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.

Concussion Bait - Change the Rule!

Let's give Barry Church and the Jaguars the benefit of the doubt. Let's take #42 at his word when during an interview on WEEI radio he said, "I just tried to dislodge the ball. He's a big dude, and I was just trying to dislodge the ball. It's the toughest play in football. If you go low for the knees you are considered a dirty player, and if you go high, they throw the flag at you. It's a bang-bang play, and I was just trying to play football. I tried to lead with my shoulder."

Let's acknowledge that fellow DB Richard Sherman's evaluation is 100% right on: "The hit on Gronk is the only way Church could have done his job without just obliterating Gronk's knee. If he would have just hit him low most ppl would calm him dirty. So there is nothing he can do to make everyone happy and do his job. Unless you think he should let him catch."

And then let's look at the result of the play. The Jags get a fifteen yard penalty, and the Pats' most impactful player other than their quarterback, is out of the game. This could not be more unfair. Initially, the Jags are affected for one play while the Pats offensive arsenal is reduced for every subsequent offensive play. Additionally, at least in this case, the player that had to leave the game was a big scoring threat and key offensive leader. So the result of the play as the rules stand is that the team that committed the foul suffers only very slightly, while the offended team suffers greatly. All of this without having yet gotten to the part where a young man's short-term, and very possibly long-term health is affected and risked. While both players' quotes above may be true and right on, they do not justify giving someone a concussion.
  • If a helmet-to-helmet hit causes a player to leave the game to go into concussion protocol, the player that hit him has to leave the game for the same amount of time. That's fair.
On the dark side:
Today's NFL is not the game of football that I fell in love with in the 70s and 80s. By working to reduce the violence and brutality in what is an inherently violent and brutal sport, the NFL has altered the very essence of the game. Plays that only a very short twenty-five-or-so years ago brought cheers and glee now bring cringes and foreboding … and rightly so.

The story of Mike Webster's tragic demise, the suicides of Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, and the ever-growing number of players suffering from, and gruesome tales of the effects of CTE have affected us all.

Although the American zeitgeist has shifted to accept and embrace a more sanitized NFL, it seems as if that discarded essence of the game refuses to die, and is haunting locker rooms, coaches offices, officials' meetings and the living rooms of old-time fans, asking its troubled question: "It's still football, isn't it?"

You can hear it even when it isn't being asked!

"You can't hit 'em high, you can't him 'em low. How are we supposed to play defense?" [It's still football, isn't it?]

"C'mon Ref! How in the heck is that a foul?" [It's still football, isn't it?]

"The time has actually arrived when we should put skirts on the quarterbacks!" [It's still football, isn't it?]

How many football coaches ask themselves that question every day? How many of the veteran coaches that played in the 70s and 80s still hold that version of football in their hearts? How many of the approximately four hundred head coaches, coordinators and assistant coaches employed by NFL teams, in the middle of what might be a career-changing game that isn't going their way, facing having to again uproot his family and move to yet another new town, might suggest to a DB that it sure would be convenient for us if #85 had to leave with a concussion? Zero out of four hundred seems like long odds. To some coaches and players, it's still football, isn't it?

Hopefully, the possibly one or two coaches out of four hundred that might employ such a tactic are never in a situation in which they are empowered to do so. But the NFL needs to remove even the slightest temptation by making a simple rule change:
  • If a helmet-to-helmet hit causes a player to leave the game to go into concussion protocol, the player that hit him has to leave the game for the same amount of time.
If DBs are faced with what amounts to an ejection for a helmet-to-helmet hit, the helmet-to-helmet hits will go away. Where and how the DBs are supposed to defend is another problem, but the answer can't be helmet-to-helmet.

Lastly, and sadly, the answer is, "No, not really; it's only kinda still football." It will be interesting to see what the league looks like ten or fifteen years from now, after today's parents have disallowed their kids to play youth football, and more players choose to end both college and pro careers early. Will it still be football?

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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