Janet Sheridan: Happy Fourth of July


Editor's note: The Saturday Morning Press announces the addition of Janet Sheridan, a Craig resident and former Moffat County School District administrator, as a new columnist.

Sheridan, who is retired, spent 40 years in public education, including five years as the school district's director of curriculum and staff development. She is a guest columnist for the Denver Post for 2009-10.

From the moment I first met the word "flabbergast," I wanted to experience its dumbfounded surprise. I had my opportunity in Brazil at age 45. There, with tearing eyes, amazed mind and full heart, I felt flabbergasted.

I had traveled to Brazil to teach a course during a conference for English teachers. The last day of class, in their generous way, my students invited me to a birthday party.

When I asked if I should bring a gift, unrestrained merriment ensued. Because they often giggled at my American phrasings and actions, I wasn't offended.

When I arrived at a party decorated with red, white and blue, I understood their laughter.

They had planned a celebration for the United States. My stunned speechlessness occurred at the conclusion of a documentary shown as the highlight of the evening - a movie filled with American wonders like sky-piercing cities, purple mountains and amber waves of grain.

It was the Fourth of July in Rio de Janeiro, and as the film ended, 250 conference participants, patriots of Brazil, leaped to their feet to cheer the birth of my country and its world-altering democracy. They commemorated the Fourth with an appreciation that made my past celebrations seem misguided.

As a child, I viewed the Fourth of July as an opportunity to publicly humiliate my cousin. Born a week earlier, Jimmy tied his shoes sooner, threw balls farther, burped longer and bragged louder.

But, once a year I exacted revenge.

Much to my father's delight, I could run.

Dad claimed I ran with a stride like Man O' War; I was just a little slow responding to the trumpet. But, once I realized the race had begun, and my long legs hit their stride, the bobbing heads of those quick off the mark receded in my dust.

When Jimmy raced, as he always did at the city park on the Fourth of July, the race ended with my gloating victory and Jimmy's whining claim that he slipped on somebody's spit.

I concluded my celebration by running him down with lit sparklers after the picnic at grandma's house and threatening to poke his eyes out.

Later, in my early teens, I developed a better understanding of the holiday.

It existed so the carnival could come to town.

With cherry-picking earnings in my pocket and my best friend at my side, I ate cotton candy and rode the Tilt-a-Whirl, taking a break now and then to scurry through shuffling crowds in search of the eighth-grade boys my friend and I had chosen to marry.

When we managed to find them, we loitered nearby in fetching poses; unfortunately, our intended, busily throwing firecrackers at each other and cackling with adolescent laughter, took no notice.

As I aged, the day dedicated to the nation's founding became a blur of picnics and watermelon, parades and snow-cones, bonfires and marshmallows, barbecues and beer; all ending with multihued fireworks that flowered, shimmered and danced, eliciting oohs from the crowd, terrorizing neighborhood dogs and creating traffic jams upon exit.

I enjoyed the festivities, but other than a fleeting feeling of pride as the flag passed at the head of a parade or the national anthem played before fireworks exploded, I gave little thought to the date's history or importance.

Then I stood at the end of a movie in a bunting-adorned amphitheater that smelled of wood smoke, engine exhaust and tropical blossoms.

I heard citizens of another nation - people who spoke Portuguese, dressed with European flair, danced to a Latin beat, ate squid with pleasure - celebrate my country.

In those moments, I marveled as never before at the miracle birth of the United States.

Standing to cheer my flag, 9,000 miles from home on the edge of the sea in a foreign harbor, I realized how far the Statue of Liberty casts her light.

I felt a rush of love and pride for my birthplace. I was flabbergasted - stunned, amazed, astounded - by the country I call home.


harleymunchkin 7 years, 8 months ago

The United States is not a "world-altering democracy". It is a constitutional republic as established by our founders and stated in the Pledge of Allegiance as "...to the Republic for which it stands". A constitutional republic guarantees individual rights regardless of the majority's whims. Even though Bush, Sr., Clinton, Bush, Jr. and Obama try to tell us we are a "democracy", that doesn't change the fact that we are not. John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829 stated, "The experience of all former ages has shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived." In 1787 after the signing of the Constitution as the framers were leaving the hall, a lady stepped forward and asked Benjamin Franklin, "What have you given us, Sir?", and Franklin replied, "A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it." Our forefathers despised democracy and guaranteed to the future generations of America a constitutional republic. I would have thought that a person who spent 40 years in public education and was responsible for teaching the truth of our nation's history to the children in her care would have known such an important fact about the country of her birth.


jeff corriveau 7 years, 8 months ago

If we taught good old fashioned "civics" our students would have learned this. And, accordingly, the teachers would have to teach it. One only has to look at the Ward Churchill fiasco to see what education has become in our country. I can't believe the dribble that guy was spouting and to have it supported as "adademic freedom" is BS. We don't teach the "truth" in schools, we teach the politically correct and liberally biased version of the truth.


lonelyone 7 years, 8 months ago

I agree with you silentman. So much of what we learned is not what is taught now because it might offend someone. Well I say if your going to teach history, then teach it. Talk about what really happened and what we learned from it and why we are trying to change things now, but don't alter it so kids think this stuff never really happened!


harleymunchkin 7 years, 8 months ago

"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Our forefathers studied all forms of government around the world before establishing America as a constitutional republic. Nowhere in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the original Bill of Rights will you find the term "democracy". The last president who openly referred to our country as a constitutional republic was Harry S. Truman. George Herbert Walker Bush, during his presidency, referred to the creation of a "New World Order" over 225 times. Al Gore, vice president during Bill Clinton's presidency, is currently calling for "global governance". A clandestine war is being waged against the United States of America, and a metamorphosis from a constitutional republic to a democracy in the thinking of the people is necessary in order to accomplish the transition. The public school system in the United States is a tool to control the thinking of future generations. I refer to this tool as social engineering. The individual rights that we all share in a constitutional republic cannot be assimilated into the global "New World Order".


jeff corriveau 7 years, 8 months ago

We better be careful: Keep talking the way we are and we'll end up on a terrorist watch list. Listen to BHO and you will hear him say "International community". Code words for New World Order. Be very, very careful or that's exactly what we will have.


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.