It was a little different last week, checking in with ESPN’s televised coverage of the Scripps Naitonal Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. to witness the young spellers grind out words that the vast majority of adults would butcher somewhere in the middle of the first syllable.

    It was a little different last week, checking in with ESPN’s televised coverage of the Scripps Naitonal Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. to witness the young spellers grind out words that the vast majority of adults would butcher somewhere in the middle of the first syllable.

    It was different because our nation is different. But, that said, it’s mostly business as usual at the National Bee, at least when it comes to who dominates the competition year after year. So, given where we’re at as a nation at this moment in time, there has to be some friction, right? And it might not be as underlying as it might have been prior to the November election.

    How can there not be some ill will, when kids, U.S. citizens all of them, consistently make it to the finals of the National Bee every year, and they all have brown skin and many speak with accents because their families are of Indian descent? This year was no different, with a stage home to spelling bee finalists that were all Indian-American.

    In order to wrap our arms properly around this, it’s almost like we have to pretend we’re President Donald Trump himself, watching the drama unfold on that big stage in Washington, D.C. How would he react to watching all these non-American looking kids competing for the big American prize? What thoughts might dance through his head?

    Oh, we pretty much know what he’d say out loud, in front of a cluster of microphones and rows of cameras:

    “Very, very good spellers here. Just terrific. Really good spellers. Just fantastic. We had an incredible time here. Just unbelievable. I remember when I won the national spelling bee. They all stood and cheered. Record crowd. Incredible. They said I would have won the international bee, but they didn’t have one.”

    But it’s what’s inside that counts, and you can bet that Trump’s most ardent supporters probably figure it’s safe for them to assume that Trump believes a bunch of overmatched white kids year after year at the National Spelling Bee is not making America great again. Let ’em steal your spelling bee title today, you know, and they’ll steal your job tomorrow. More ominous is that many Trumpists now feel less compelled to keep their feelings to themselves, because the President of the United States himself has their back.

    If the President of the United States can say what he wants, grab what he wants and otherwise do what he wants, then how can that not embolden his biggest fans to at least strongly consider saying what they want, grabbing what they want and otherwise doing what they want?

    It’s America first, baby! And in these America-first times, even if you’ve been accused countless times of ripping off others financially, even if you’ve declared bankruptcy on multiple occasions so you can be bailed out by others, and even if you’re in debt up to your ears to countless individuals and organizations across the globe, you can turn your back on the rest of the world while accusing them of “not paying their fair share.” Even if your family found a physician to diagnose you as a young man with bad feet so you could avoid a stint in Vietnam, you can still speak very loudly while also carrying an enormous stick as you govern like some kind of unhinged, dictatorial warlord who not only has access to the codes and the red button, but, worse yet, has constant, unlimited access to a popular social media communications app.

    But we can’t take issue entirely with “America first!” can we? We’re Americans. We’re proud. We love our country, and who doesn’t want to finish in first place? But the problem is, the United States of America is first on some lists that you’d much rather place lower. And on things like education and healthcare, we’re not nearly as high in the standings as we should be, or as we’d like to believe.

   Be careful what you wish for as you incessantly insist on putting yourself and your country first in line, especially when you literally push others out of your way to secure your lofty place among the pack, or at least in the photo opp. Scream “America first!” in enough people’s faces long enough, and at some point they’re going to start to wonder what you really mean by those two words, America first. Do you mean the country in general, like a legitimate rah-rah cause to rally around? Or do you actually mean a certain type of America or certain type of American should finish first, no matter the cost? Those kids hammering out one unspeakably difficult word after another under the spotlights at the National Spelling Bee last week…are they on the “America first” team?

    How we answer that question goes a long way toward determining and, yes, acknowledging where we are as a nation today, and where we’re heading tomorrow.

    Be careful what you shout for. Chant “America first!” loud enough and long enough, and people won’t wait to be further rejected and shunned by us, they’ll turn and walk away of their own volition, and maybe they’ll realize that looking to the United States as the go-to international resource, the world leader…those days are are in the past. It’s happening already.

    And how do we feel about that? That’s another question with a telling answer.