by Vijaya Chandrasoma
The second impeachment of Donald Trump got under way last Tuesday.
Trump has the doubtful distinction of being the only president ever to have lost the popular election twice, by three million votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and by seven million to Biden in 2020, and the only president to be impeached twice in history. His other singular “achievements” include losing the House, the Senate and the presidency in a single term. These make Trump the undisputed political loser in the nation’s history, with a spectacular record of failure never to be breached in the future.
And amazingly, he remains a force in Republican politics today.
Trump’s second impeachment was initiated by the House of Representatives after his supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, acting on his incitement. The nation’s lawmakers, 435 Representatives and 100 Senators were in session at the Capitol, presided over by Vice President Pence, to conclude their Constitutional duty of formalizing the 2020 elections of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
There was only one Article of Impeachment, charging Trump of “incitement of insurrection” in urging his supporters to march on the Capitol building.
January 6 was a day of infamy in US history, even surpassing the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Pearl Harbor was attacked by a foreign adversary, on the orders of their Emperor. The Capitol and the nation’s lawmakers were attacked by Americans, homegrown terrorists, on the orders of the President of the United States, who had taken an oath to protect the nation and all its citizens.
On the first day of the trial, Trump’s legal team argued that the impeachment of a former president, a private citizen, is unconstitutional. Their ill-presented argument represented the entirety of the Republican defense, the one “fig leaf” of constitutionality to cover a multitude of evidence against Trump. This argument, rejected by constitutional scholars, was outvoted by the Senate with a 56/44 majority, six Republicans voting with the Democrats. But the fig leaf was sufficient to provide the sycophantic Republican Senators an escape to acquit Trump.
Acquittal was a foregone conclusion before the trial began. There was no way that 17 Republican Senators necessary for a 2/3 majority to convict Trump would vote with the Democrats.
I am getting ahead of myself, but the evidence on the last day of the trial needs to take center stage. During the height of the violence, when the attack was unfolding and raging around them, when lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, were terrified for their lives, they gave an account of a telephone call they heard between Kevin McCarthy, Republican House Minority Leader, pleading with Trump to order his supporters to stop the violence. At first, Trump denied that the terrorists were his people, but McCarthy insisted they were Trump supporters and begged him to call them off. In what developed to be an expletive-laden shouting match, a furious McCarthy told Trump the rioters were breaking into his office through the windows and repeated that all their lives were in danger.
Trump’s chilling response: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election, than you are”.
McCarthy ended the call in disgust, asking Trump; “Who the f… do you think you are talking to?”
At the end of the defence presentation on Friday, Senator Edward Markey (D – Mass.) noted that Trump’s lawyers were unable to answer the question as to what Trump was doing while the riots were raging for three hours in the afternoon of January 6. They were unable to address the question, because everyone knew the answer was “nothing”. Or perhaps, “Urging on the Rioters”.
It was perfectly obvious that Trump was more interested in the illegal nullification of the election than the lives of members of his legislative branch and their families, law enforcement and innocent bystanders.
Long before the November 3 election, when he realized that Biden would prove a serious danger to his re-election, Trump sowed the first seeds of The Big Lie of a rigged election. He ranted at election rallies that he could lose the election to “Sleepy Joe” Biden only if the election was rigged
Biden won the November election by a landslide. The results, especially in the Swing States of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona remained unchanged, even after numerous recounts and over 60 challenges by Trump in the District, Federal and Supreme Courts, all of which were dismissed for lack of a shred of evidence.
Still, Trump and 75% continued to propagate The Big Lie, that the election was stolen from Trump. The Big Lie was the reason for the storming of the Capitol on January 6 by the “Proud Boys”, “Oathkeepers” and white supremacist terrorists, carrying Confederate and TRUMP flags, wearing MAGA hats – modern reincarnations of KKK hoods and NAZI Swastikas.
The real heroes of the November 3 election are those mainly Republican legislators and election officials in the Swing States, who were bullied and threatened by Trump to illegally change or nullify the results of their elections. Without exception, they remained faithful to the Constitution, they refused to accede to the illegitimate demands of a defeated president.
The real cowards were the 12 Republican Senators, headed by Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, joined by 147 Congresspersons who promoted the Big Lie and continued to deny, against all evidence, the legitimacy of the presidential election victory of Joe Biden.
Trump had been ranting about his “victory” in the election since November 7, and the favorite chant at his rallies was “Stop the Steal”, that the election had been stolen from him. On December 20 Trump identified the date for stopping the steal, when he tweeted, “Statistically impossible to have lost the election. Big protest in DC on January 6. Be there, will be wild”.
He addressed the rally of thousands of his supporters he had summoned to Washington, inciting the already angered mob to a frenzy, to march on the Capitol and disrupt the formal certification of the new president. In his ignorance of the Constitution, Trump thought the violent disruption of the ceremonial certification of the November election was his last chance of subverting the election and clinging to power.
During the rally near the White House, minutes before the mob marched to the Capitol, Trump ranted, Hitler style, “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore”. He used the word “fight” 20 times during his manic speech. During this rally, his personal lawyer, Rudi Giuliani talked of “Trial by Combat” and Donnie Junior exhorted the mob to “be a hero, not a zero”.
The most damning evidence against Trump, that the violence wrought by his mob had his complete approval, was that he was gleefully watching the ongoing violence on television at the White House, with his cheering family and cronies, for four hours. Four hours when he did nothing while the insurrection was raging and the lives of the nation’s lawmakers were in imminent danger. He delayed the deployment of the National Guard, and ignored desperate calls for help from his own Vice President and his supporters in Congress, who were the main targets of the insurrectionists.
The Impeachment Managers of the House, began their case with a 13-minute video of the insurrection, a chilling montage of the devastating violence of the riots. Impeachment Manager, Jamie Raskin, in an emotional speech said their case was based on “cold, hard facts’, before he showed the gruesome video, replete with acts of violence never before seen.
It was a miracle that there were “only” five deaths. More than 140 police officers were injured, one losing three fingers, a second having his eyes gouged, a third being impaled and bludgeoned with the pole of the waving flag he had sworn to serve. Two officers were so affected by the riots that they took their lives soon after. The insurrectionists were echoing their hero’s hatred of his own Vice President Pence (who had served Trump slavishly for four years, whose only crime was his decision to do his constitutional duty) and his arch-nemesis, Speaker Pelosi, with chants “Hang Mike Pence” and “Kill that (expletive) Pelosi”. Murders they would have definitely committed had they got their hands on them. There was a gallows with a noose constructed by them for this very purpose on the Capitol grounds. In fact, all the lawmakers present were within feet of getting killed but for the heroism of the Capitol police, who carried out their duties bravely at enormous cost to themselves.
The House Impeachment Managers presented even more damning video footage on Wednesday, more evidence of the terror faced by lawmakers, pathetic scenes of fear for their lives and those of their colleagues and families. One of the chants of the terrorists, that “We are in a Civil War” brought memories of the worst era in the nation’s history, an era of Americans fighting for the perpetuation of the abominable social system of slavery and white supremacy. Trump’s agenda for America for the 21st century.
Senators, Congresspersons and their families were hiding under desks, were haunted by the sounds of chaos and violence, of doors and windows being destroyed. They were praying, making whispered telephone calls and tweets bidding goodbye to their loved ones. Many thought that they were about to die. Individual stories of terror now emerging are heartbreaking.
The atrocities wrought by these vicious domestic terrorists, urged on by the American reincarnation of Osama Bin Laden, outdid any violence and caused panic that Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists would have been proud to emulate.
The president’s legal team continued with an appalling, rambling defence that had the contempt of even the president and his cronies. These lawyers were certainly not of the highest caliber, but in all fairness, no lawyer jealous of his reputation will represent Trump. He is an impossible client, who presents a defense that is indefensible.
Several Senators, Cruz, Hawley, Rubio, jurors at the trial, met with the president’s team in an effort to elicit a better performance at their final arguments on Friday. A meeting completely at odds with the oath they took, as jurors, to remain impartial. Oaths mean nothing to these Republicans, the only thing that matters is their fawning subservience to Trump.
The facts as presented by the prosecution are not in doubt. The accused’s team can only argue on procedure. Their argument that Trump, inciting a crazed mob of his own armed and violent supporters and the subsequent murder and mayhem at the Capitol, was covered by the First Amendment of free speech, borders on the insane.
But however poorly they perform, they know the race has been won before the horses left the gate.
Republican politicians may pretend to be unaffected by the violence of January 6. They may be so consumed by power and ambition as to applaud the treachery of a former president desperately fighting to retain his. Their numbers are few, a handful of Cruzes, Grahams, Lees and Pauls, a sycophantic minority of politicians denying the diversity of modern America. They will soon meet with their collective political deaths. Along with Trumpism.
The violence of January 6 has been seen with fearful disgust in the hearts and minds of a large majority of the American people. Trump’s approval ratings are in the doldrums, the lowest of any former president. His attempts to transform the Republican Party to an authoritarian, white supremacist junta are doomed to abject failure. His fetid miasma, and that of his ever-diminishing, white supremacist “base”, will disappear, as if by a miracle, sooner than later. His memory will be viewed by history, in 20 years or less, with the hatred and contempt the German people reserve for the memory of Hitler today.
At least, Adolf and Eva felt extreme shame and decided to escape public ignominy and certain prison/execution by committing suicide. Trump is shame-free.
The verdict of the trial will be rendered on Valentine’s Day. I doubt if Cupid will have many arrows of love and unity in his quiver.
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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