother was a rising professional boxer, the children believed that being coached by him would also make them superstars too. They were only 14-18 in age. The only problem was that Rene had a criminal background.

The sad part was that Rene failed the job interview once. So, Carrillo already knew that he had a criminal background. And even though he knew this, his plight to maintain power, was more important than the our youth's security.

Now, people could blame me and say it was personal between Rene and me. To that, I say this isn't true. Rene had a swearing problem. I even found a complaint record against him, in which he told all the children once, "Get the f)(*& out of ring!" The complaint was sent to Carrillo. Instead of doing something, however, he hired the guy.

My view was that Rene lacked self-control, had a bad temper, and didn't respect law or rules. The youth didn't need to learn this from him. And that was and still what I believe.

Yet, after I outed Rene's criminal record to the CEO, the City fired him. The youth were hurt and violated once again. There dreams of being a superstar were crushed.

Carrillo claimed he didn't know about the criminal record. I was blamed for the firing and the boxers were upset at me.

But, I was willing to pay that price. I hoped that they would understand in the future - when they had their own children and realized no parent in their right mind would want their children to be under the influence of an angry person.

Now, the boxing gym has become a place of pain, hurt, betrayal, and great mistrust. What's Carrillo done about it?

He drafted a new policy, which says if you broke any of the numerous rules, you get kicked out. The great irony was that the first person to break the rule was another boxing coach, who I overheard swear at a member. He called him a F*&)(*& A)(*&)(*&.

I was asked to interview. I actually declined. I even told the CEO - you expect me to interview with the City Attorney after I've been through all this? (The City Attorney was involved in the firing of Julian and the filing of the TRO against me.) It was like a Jewish Holocaust survivor having to interview with a Nazi. (Where the CEO gets his commonsense from, I'm not sure.)

I asked the CEO, twice, however, "Now, if I swore at someone, can I stay at the gym too? Is it one rule for others, but another rule for me?" He didn't answer the question.

And even though some of boxing coaches would want that to happen to me, it'd actually be bad for everyone. Think about this: if a lawyer could get kicked out on some simple breach of Carrillo's arbitrary rules, what protection would they have when Carrillo gets upset at them? Answer: none.

I bring this up because once again, it just adds to the hurt of an already shattered and broken community, driven by one man's series of self-interested decisions to protect himself at our cost. This is what it all looks like, even after a year has passed.

When people ask me or you why we should care about corruption? This letter tells you exactly why. Just look at how many people have been hurt by those in power.

Anyways, I'm still coming to the gym, and I have no plans of going.

If you didn't know, Rene came back and would called me "Faggot" on several occasions in front of all the boxing coaches and members. No one did anything. I said nothing. I just endured.

In the end, I was right: Rene proved that nothing else mattered, except for his own hurts and pains - even at the cost of setting this kind of example for our youth and hurting members of our gym, like me.

The incident just shows you, Carrillo's logic, too. Rene was the kind of guy Carrillo wanted to be in the gym, and I'm the kind of person he wants to evict. Well, obviously something's wrong with that logic. And, we the members and citizens of Baldwin Park are the ones who have to pay the price for such decisions.

But I just want to let the boxers know, I'm trying. I'm trying to forgive the past wrongs, even though no one will apologize. I've stopped expecting one. I'm trying to forgive, even though I know that these type of decisions from Carrillo and the City will continue. I need to forgive Carrillo too by understanding that he's not well and addicted to his own self-survival - at all costs.

I do believe, however, that we need to come back as a community. I'm not sure how that's going to happen. As Freddy Roach, Manny Pacquiao's coach, often says: "It ain't easy."

I haven't been on a journey like this before, but I believe reconciliation is possible. And if there's anything I need to say sorry for, I'll listen, understand, and ask for it.

That's all for now.

Paul Cook

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