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.

NEA Declares General Strike!

If I were a kid or a teacher in America, as I have been in the past, I would not want to go to school tomorrow. If I found myself there anyway, I'm sure I would spend half the day looking over my shoulder to see if there was a kid with an assault rifle coming down the hallway. It is beyond shameful that in this great country, loudly proclaiming "America First", kids are last. Our children are collateral damage along the path of payoffs, bribes, backroom deals and gentlemen's agreements. Of all the despicable things the current occupant of the White House is - and the list is long and varied - being a lackey for the NRA is the worst. Anyone with a shred of a human soul remaining and the power to affect change that is not in the pocket of the NRA would be compelled to do so.

The bigger problem is lobbyists in general. Lobbyists are the single biggest detriment to democracy in this nation. They routinely sway policy contrary to public opinion, desire and mandates while lining the pockets the of the very officials we elected to take care of us and our interests, and not the interests of big tobacco, big pharma, big oil and the NRA. Everyone seems to assume that lobbyists are supposed to be running around with unlimited expense accounts and no scruples about how to use them; that they are part of the system. New Flash! They are the corrupt part of the system! Lobbyists need to be outlawed, but of course that won't happen, because the lobbyists will lobby against it.

In the meantime our children and teachers are being slaughtered. We salute the young people that are standing up and talking back and calling bullshit on this disgusting, disgraceful lack of courageous (or any) action on the part of our leaders. The sit-ins and lay-ins and meetings are inspiring, but they will not disrupt things enough to prompt our representatives to take action.

If the NEA took a stand, and informed Congress that America's teachers would not report to work until they felt that updated gun laws (including the elimination of assault weapons for non-military personnel) were put in place in order to create a safer environment for students and teachers, Congress might pay attention.

Teachers tend to be overworked and underpaid. The last thing they want to do is forgo a paycheck (or several!) But anything short of a complete shutdown is not going to affect Congress at all. They'll just pull the curtains and tune it out. Now, if teachers don't go to school, kids can't go to school. If kids can't go to school, parents can't go to work. If parents can't go to work, the country starts grinding to a halt. Even the biggest 'friends' of the NRA are only going to be able to listen for so long to their constituents complain about the real hardship that is being caused before they finally do something.

I suppose that if the NEA amazingly found some collective cajones and did this, they could be vilified. It would place parents at hardship. However if you put yourself in the place of a teacher faced with a storm of bullets headed toward you and your students, with a split second to decide if you will sacrifice yourself for the sake of these kids, and in doing so leave your own kids fatherless or motherless, what would you do? Is there any rationale for putting our teachers in that position? If the teachers did walk out, would you really blame them? Wouldn't the inconvenience be for the best interest of your and all our kids? And worth it?

Drastic times require drastic measures. If the definition of insanity is repeating the same action while expecting a different result, then we are insane to expect Congress to act unless we create a big mess. NEA - I have tried to come up with another solution, but I fear it is up to you. Teach us how to stand up and get things done. Please.

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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