Do you recognize these names: Rishik Gandhasri, Erin Howard, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Christopher Serrao and Rohan Raja?
I’ll give you a clue: when white nationalists and nativists dream of the America that used to be, their dreams do not comprise those eight names. And when the people in the MAGA hats fantasize about the America they...or their parents...or their grandparents...or someone they made up wants to go back to, Riskik, Saketh, et al., didn’t live there.
But they live here now, and yesterday these eight outlasted the dictionary, spelled 47 consecutive words en route to an unprecedented eight-way tie for the championship of the Scripps National Spelling Bee held in National Harbor, Maryland. And although the bee had decided to split the first- and second-place money in the event of a stalemate, in the end each speller was awarded the full $50,000 cash prize, in addition to a Scripps Cup. Good on ya, Erin, and pass that along to your mates.
Now I don’t pretend to know, nor do I care to know, if any of these young people is a Muslim. Most of the names are Hindu, Sanskrit, or Indian. But we know the president's view on minorities in general, snd this would be eating him alive if he were aware of it, or knew what a spelling bee was, or could spell "spelling bee," or "bee." And a woman winner on top of it—it's enough to make a misogynist weep.
But I'll confess that maybe the correct spelling of words is an insignificant talent these days—Mr. Wire Tapp (a.k.a. Cadet Bone Spurs, a.k.a. antagonist of Joe Bidan) will attest to that. But the pursuit of academic and intellectual excellence and the perseverance to achieve that goal cannot be overestimated: these young Americans deserve the accolades they are receiving.
That panoply of names is indicative of the forward movement of the country and a slap in the face to all those who insist on leading us fearfully into the past. Someday those antiquarians will figure out that there’s room for plenty of Abhijays and Erins, and maybe some Jamaals, Veras, Chucks, and Daves. (Yes, Beatles reference. It just sorta fit.)
I do think we have one too many Donalds, but that’s just me being right.
So congratulations to the new elite eight—-thanks for showing that the way to make America great again is to stop trying to Make America Great Again.
*a force or natural power formerly held by some to reside in certain individuals and things...and one of the 47 words spelled correctly in yesterday's spelling bee final