by Vijaya Chandrasoma
The Republican National Convention kicked off on Monday, August 24 in the backdrop of racial violence, when yet another unarmed black man was shot in the back by policemen, in front of his three children in Kenosha, Wisconsin, provoking a further series of violent protests; a grim Coronavirus death toll of 177,000 and climbing; firefighters battling raging wildfires in California; and a Category 4 hurricane, threatening havoc and evacuations for portions of the Texas and Louisiana coasts.
The Convention had as its theme the concept of an Alternative Reality, with America enjoying a period of economic prosperity; a pandemic firmly under control; a continuing era of social and racial justice; and the effects of natural disasters minimized, thanks to the competent leadership of the Trump administration.
This parade of blatant lies and the pageant of criminal hypocrisy were the features of the Convention, absent any sense of responsibility or shame.
The four days of the Convention had their own themes:
Land of Promise –
Day 1 of the Convention included speeches from Donald Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberley Guilfoyle, Ambassador Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott.
Two family members who were not invited to speak at the Convention were niece, Dr. Mary Trump, who recently published a tell-all book, the title of which was: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man; and older sister, retired Federal Judge, Maryanne Trump Barry. An audio was released last week in which Ms. Barry was heard bitterly excoriating Trump, saying “Donald’s out for Donald, period…. He has no principles. None.….It is the phoniness of it all and this cruelty. Donald is cruel.”
It is not known whether President Putin will attend the Convention to deliver his instructions for the next four years after he helps rig Trump’s re-election.
Donald Trump appeared on numerous occasions, introducing various “ordinary folks”, frontline workers battling the Coronavirus. They all confirmed that Trump was doing a wonderful job in controlling the virus. Their adulation was matched only by their hypocrisy and dishonesty.
Donald Trump Jr.’s speech proved, yet again, that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He had a lie in every sentence, warning of the dire future America faces under a Biden administration, saying, “this election is about church, work and school versus rioting, looting and vandalism.”
Rioting, looting and vandalism all initiated during the watch of the Trump administration.
Ambassador Nikki Haley and African-American Senator Tim Scott gave the only speeches approaching sanity. They talked of their backgrounds, Haley about her traditional Sikh immigrant parents, and “the promise of America”; and Scott who said that his family had gone “from cotton to Congress in one lifetime”.
Quote of the day goes to Tim Scott: Biden and Harris will turn our country into a socialist Utopia.
Either Scott doesn’t know the meaning of the word “Utopia” or he’s a Democrat in Fox’s clothing.
Land of Opportunity
– Day 2 of the Convention continued in the face of deadly crises of protests against police brutality, ravages of the pandemic and natural disasters caused by climate change and a collapsing economy,
The ubiquitous Trump was joined at the podium by First Lady Melania, Trump’s children, Eric and Tiffany, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senior Economic Adviser, Larry Kudlow, Senator Rand Paul and former Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi.
Pompeo raised an ethical and legal conundrum by his decision to send a taped statement to the Convention in support of the Trump agenda. Cabinet officials are barred from indulging in political activity when they are on state business, as Pompeo currently is, in Jerusalem. Sadly, ethical and legal rules are observed more in the breach by this administration.
White House Chief Economic Adviser, Larry Kudlow lied in his speech, “There is an economic boom, a housing boom”, created entirely by the magnificent leadership of our Fuhrer, Donald J. Trump. A boom in the context of an economic recession and unemployment rates near the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Besides, Trump did not “create the pre-pandemic economy”. He inherited a booming economy from the Obama administration and merely helped himself from an already well-stocked buffet.
Pam Bondi lied of the corruption of the Biden family, in Ukraine and China. The same Pam Bondi who, as Attorney General of Florida, accepted a $25,000 bribe from the Trump campaign in 2016, for dropping a lawsuit against the fraudulent Trump University. Accusing Biden of nepotism and corruption, as Bondi did, is like the pot calling the kettle orange.
Lt. Governor of Florida, Jeanette Nunez spoke of the three Fs, Faith, Family and Freedom, being the credo of the Trump administration. Not the usual F words that come to mind when thinking of Donald J. Trump.
First Lady Melania broke from tradition by using her own words for the last speech of the day. A departure from 2016, when she plagiarized one of Michelle Obama’s previous Convention speeches.
In a moving and balanced address, a pleasant contrast to previous high decibel tirades lionizing Trump, she spoke of her own pursuit of the American Dream. She acknowledged the “invisible enemy”, Covid19, which has “swept across our beautiful country and impacted all of us”, and touched on racial reconciliation, 100 years of women’s suffrage and the opioid crisis.
Unfortunately, she reverted to the Convention theme of an Alternative Universe. She made the most preposterous statement in a Convention hardly lacking in absurdity, when she said, “We need Donald’s leadership for four more years, ….to bring us back to the greatest economy and strongest country ever seen. Donald doesn’t waste time playing politics!”
Quote of the day: Registered Nurse, Amy Johnson Ford: Donald Trump’s quick action and leadership saved thousands of lives during Covid19.
Land of Heroes –
Day 3 of the Convention saw Vice President Mike Pence take center stage as the keynote speaker. Second Lady Karen Pence, presidential daughter-in-law Lara Trump, Trump Senior adviser to the president, Kellyanne Conway, South Dakota Governor, Kristi Noem and Senator Marsha Blackburn were also among the speakers.
Karen Pence, Trump Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany and Kellyanne Conway all attempted to woo female voters by emphasizing Trump’s mythical treatment, respect and empathy towards women. A hard sell indeed, in the backdrop of Trump’s long history of misogyny and sexual assaults.
Pence accepted the nomination of the Vice Presidency of the Republican Party at Fort McHenry, a storied national monument, a coastal bastion which provided a defence against the British in the War of 1812.
In a hard-hitting speech, Pence described Biden as a Trojan Horse to the Far Left. He stated that Biden will not be able to provide the leadership needed to contain the continuing violence in the inner cities; that Trump will be best qualified to keep America safe against violence, again forgetting that all this violence has occurred during Trump’s watch. He provided a complete makeover of Donald Trump, replete with lies, misrepresentation and hyperbole. He described Trump as a Law and Order president, with exceptional leadership qualities, which saved thousands of lives by his prompt (?) action during the pandemic, and built the strongest economy the world has ever seen. He lauded Trump for his compassionate empathy for the welfare of all Americans, including minorities.
Trump and First Lady, Melania made a “surprising” appearance at the podium with VP Pence and Mother Pence, creating a photo opportunity while the Star Spangled Banner was sung by American Country singer, Trace Adkins.
Pence made a passing mention of the administration’s support of the police, but remained silent about the shooting of yet another unarmed black man by Kenosha cops and the subsequent murder of two peaceful protesters by a Trump supporter imported from Illinois. Or the escalating violence raging in Kenosha before he started his speech.
Quote of the day goes to Pence: You won’t be safe in Biden’s America.
We sure don’t feel safe in Trump’s America, the America Biden will inherit.
Land of Greatness –
The final day of the Convention belonged to the superstars of Greatness, Donald J. Trump and his Senior Adviser and daughter, Ivanka. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani also lied. An audience of 2,000 attended the proceedings in the South Lawn of the White House, ignoring medical guidelines of masks and social distancing. Also ignoring laws that prohibits the use of the White House for political purposes.
I am unable to continue reporting on the speeches of the Republican convention any longer except to say that Trump accepted the nomination for the Presidency with the supreme lie he has “followed the science” in his management of the pandemic and saved thousands of lives.
I am sick to my stomach, listening to three days of threats, stoking fears and shameless lies during this Convention. Lies that the nation is doing wonderfully well under the leadership of Trump, his cronies and his crime family.
The reality is that the pandemic is raging unchecked by a president who cares more for his personal gain than for the safety and health of the American people. A president who will do anything, break any law, risk any life to win re-election, because defeat will mean exposure of the plethora of crimes he has committed.
Covid19 has now claimed over 180,000 lives. Trump has never had a national plan to control the virus, in fact makes matters worse with “happy talk” and ridiculous and dangerous medical advice. He keeps lying about the fatalities in the USA when every other developed nation has the virus contained to manageable levels, thanks to competent leadership.
America’s economy has been reduced to Depression levels, with over 30 million unemployed, and millions facing hunger and homelessness.
Category 4 Hurricane Laura is wreaking havoc in Texas and Louisiana and wildfires continue to rage in California. Both disasters caused by Climate Change, dismissed by Trump as a hoax.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, protests against the shooting in the back of unarmed black man, Jacob Blake by cops, escalated when two protesters were shot and killed by a 17-year-old vigilante, Kyle Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter imported from Antioch, Illinois. Rittenhouse has been identified sitting in the front row of a Trump rally in January. Many other white men, calling themselves an “armed militia” have descended on Kenosha from neighbouring states, ostensibly to “safeguard the businesses in Kenosha”; their real intent is the escalation of the violence against peaceful protesters. The Kenosha police has implicitly encouraged this extra-military action, justifying the murders of protesters by stating that “they should not have been breaking the curfew” while ignoring the imported militia also guilty of the same “crime”.
Trump’s efforts to suppress voters, cast doubts on mail-in voting, while encouraging Trump appointee Postmaster General to impede the system, and again seeking help from Russia to help him rig the election, are perhaps the greatest threats to the oldest democracy in the world.
It is obvious where Republican policies are leading the people of Trump’s America. I have lived in Colombo long enough to recognize the makings of a police state. I have read enough about the Third Reich in Germany to see Fascism and White Supremacy raising their ugly heads.
What amazes and frightens me most is that educated and prosperous people of the most powerful nation in the world are willing to believe in a pack of lies, to sacrifice their long-fought for democracy …. For what? To appease the voracious ego of a madman and the insatiable greed of a band of racist crooks?
The old maxim that you get the leaders you deserve has never been more amply demonstrated.
Strong on vocals
The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!
Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.
At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).
The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.
However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.
Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.
Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year
Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.
It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.
The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.
The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.
The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.
Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.
This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.
Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.
The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.
Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.
Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.
New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations
Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.
Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.
A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.
Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.
Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.
Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.
Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.
Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.
The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.
Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.
Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.
This is the verse sung while playing the game:
“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,
Olinda thibenne bangali dese…
Genath hadanne koi koi dese,
Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”
Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’
Happy New Year!
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