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.

Being Mean to Kids!

Who are these people? These old, white, prejudiced people that are running the country? These clones of nineteenth-century southern politicians, all looking more like wax figures than people, collectively emulating a parody of a White House staff and cabinet that is sadly and scarily real?

Any school teacher, any parent, anyone that has ever paid attention to someone other than themselves has learned that if frustration brings you to a point where spanking, yelling, hitting or maliciousness seems like a viable option, it is time to step away - rational thought has left the building. If the only thing these Washington automatons might have going for them is experience, we lose again, as this simple lesson has somehow eluded them. Now, in addition to racism, ignorance and lies we are going to add mean. And not just any mean - mean to kids.

Immigration is a touchy issue with a million layers. Everyone has an opinion and that's how it is supposed to be! The drain on our economy due to non-citizens living in the U.S. is real, but so are the jobs many of them fill, the taxes many of them pay and the lives they are hoping to live. We'll never be able to accurately quantify the pluses and minuses, and in the end the real issue is racism, as the bigots among us use discussions about the economy as a diversion. One thing is for certain: there were no Cherokee with the surname 'Trump'. WE ARE ALL IMMIGRANTS!

That doesn't mean that we are dutybound to accept every soul into our country that wants to enter, but it does mean that we at least need to remember that we are all human beings, no better or worse than the Gray Panthers that are running things or their immigrant ancestors. It means that we need to find humane ways to deal with this human issue.

Our history tells us we are not humane. We have tricked, stolen from and all but eradicated our Natives, enslaved Africans, sent American citizens to internment camps during WWII and detained, tortured and abused we'll never know how many innocent people at Guantanamo Bay. And now, in order to deter emigrants, the government plans to separate children from their parents and send the kids to military bases. No wonder the rest of the world hates us. Right now I hate us.

It is just mean. It is the bully beating the snot out of the little kid because he can; because there are no grown-ups around. It is the 300 pound defensive lineman pounding the quarterback play after play because the Referee believes in 'old fashioned football' and won't throw a flag. It is racist politicians saying, "I never liked you and now that I can do something about it I am going to crush you". Just mean for the sake of being mean. Grown men picking on little kids. Grown men so caught up in their hate for people of a certain skin tone that they are willing to put their own humanity aside and go after kids. Kids! Sweet little kids that have no choice but to go where their parents go, and will have no choice about being ripped from them. Kids! Just like the grandchildren the old, white, prejudiced people in charge dote over and protect. Kids.

It's hard to stomach on a daily basis, and I almost blew this off this morning and went out to do yardwork. But that's what they're counting on. If we stop complaining, he will find a way to make himself Chancellor like another crazy person did in 1933. He'll keep spewing lies and hate and bullshit until we stop him. He will continue to talk and behave like an unchecked bully, with his ridiculous collection of colorless 'yes' men (OK - one (white) woman) congratulating him.

How long are we going to let these fools drag us down into a national pit of disgrace? Where's the line if it isn't being mean to kids?

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.

Follow Reeno on Twitter

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