Friday, August 31, 2007


This is a little off of the Amish, but only by several degrees. Local bike racing phenom and Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis provides a unique snapshot of "plain community boy meets western culture" in his book "Positively False". It's co-written with Loren Mooney.

It was easy to spot a Mennonite kid at the
public high school where I went, because we were the quiet ones in whatever
plain clothes our parents could find for cheap- completely outside of the world
of teenage fashion.

We pedaled up in sweat-pants, t-shirts,
and sneakers on our three-hundred-dollar bikes. Everyone else had bike shorts
and jerseys, biking shoes and three-thousand-dollar bikes.

"I don't know," I said to Eric one day.
"Do you think God really cares if I wear shorts?"

By being the best junior in the
country, I earned a spot on the U.S. team going to the World Championships in
Metabief, France.

Race day, it was pouring rain. The
guys who did well were the ones who were best at jumping off their bikes and
running when the mud got deep. My bike didn't have the right tires to race in
the slick mud, and I was exhausted from being out of my element. I finished
last. Not just in the last group of riders, but dead last. I started crying
before I even reached the finish line. I just wanted to go

Even though my parents and I don't see
things the same, I believe that our way of thinking are far more similar than
they are different. We both believe in honesty, fairness, kindness, and hard
work. Those are the important things, and I wanted my mother to know that I
understood that.

Buy the book and support his efforts to hold the governing bodies of cycling accountable.
Plus it's a good read!


Kraybill in "The Riddle of Amish Culture" P. 186

In many ways, Amish youth do not have a real choice because their
upbringing and all the social forces around them funnel them toward church

for the majority who do join, the illusion of a choice
serves a critical function in adult life. Thinking they had a choice, adults are
more likely to comply with the demands of the Ordnung later in life.

Without the perception of choice- the opportunity to sow wild
oats- adult members might be less willing to comply with church rules, and in
the long run this would weaken the community's ability to exercise social
control. Many rowdy youth are "reaped" later by the church in the form of
obedient adults who willingly comply with the Ordnung because they believe they had a choice. Thus,
the wild oats tradition yields a rich harvest for the church- a cornerstone in
the group's ability to develop compliant adults.

Kraybill is spot on in his assessment that Amish kids don't really have an option in whether they join the church or not. But it's where he goes with it from there, that's the problem. How he can (in good conscience) put a positive spin on, what would normally be referred to as deception and manipulation is beyond me. Considering he's a social scientist, Kraybill's failure to recognize, that what he is describing is a social time bomb, has to be a dereliction of his duty to science.
And yet, none of this takes into account the historic importance of "choosing membership" in the founding principles of Anabaptist doctrine. The real story is; how did a sacred component of Amish faith become an empty farce? Nothing more than the crass machinations to be expected from a "run of the mill" dictatorship.
And why is it that the Amish (being the good people, a lot of us know them to be) haven't been able, through reform, to address this issue?

Shame on you Kraybill, for portraying vitality where there's only empty decay!

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Va. Tech President Defends Himself
By Hank Kurz Jr. And Vicki SmithAssociated Press Writers
Published: Aug 30, 2007 8:23 PM EST

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - With anguished parents demanding his firing,
Virginia Tech's president bristled at suggestions Thursday that he bears
responsibility for the bloodbath on campus, calling it a crime "unprecedented in
its cunning and murderous results."
At a news conference where he was grilled
about an independent panel's conclusion that lives could have been saved had the
school warned the campus sooner that a killer was on the loose, Charles Steger
suggested there may have been nothing anyone could have done to stop the April
16 rampage by gunman Seung-Hui Cho that left 33 people dead

If there's no real opposition, the questions aren't asked, and then we will never know.


Report: Va. Tech Could Have Saved

By Kristen Gelineau Associated Press Writer

Virginia Tech officials could have saved
lives if they had quickly issued a campuswide warning that two students had been
shot to death in a dormitory and their killer was on the loose, a panel that
investigated the attacks said.

So where is the "panel" on the Nickel Mines incident? If the Nickel Mines incident isn't reviewed with the same rigor as other shootings, does that imply that the lives of little Amish girls aren't equal to the lives of non-Amish students?


Plain Sect farmers get county's attention

Intelligencer Journal

Today, the commissioners are expected to approve providing $50,000
over two years to Lancaster County Conservation District to hire a Plain Sect
outreach coordinator

"The primary focus of the position will be connecting Plain Sect
farmers to various programs, both public and private, that may be beneficial to
their farming operations," said Don McNutt, director of the county conservation

Will it also be okay for Amish people who aren't farmers, to avail themselves of other government programs, like welfare? Or are the Amish just a reflection of the larger culture they live in? ie; giving tax breaks to the wealthy is good, support for the less fortunate is bad.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I attended the conference "the Amish in America" at Elizabethtown college June 7-9 2007. At a session on agricultural safety, the presenter used a slide show with graphs showing statistics on injuries and fatalities of plain community children. Right at the moment a graph showed that, the disproportionate amount of those injuries are work related, the presenter told us how he wishes he could get his children to do more work. His entire presentation was a flippant dismissal of the idea that the government should be involved in farm safety at all.
I mentioned the aggravating circumstances that leave plain community children increasingly at risk, during the response period. He didn't respond to my question, but instead prattled on about something irrelevant. I confronted him afterwards in the hall, and the first thing he said to me was, "you're the guy that asked the embarrassing question".
What the hell is the purpose of an institution of higher learning? To give meat heads like this guy a platform to spout his propaganda?


The status associated with farming, property ownership, and entrepreneurial success in the Amish community is creating socioeconomic class disparity. Amish people who engage in these activities receive privileges unattainable by those who don't.
My father would invite us to go to my brother's farm for a working / social visit on a Saturday. This kind of inter-action is one of the Amish people's strengths. The dirty secret is that if you're living in a rental property, and work as an employee you are not very likely to be the host for one of those legendary barn raising's. The Amish haven't come to terms with the fact that they aren't solely agrarian anymore. So the paradigm that once worked well, is now setting them up for a classic fall from grace. To bad their authoritarian leadership has such a strangle-hold on dissenting voices. The fall wouldn't have to be so hard if they didn't.

Friday, August 24, 2007


About 5 years ago my now ex-wife's 80 year old father was missing for 24 hours. He left his home in Leola in the morning with a horse and buggy to attend a family gathering in Reinholds. It should have taken about an hour to arrive. He never showed up. He had become lost and wasn't found until the following morning. The family was distraught when nightfall arrived and he hadn't been found. A non-Amish friend and I spent several hours driving around looking for him. A severe thunder storm with torrential rain passed through the area around eleven PM, which made driving hazardous and limited visibility, so we went home, planning on renewing our efforts in the morning.

Because I couldn't sleep, and because I needed someone to talk to, I called another non-Amish friend. Even though it was now 1 AM, he generously helped me plan how to maximize our efforts for the morning. He counseled me to call the police, even though my wife's family had already reported Dad missing, he recommended trying to elicit a specific response of if and when they would issue a missing person alert and what additional measures they could enact.
I took his advice and was told by police that they had to wait for 24 hours to pass before taking any action. That decision, they told me, would be made by the officer coming on duty at 7 AM.

Having taken the "official response" part of our strategy as far as I could for the time being, I turned my focus to getting "missing person" fliers printed and distributed. The new day that was approaching was a Sunday, so I taped fliers to church doors and handed them out to early risers,wherever I found them.
At some point that morning I received a disorienting sequence of phone calls. First the day shift officer called to say they had put out a missing person alert, but they wouldn't be able to organize an official search. A short time later my friend called me to say he had just spoken with the police and they were dispatching several local fire companies to aid in the search. I didn't have much time to think about it at the time, but I recall saying "what did you say, that I hadn't said, to create such a different response?" Within seconds the officer called back to inform me of the revised plans.

So why was my non-Amish friend able to elicit a far greater response from the police than I was?

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Headline in this mornings Intelligencer Journal

More anguish over Nickel Mines

Read article here.


Will there be a review of the police response to the Nickel Mines school shooting?

Was hostage protocol followed?

Was the hostage protocol that was in place appropriate or effective for a one room school?

If a review is done, will it be available to the public?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


One of the chapters in Pauline Stevick's "Beyond the Plain and Simple" is titled "An Amish Intellectual". In it she writes;

Reuben is unusual in that he is more perceptive than most human beings,
English or Amish, and I often find myself challenged by his intellect. His
education has obviously not terminated with his eight years of formal

he can't resist reading what is being written about his people. Sometimes
he responds in writing himself. When he does, the average reader may find it
difficult to discern that the critique has not been drafted by a person with
advanced degrees.

Reuben is often more adept at evaluating our way of life than we are at
understanding his.

Reuben demonstrates remarkable ability to communicate to groups as
well as individuals. He has been a speaker on at least two occasions to
assemblages at a local college. Once he addressed the behavioral science
department at a dinner, and another time he served on a panel with a lawyer and
a businessman, speaking to a group of over 250 students on lifestyle issues. A
professor who attended the session remarked afterward that his was easily
the most organized and articulate presentation of the

He sounds like a sharp dude. Stevick writes that Reuben is now a bishop. I wonder if he will give his congregants the liberty to pursue the development of their intellects, or will they experience the "arbitrary, iron-fisted, and totalitarian control" of which the existence of, Reuben dismissed in his letter to the producers of ABC's 20/20 "The Secret of the Amish."

Stevick excerpts the letter.

With perfect aplomb, the reporter tells us that 20/20's search for truth has
revealed a dark side of Amish culture that heretofore has been hidden behind a
facade of quaint, pastoral tranquility. And now, for the first time in the
history of journalism, the true, correct, and completely honest account of Amish
culture has finally been revealed for all the world to see: Amish bishops rule
with an arbitrary, iron-fisted, and totalitarian control, which leaves their
constituency with no meaningful choices in life; and Amish parents habitually
abuse their children.

His use of the word "constituency," is certainly not a fair way to describe the relationship between Amish leadership and their congregants. It is, representative of the "political spin meister" nature of Reuben's writings.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Pauline Stevick in "Beyond the Plain and Simple" does excerpts from the letters of an Amish man she calls Reuben.

Horse and buggy travel is not seen as a handicap. The Amish
are forced to travel wisely; a taxi may be hired if necessary. Businesses
start small. By design they fill a niche that large corporations over-look or
cannot fill. Electronic marvels are rivaled by creative mechanical ingenuity and a dedicated work ethic...As for schooling, victims of today's corporate downsizing are acutely aware that job security is not an automatic adjunct to a degree.

Kraybill is not the only one who has drunk the kool-aid.

The problems of an eighth grade education aren't just about employment and Reuben knows it, but does he say peep about it? Noooo.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Kraybill in the foreword of Beyond the Plain and Simple, by Pauline Stevick

Stevick takes us on an Amish journey that reveals the ways
that we share many of their struggles and concerns.
Perhaps most important is the sense of Amish
agency that emerges from the text.
We hear real Amish people talking about their delights and fears.
And as we hear them speak we realize that although we stand on the other
side of a cultural fence, all of us- Amish and English- share common
bonds of humanity.
That, perhaps, is the most important contribution of this
intriguing collection of stories that takes us
far beyond the plain and simple postcard stereotypes.

It's nauseating to see Kraybill refer to the common bonds of humanity between the Amish and English as important. When, from my perspective, Kraybill has taken great liberty to omit the human story of the Amish.

As a young man I realized that it was possible to learn from other peoples' experience and that basically the human story was my story. It was exhilarating to realize that the issues I struggled with, had been experienced and documented by someone before me.

Not that I'm a psychologist, but I suspect my newly minted solidarity with humanity, conversely heightened my sense of uniqueness. So naturally I ended up searching for writings that were ever more similar to my specific situation.
It's important to understand that at this point in my life I was (and had been for a long time) acutely aware of the lack of accurate portrayals in literary works of my people. So when I stumbled across Kraybill's "the Riddle of Amish Culture" I was astonished at his accuracy and familiarity of the Amish.

So I devoured it, practically in one sitting. I can still feel myself sitting at the kitchen table. (it's the most practical area for everyone to utilize one light source) Even after everyone else had gone to bed I didn't move to a comfortable chair or sofa. As the night wore on the sinking feeling in my stomach sank lower and lower. In spite of his intimacy with Amish life and his skilled observer role, Kraybill was only going to address certain issues, like a politician who can talk at great length and in great detail, but intentionally leaves something unaddressed.

After having endured my entire life with only the most ridiculous, ignorant garbage being written about the Amish, the one guy who finally knows what he is talking about, does a white wash.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


What's important to recognize about Beverly Lewis's "The Redemption of Sarah Cain" and the resulting movie, "Saving Sarah Cain" is that these works are a part of the proselytizing of the Amish by fundamentalist Christians. So not only do they shamelessly exploit the Amish brand name for financial gain, while demeaning Amish faith, but they also serve as evangelizing efforts in and of themselves.

Meanwhile who tells the Amish side of the story? Who tells of the problems in Amish culture that make the Amish susceptible and vulnerable to the onslaught of the proselytizing hoards? Who will stand up for the weak and innocent when the warring dogmas clash?

Friday, August 17, 2007


Larry Alexander in the Intell.

Lancaster County will get national television exposure this weekend as "Saving
Sarah Cain" debuts on the Lifetime network
. Read the rest here.

As I've posted before, the book this movie is based on, is happy to use the Old Order Amish for marketing purposes, but it takes a condescending and demeaning view of Old Order Amish faith. How shamelessly exploitative will these people get before someone tells them to go take a bleeping hike?

A movie that would do an expo'se on the vicious predatory proselytizing of the Amish, by fundamentalist Christians is what we really need.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


If there would've been a medium for me to give voice to the issues I wrestled with as an Amish person, I would still be Amish. The result may have been that the Amish Would Have changed a bit. Is that a bad thing?
After having paid the price that I did, for being true to my conscience. It is infuriating to see Rep.
Joe Pitts and Donald Kraybill, (from their privileged and exalted positions in our free and open society) aid and abet the power structure that impoverished me.

It's okay for the Amish to make the choices they do. And it's perfectly okay to respect and even celebrate the things that they do well. But western culture is damn well aware of what the flaws are in authoritarianism, and it's despicable of Pitts and Kraybill to engage with the Amish for their own
selfish gain, in a way that empowers the totalitarianism in Amish leadership.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

D. S. interviews Kraybill

Here's an interview of Kraybill by Dick Staub

entire interview here

Q. Now, when you talk about a zero divorce rate, there are within…
Some people have stereotypical notions of highly communitarian and
male-dominated cultures as cultures where there’s been kind of physical abuse
against children, or even their spouse, and it’s gone unchecked because, after
all, he’s the man. Is there any evidence of that kind of thing within the Amish

A. There are occasional cases where there’s physical abuse towards spouses
or children and sexual abuse. No one has good evidence systematically in terms
of the rapes. I do know of some cases, but my general impression is that these
are, for the most part, happy, functional, content families

Check out the "Silenced By Shame" series by Linda Esbenshade and Larry Alexander in the Intelligencer Journal and decide for yourself, if Kraybills' answer is propaganda, or the response of a peer reviewed social scientist.

It's behind a subscription and archive wall.

Q. Wow. So any heads up on what we should be watching for on Amish in the
City as we close our time?

A. I don’t think we should watch it. Turn your television off, Dick.

Not that Amish in the city was anything special.

But, good call there Kraybill, then the only thing available on the Amish is the crap you produce. Great.


Here's a quote from the "Silenced By Shame" series by Linda Esbenshade in the July 13th 2004 Intelligencer Journal.

Often a woman has no money, no access to money, no awareness of social
services, plus they have been terrorized on how bad the government is.

So where is Kraybill on this perspective of how the government is portrayed in the plain community? Did he intentionally omit it, or is his work just so lame that he never saw it?

Oh right, If he's a propaganda mouth-piece for the leaders, then it's not something he would expound on.


From this mornings Intell

The Conestoga Valley school board voted Monday night to
sell the Penn Johns school building to Ressler Mill Foundation.

Read entire article here

Penn Johns School was one of the last places where Amish and non-Amish people could form social bonds that originated in childhood. The day will come when we will pay dearly to create what happened naturally at Penn Johns.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Having been on a tear about how the Amish are portrayed, there are two books on the Amish that don't get my knickers in a twist.



The Amish Year by Charles S. Rice, Rollin C. Steinmetz

It's not that they're great works, but when the rest is so awful, they're a cool drink of water on a hot summer day.


There's an absolutely scorching letter to the editor in this mornings Intell.

The Republicans call people like me -- thinking people
who have always been against the travesty of a war in Iraq -- cowards or
unpatriotic. I have a challenge for these "patriots." If the United States is
indeed locked in a struggle for our very survival as a civilization, then why
don't people like George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Joe Pitts, Bill
O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, etc., quit their cushy jobs, pack their rucksacks and
engage these terrorists? Why don't the people of the myriad "religious" groups,
that came out in record numbers in 2004 to support a war-monger send their kids
to Iraq

It's written by Bob Hagen. Read the entire letter here

I think the Amish should apologize publicly, for there support of Bush in the 2004 election

Saturday, August 11, 2007


The "Lancaster New Era's" lead editorial has some statistics on car and buggy accidents.

There's a story told in my family of how my Father as a teenager, would allow his horse to find its' own way home, on Sunday nights while he slept. I recall my older brothers bringing it up, during one of Moms' lectures, about being safe on the roads. She claimed he only did it, after having crossed Rte. 23 and only had two miles left to travel. There's also the fact that, the road he was on, may still have been gravel at the time.

My memory high-lights the change in traffic conditions the Amish have had to deal with. The increased number and velocity of motor vehicles (not to mention the size of inter-sections) is not the only change affecting horse and buggy travel.
The Amish also have changed in ways that exacerbate, the car and buggy mix on our roads. Because there is an increasing number of Amish in non-farming jobs, their affinity to horsemanship is decreased. Not only does their day job take them away from the horse, which in today's conditions needs to be controlled infinitely more than in the past, but the children not raised on a farm are immeasurably disadvantaged when it comes to the skills needed to drive a horse on today's roads. With the girls being the most vulnerable. see post below

As I pointed out in the post below, The affluent will have the ability to take the afternoon off to give their daughter driving lessons. Woe unto the girl or boy whose Father comes home from work at 6:30 pm. Plus the kids get jobs away from home at 14 or 15, there go the driving lessons.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Injuries and fatalities among Amish children pose a challenge in the Amish, non-Amish relationship. Child labor is viewed from divergent perspectives. Western culture has well established laws regarding the employment of children. A prominent exemption exists in agriculture, largely on the basis, that it involves the family farm. The Amish only started working in non-farm related jobs in the last forty years. But for the first twenty years they largely worked for non-Amish employers, and so fell under the larger societies' guidelines.

It wasn't until they started to be self-employed in non-farming work that child labor laws became an issue. What bothers me most about how the Amish and their political allies have dealt with this issue, is that they want to pretend all the lessons we learned during the industrial age can be thrown out. Somehow the Amish are above it all, and they can plunge into what amounts to their, industrial age, and everything is going to be just fine and dandy. I believe it was a mistake for the Amish to seek an exemption in this situation. One of their primary concerns is to keep the government out of their affairs. If they would have just complied with the labor law requirements, their need in that respect would have been achieved. Instead they allowed a few greedy wood shop owners to entangle them with the government in a way that I believe will come back to haunt them.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


How the Amish are represented or portrayed is a passion of mine, especially if I think the effect of the portrayal is harmful. One of the ways in which a portrayal can be harmful, is when it appears to be a neutral perspective, when in fact it's biased and its actual function is that of advocacy. Donald Kraybills' work on the Amish is particularly egregious.

Here's Kraybill in "The Riddle Of Amish Culture"

As a symbol of Amish culture, the horse articulates the
meaning of several key values: tradition, time, limits, nature, and sacrifice.
As a sacred link with history, the horse provides hard evidence that the Amish
have not completely succumbed to progress. It heralds the triumph of tradition
and signals faithful continuity with the past. A counter-symbol to the
worldliness embodied in cars, the horse is tangible proof that the Amish have
not sold out to the glamour and glitter of a high-tech society. A striking
symbol of nonconformity, the horse separates the Amish from the modern world and
anchors them in the past. Over the years, the church has forbidden fancy
harnesses and decorative tack in hopes of keeping the horse undefiled. To be
content with horse-drawn travel is a sign of commitment to tradition, faith, and
the church. In this way, the horse becomes a sacred symbol.

And a page later.

As a front-stage symbol, the horse projects a
conservative public image that conveniently camouflages a multitude of
differences in income, lifestyles, and hobbies on the backstage of Amish life.
The Amish businessman who travels in a hired truck all week supervising a
multimillion-dollar business bends to tradition by driving his horse to Sunday
services. Progressive Amish who read Newsweek, limit the size of their families,
and landscape their homes can nod with affinity to their more conservative
neighbors as their horses pass each other on country roads. The horse offers
compelling proof that the Amish are still Amish while permitting a host of
changes in other areas of Amish life.

end quote

As you can see Kraybill is effusive over the horses' place in Amish life. Being an outsider to Amish culture, and a social scientist, Kraybill should be able to see the decision by Amish leaders, to use horses, as having consequences other than perfect bliss. I think Kraybill has become a propagandist for the Amish church leadership. His reward is continued access, which in turn has made him the ultimate authority on the Amish. Go figure.

Adhering to their horse and buggy ways has exacerbated the issue of class and economic inequality exponentially for the Amish. Consider the Amish Business man Kraybill refers to. While he's commuting around looking at jobs, he'll execute a host of none business related tasks like, picking up groceries (for the un-expected dinner guests), prescriptions at the pharmacy, Pedia-lite and Tylenol for the baby with a fever, dropping off one or two of the adolescent kids at the dentists office. The list goes on and on. Now let's compare that to one of his Amish workers who is picked up at 5:45 am. and returned home at 6:15 pm. (that's on a good day, sometimes it's later) Since he's traveling with a group of other workers, and he's not the boss, his autonomy to make those extracurricular stops, is very limited.
So, let's drop in at the home of our hypothetical Amish worker, and see what a typical day might be like for his wife. They have three children and another one on the way. The baby and mother are sick with the common cold. She is scheduled for a prenatal care doctors visit today,
which she has been dreading for days, not because of the visit itself, but because her means of transportation is their newly acquired horse. She acquiesced when her husband wanted to get a younger, more spirited one, after their last one became to old. While growing up her older brothers always drove, so now her skill level and confidence are woefully inadequate.

I guess Kraybill didn't interview her for the book, but you can bet the adjectives Kraybill uses aren't the ones she would choose.

But, let's take this a couple steps further. What if our hypothetical husband loses his job? Or wants to change jobs for one with less demanding hours. The limitations placed on him because of his dependence on a horse for transportation will not bring Kraybills' adjectives to mind either.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Several years ago, I was shopping for books on the Amish, at "The People's Place" in Intercourse, Pa. I inquired about a book titled "After The Fire, The Destruction Of The Lancaster County Amish" which I had read some years prior. I was told by the clerk that it had been controversial and that they didn't carry it.

Does anyone know what she may have been referring to?


My blog has a feature designed to enable me to list my favorite books or movies. I mention it to high-light how ubiquitous books and movies are to our common experience. The Amish aren't privy to the benefits of the artistic expression found in books and movies,at least, in the sense that their issues aren't explored and illuminated in the way the rest of western cultures' issues are.

Imagine what your life would be like, if all of your favorite books and movies, were never written or filmed. And then, try to imagine what western culture would have amounted to if all the great works of art, music and literature were never produced.

It's from this perspective that I look at Rep. Pitts' posturing over UPN's "Amish in the city" and the deal the Amish leaders made with the state, after Witness was filmed.

Monday, August 6, 2007


After the movie Witness was made, Amish leaders got an agreement from the state government that it wouldn't promote movies that feature the Amish.

Because the State is suppressing the normal flow of artistic productions with its' agreement to not promote movies of the Amish, it is in effect enhancing the ability of the churches authoritarian leadership to control the message. This not only determines what non-amish people see and hear, but also their own followers.

In another time and place, this would be known as state sponsored religion.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Readers of my posts maybe confused at times over whether I'm advocating for the Amish, or against them. Maybe I come across as disgruntled, or delighted to have gotten the hell out of there. Either position is actually okay with me because ultimately my goal for what I hope to achieve through my writing -bloging, is not to take sides, (after all I'm inherently a part of both cultures,) but to set up a couple fans whenever someone is blowing smoke.

Having been Amish, I'm aware of their flaws, but since I'm no longer Amish (at least not a member in good standing) I've no need to fix them. That dosen't mean as an American citizen I will patonizingly assume every thing the Amish do is just hunky-dory. There are points of contact between our cultures that need our clear headed attention. It isn't currently in vogue to think that the Amish need our values, but that dosen't mean we can suspend ours when we relate to them.

As an exAmish person I'm uniquely qualified to see the BS on our side that's directed at the Amish.


Our society as a whole is generally oblivious to the exploitation that occurs of the Amish by the non-Amish. Sometimes the exploitation occurs while the perpetrators are protesting the "exploitation" of the Amish.


From an earlier post.

The local GOP is to be commended for trying to increase voter participation, but it wasn't so long ago that Congressman Joe Pitts was in a snit about UPN's "Amish in the City," proclaiming it an assault on my people's sanctity of life. If Pitts and local campaign officials weren't so anxious to make political hay, or really knew their constituents, they would understand that, when the Amish align themselves with the government, they are violating one of their core principles in a far more detrimental way than a couple of marginalized teenagers on a reality show ever will.

The degrees of idiocy revealed in Rep. Pitts' efforts to protect the Amish from reality tv may only be apparent from an insiders perspective. So bear with me.

A prominent element of Amish faith is the scriptural admonition to be separate and apart from the world. In Amish life this isn't some vague idea, but is practiced in prescribed and established behaviors. The idea that a religious people, whose sermons are filled with praise for their Martyrs and the revelation that it was the government that persecuted them, would need Rep. Pitts to help resist the lure of reality tv, is an epic farce.

But there is an aspect of what happened between Rep. Pitts and the Amish that should concern us all. The Amish are very clear where their boundaries are and once one of their own crosses that line they are more than willing to establish that the transgressor is on his or her own. The problem is, there are, at any point in time numerous individuals who see themselves as functioning outside of the line, the Amish have drawn. But, their identity hasn't yet sufficiently coalesced into the other that the Amish boundaries insist on. In other words, unless you conform and submit you are the other.

The danger I'm trying to point out is that, while the constitution grants the Amish the freedom to practice their faith, Rep. Pitts' collusion with the Amish to project their morality onto those who aren't conforming to their standards anymore is extremely un-American. The Amish kids that are active and involved in the community don't need Rep. Pitts' protection. So the only ones left for his efforts to have an effect on are the ones who have stepped outside of the Amish communities' boundaries. Promoting the idea that they shouldn't go on a reality tv show is the same as saying, any other citizen shouldn't, which is a pretty asinine thing for a congress person to be doing.

Since the reasons Rep. Pitts gave for doing what he did are clearly bogus, there's only one explanation I can see that makes sense of his actions. Rep. Pitts used his power as an elected official of the U.S. government to promote the religious agenda of one select group of constituents, at the expense of another group, for the sole reason of garnering votes.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


The Amish don't benefit from literature and film in the way the rest of society does because their issues are not examined. Example..... Witness was about the problems of a big city cop. The Amish were just props. Sure, the Amish were portrayed well, but what if Peter Maas' only tried to portray NYC well when he wrote Serpico. I'm not suggesting that there is corruption among the Amish in need of an expo'se. But that there's a lack of awareness about the consequences of making the choices that the Amish have made. But, you say, there's a lot of good scholars doing great work on the Amish.


Donald Kraybill, a prominent scholar of the Amish is widely accepted and respected as the preeminent authority on Amish life, but I couldn't fully address my concerns without questioning the impact of his work on the community he studies and the perception it fosters in his readers.Kraybill showcases the communal values of the Amish and juxtaposes them with western cultures individualism, which is a worthy effort for a social scientist, but he fails to ask whether there is a cost to conforming to those values. Since the Amish are a closed authoritarian society, there is a poverty around self-reflective activities that normally enable societies to work through social issues and moral dilemmas. Kraybill is an outside agent that could at a minimum create language for the issues that need to be wrestled with.Labeling a problem is the first step towards determining a response. Kraybill's consistent rose colored view of Amish life colludes with the Amish leaders efforts to portray, any acknowledgment of problems within the church, as heresy. This squelches dissent or identification of problems and consequently any solutions. Because of this collusion Kraybill's legacy in the end, may be one of having harmed the community he studied.Kraybill's contribution to how the rest of the world sees the Amish is also problematic. There is a real danger if the general public's perception of the Amish is too simple or rose colored. Our relationship with the Amish is going to demand practical real life solutions. Romanticism will hinder that effort. One of the problems affecting Kraybills work is a lack of aggressive peer review. Because the Amish are a closed society it is hard for anyone else to obtain information so they can test or refute Kraybills conclusions. After the shooting at the Amish school in Nickel Mines Kraybill was reported to have given over one hundred interviews. It doesn't matter how accurate he is on ninety percent of his work, with that kind of coverage if ten percent of his work is flawed, with no other works to serve as an emollient for his errors, the damage can be enormous.