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.

I Don't (k)NO(w)

What do you have to do to get a straight answer there days? Oh, the politicians are bad enough, but when was the last time you needed help from a retail clerk?

Just for fun, go into a big box hardware store and ask one of the employees, "Do you carry elephants?" The employee will surely look at you with curious eyes, and repeat, "Elephants?" Nod affirmatively, and the employee will begin to answer with the correct response, which is no, and then remember that they are prohibited from saying no to a customer! Smoke may begin to wisp from their ears as a response is formulated, and eventually something along the lines of, "You may want to check with the zoo" may be mumbled out. If it wasn't sad it would be funny.

Not saying no to customers, as part of 'good customer service' has become more and more prevalent over the past ten-or-so years. Since company after company has imitatively adopted this policy, it has become nearly ubiquitous. As an extension of this 'no to saying no' policy, companies from Your Concierge Connection to Disney now also prohibit employees from saying I don't know to customers and clients.

Instead of no, employees are expected to offer a positive suggestion and instead of I don't know, employees are expected to create a response along the lines of, "Let me find our for you" or "Let me ask Dan about that". The gist of this - and it seems like the logic of someone that took Psych 101 and didn't bother with the reading or the lectures - is that never having a negative word uttered to you constitutes a positive customer experience. There aren't enough BBs in a shell to create as many holes as there are in that logic.

Nothing is more frustrating than asking the same question over and over and getting non-answers; just look at how little collective hair the WH Press Corps has left. And forgive me for saying it out loud, but with the exception of the retirees who are working to keep active and are likely to be more qualified to run the store than the people running it, with minimum wage jobs you get minimum wage education and minimum wage intelligence. Hey Lowes! We know they don't know. Don't you? It's OK - we just want a straight answer.

When asking, "Do you know where the buffet is?", the response, "I don't know, but I will find out for you" provides better customer service than, "Let me find out for you" because:
  1. it is honest, and
  2. it lacks the underlying irritation caused by not getting your question answered.
Whoever is writing these employee handbooks seems concerned about feelings, but does not account for actual feelings. They are trying to bully you into having a positive experience. "We did everything right and didn't say anything wrong, so we want you to go online and take your time to do our manager's job and rate my performance as very good - because you had a positive experience … Right?"

These policies are among the stupidest ever. "No, we don't carry elephants, and I don't know where you might find one" is a reasonable answer. "I don't know how to get to the Nook & Cranny Bookstore from here, but there are lots of ways to figure it out" is a reasonable answer. Why harness these hard-working employees with the task of dreaming up ways to not answer questions while irritating customers with non-answers and no help? Someone needs to take Psych 101 again!



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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