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.

Dear ESPN,
It's not you; it's me

Dear ESPN,

America has always been a divided nation. We began life feuding between Loyalists and Colonists, fought bitterly about States' entitlements vs. a strong Federal government, divided ourselves into either Confederate or Union, disagreed on our role in the world and even established a declaration of War on the young people asking for Peace and Love.

For the past thirty-or-so years no matter who was in the White House or what disaster was in the news or who was dating whom, a high percentage of half the population could always find something to talk about, or at least make pleasant conversation. All you had to say was, "Did you catch SportsCenter last night?"

Keith Olberman, Dan Patrick, Robin Roberts, Rich Eisen, Boomer and the late, great Stuart Scott - as cool as the other side of the pillow! It was the news we needed; the news we waited for and looked forward to, presented with boxers a little bit looser than on previous shows. It was Mike & Mike on the way to work, and SportsCenter once we got home. Every day. We guys who are now between 40 and 70 were as faithful as could be, and to some degree helped make you what you eventually became.

ESPN, I figured we were headed for trouble when you took the excellent, brilliant show called "Olberman" off the air after Keith called for Goodell's resignation. I like to watch networks that have not painted themselves in to a corner of conflicting interests, preventing their employees from being critical of a league or even reporting the news objectively. I know I'm weird that way. It's not you; it's me.

I knew things were worse than I'd realized once Molly took over on First Take and morning SportsCenter started to look more like The View than anything I'd ever imagined would be on ESPN. Don't get me wrong me wrong ESPN, I like pretty women and cleavage as much as the next guy, but I don't want to look at cleavage while I'm thinking about football. And middle-aged (anchor)women dressed in prom dresses, apparently believing they are the age they tell people they are, make me queasy in any setting. It isn't that there are women doing sports - Doris Burke is easily a top-five commentator and Suzy Kolber is the very best. But isn't there a 'setting-appropriate' way to dress along with an 'age-appropriate' and 'profession-appropriate' manner? I must be odd that way. It's not you ESPN; it's me.

When cable and satellite subscriptions began to droop, and layoffs were inevitable, everyone knew it was just business. It also (I'm willing to venture a guess here) gave you a chance to clear out any 'dead wood' and maybe even some 'old wood', in line with the shift to programming more suited for the AppWatchers. The bright, younger cheaper personalities that survived the layoffs are all excellent - smart as whips, write great articles, good insight. But it is a bit hard to swallow having someone introduced as a 'Senior Writer for ESPN' that truly looks like the aforementioned prom dresses were recently worn by and borrowed from them, especially when some true hall-of-famers were inexplicably dismissed (we miss you on Mondays MT). To some of us, a 'senior' reporter remembers Mr. October and remembers how their heart was beating as Bird intercepted that inbounds pass and remembers watching Joe Cool march those 9ers down the field - and not someone to whom they are history lessons. Probably no one else feels that way. It's not you; it's me.

For these and other reasons ESPN, I planned to break up with you. But while writing this letter it has become clear that you have already broken up with me. We, the longtime faithful, the initiated, the now in the wrong demographic have been tossed aside with no regard, for a hope that the AppWatchers will make up the difference. Good luck. Meanwhile, SportsCenter has become a gypsy - a second class citizen that seems to never be on the same channel at the same time in the same format - so I watch PTI to get a little sports news. Once you decide that Kornhusker is too old I will stop paying DirecTV the $15/month to get ESPN, and watch the few decent MNF games at a bar.

Let's not think of this as a farewell ESPN, but instead a thank-you; we had a great run.



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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