The Tacet Underground

What if He didn't exist? At all. What if long ago, visiting ETs decided that the easiest way to keep these creatures (us) complacent was to chisel out some stony rules and promise a heaven and a hell, much like a kindergarten teacher promises stickers for good behavior and time out for bad behavior? Sure - it's crazy. But just for a minute, what if?

What if the bible is not the 'word of God' as it is so flippantly called while held up and venerated? What if you discover that it is a collection of stories jotted down by the fallible and earthly predecessors of Aesop and the Brothers Grimm, later bastardized and edited and tilted to meet the selfish needs of a corrupt church hierarchy?

What if you woke up tomorrow and none of it made sense anymore? 'Why would an all-seeing and all-knowing god be vengeful?' 'Why revere a book that promotes misogyny, revenge, slavery and killing?' 'Am I a thinking person, or was I indoctrinated before I had a chance to make a choice?' What if it all seems so remote and unbelievable that when someone brings it up, your brain has to click into gear: "Oh yeah! - I forgot that people still believe in that!"

Imagine how truly looney it would then seem if you heard the DOJ's very own Imp of Darkness justifying the cruel and inhumane treatment of emigrating children by quoting a bible verse. Imagine how genuinely frightening it would be to hear former White House aide Omorosa Manigault Newman report that Vice President Pence thinks Jesus tells him to say things. For the almost one out of four Americans that do not believe in God, it is chilling.

The Founders were very clear about the need for separation of church and state:

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

In this, one of the most fatherly-feeling quotes from our Founders, James Madison and the other framers are looking out for us in the way that parents try to impart hard-learned wisdom upon their children. How many times have we wished our kids would listen to us?

There is a musical term, tacet. This tells the musician to do nothing - still pay attention to what's going on, but do nothing. To make a sweeping and reckless generalization, atheists know how to tacet. It is simply easier to nod and smile and say nothing than it is to get into it. Sure, there are atheists at every turn that have no problem declaring their non-belief, but they didn't get there without also learning how to deal with feelings of disenfranchisement, ostracization and condemnation.

It isn't always easy to say, "I don't believe in god" when those around you do and when the indoctrination you've received makes you feel many emotions - but primarily guilt - just for entertaining the idea. Even for the loud proclaimers, it is usually easier, quicker and less trouble to tacet.

The approximately 25% of Americans that make up this Tacet Underground form a much larger subset of the population than the 1% that are Muslim, the 2% that are Jewish, the 2% that are Mormon, the 4% that are either LGBT or Q, the 12% that are Black or the 19% that are Hispanics/Latino, yet these other groups are constantly protesting, demanding and making themselves the news while atheists are mostly content to tacet and pay attention.

In 1795 John Adams said, "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."  Atheists take this seriously and are deeply offended when ignorant people like Donald Trump pretend that it is.

The Vice President's proclamation that he is a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third is deeply offensive to the (at least) eighty-some million Americans that do not believe in his god and consider that statement alone to be grounds for him to be removed from office. On the other hand, even nonbelievers may sometimes hope that hell exists, comforted by visions of Jeff Sessions roasting marshmallows with Beelzebub.

As has happened over a long period of years with the LGBTQ community, 'coming out' as an atheist carries less of a social stigma with each passing day, although small town folk and conservative communities may still find a way to disparage anything out of the norm. Time passes and the number of people that distinguish themselves as atheist will increase as the stigma lessens and the dark side of religion is continually revealed by people like Jeff Sessions, Dana Rohrabacher and Donald Trump who insist on evoking the Bible and Jesus for evil.

By 2020 the Tacet Underground could include not one in four citizens as it does now, but one in three. That would be over a hundred million Americans that don't want to hear religious dribble or quotes from the bible, but instead want logical and well thought-through plans based on research, testing and evaluation. At some point our politicians are going to have to grapple with the fact that one out of three Americans think the bible-thumpers and scripture-quoters and evil-doers are more than a little nutty and start giving us more than the incessant stale rhetoric about abortion, guns, gays and God.

Teachers and the Sun

Where would we be without teachers? It's like asking where we'd be without the sun. The warmth we need to grow, the illumination we need to see new things and the undying pull to keep us on the right trajectory are things we expect both the sun and our teachers to provide for us. The sun doesn't have much choice, and at least theoretically we can count on it to continue to deliver until it inevitably burns itself out. Teachers do have a choice, and when they burn out society loses a little warmth, a ray of light and a steadiness of direction.

People become teachers for reasons varying from following in family footsteps to following a calling. Teachers are as diverse a group as any professional faction in America, but generally speaking, teachers are lovers, not fighters - they are by nature nurturers, encouragers, promoters, educators. At a median salary of about sixty thousand dollars per year, they often donate as much time and effort as they are being paid for, giving of themselves, their knowledge and their … teacherness.

The President of the United States of America now proposes adding a couple more line items to their job description, including arming themselves and being trained to counter-attack terrorists and murderers. Eighty hour weeks AND a chance to kill and be killed - for $60K per year? Where do I sign up?! I bet I'll even get to pay for my own gun and ammo!

The rationale being dispensed is that criminals love 'no gun zones', and that may be true. Another thing that is true is that guns scare kids. Guns scare many teachers too. Scared people do not do their best work.

Adults, particularly those for whom shooting a gun is a fairly regular occurrence, may find comfort in the presence of an armed guard in a classroom, believing that good will triumph over evil and that this bad-ass teacher can take out any punk that comes down the hallway, as if we are educating our children in a real-life Batman movie. On the other hand, to kids - even teenaged kids - guns just mean the possibility of shooting, hurting and killing.

What criminals don't love, are metal detectors. If things have deteriorated to the point where schools are generally not safe places to be, let's lock them down. There are millions of issues with this, especially in secondary grades where students change classrooms every so often, just as there are millions of issues with arming teachers. The difference between the approaches is that once students and teachers pass the entry points and the doors are locked, they are 1) safe and 2) not trying to learn or teach while scared for their lives. As a bonus, young idealistic bright people that are considering a career in teaching will not turn away at the prospect of having to work in an unsafe environment or being pressured into carrying a gun.

Just as we need the sun, we need teachers in order to survive as a society. We must pay them better, reduce their work load, show our appreciation more often and take action now to give them a safe work environment before there's a next time.



A graduate of Portland State University, Steve (Reeno) Kloser is the author of Beginning Band - A Guide to Success and Let's Make Music - Classroom Recorder Course. He is also an accomplished teacher, conductor and composer, having penned numerous pieces including La Vida and Fly With Me.

Teacher, cook, Packers fan and proud American, Reeno's usually slanted outlook often presents an unlikely perspective on issues old and new.

Reeno currently lives in Portland, OR.


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