Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tis the season

I do a lot of bitching about what I don't like, here's a couple things that I enjoyed!

Chet Williamson does a parody of the Christmas classic "Twas the Night before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore called "Pennsylvania Dutch, Night Before Christmas". It's illustrated by James Rice 
(see if we can get a couple verses in without ver-hutzen the Copyright police)

It vas night before Christmas, und all over the farm,
Nothing vas schusslich,* no cause for alarm.
The socks vere all hung by the chimney chust so,
Vith the hopes they get filled up from ankle to toe.

The nixnootzes schnoozing vithout any sound-
In their heads clear toy candies been dancing around.
And Mama and me , vell, ve outened the light,
Crawled under the covers, and schnuggled up tight.

*schusslich  (SHUS-LICK)- moving around

I could maybe get in a twist about the translation of "schusslich" not being accurate but I guess I'm going soft in my old age. I was reading to the grandkids the other day and since it's Christmas time I thought I would read them the original version of "Twas the Night before Christmas". So I asked my wife if we had an illustrated book of it and she said "no, but we have a Pennsylvania Dutch version of it". My heart kind of sank because I really didn't expect it to be any good. (I'm just so fricken used to being disappointed when it comes to writing about the Amish) But to my surprise it turned out that I liked it! I think the grandkids liked it to! 

Some dude named Belsnickel has replaced Santa Claus. I grew up Amish and had never heard of him so that was just a tad foreign for me, but for some reason, replacing the reindeer with cows was infinitely charming for me. The whole damn schtick is hokey to begin with, so why can't we have a hokey story that's hokey our way? 
(a couple more verses)

Four cows and four steers-they vere harnessed somehow,
And vere dragging behind them an old-fashioned plow,
And there, chust behind it, as sour as a pickle,
Vas a fella ve knew had to be the Belsnickel!
"Now Jakie, now Becky! Now Rachel, Josiah!
On Menno, on Sarah! Esther! Obadiah!
And vatch vhere you're going! There's nothing unviser 
Than stamping your hoofs into stray fertilizer!"

The realism of the fertilizer reference is superb. Williamson makes use of the weight difference between cows and reindeer to use this line "I'll send over Stolzfus your broke roof to fix."
The idea that "our Santa Claus" would know Stolzfus and would tell him about our broken roof, personalizes the myth for me.  Even though I'm unfamiliar with Belsnickel, Williamson has him behaving so like one of us, that I can't help but recognize him. 

(talking about side stepping cow shit, for Gods sake! and passing along a message to someone in the community because he's going that way. Meanwhile the dude is Santa Claus, try holding that picture in your mind!) I Loved it!

Not to mix apples with oranges here but there's this person posing as an Amish girl on Twitter. I'm pretty sure that it is not an actual Amish person who's leaving the posts. But having said that, the posts are Amish oriented and I think they're actually quite funny. Enjoy

Friday, December 19, 2008

npr does it, why not me to?

Want a safe bet in the mortgage world? Try the Amish

The entire planet's mortgage crisis could have been so easily averted. If only all of us were Amish.

The original article romanticized the Amish. This one does it even more brazenly. How about mentioning what else we would be missing out on if we would all be Amish? Like Polio vaccine, or something really simple that even the Amish use, but wouldn't exist if we depended on them for it, like children's Tylenol.

The problem here is that the Amish are being related to as if they weren't really a coherent viable entity. Like, say for example, someone who isn't very health conscious might relate to one of those milkshake drinks that are supposed to be good for you. The thing is probably going to get pitched after a couple of sips or just flat out forgotten.

That's in direct opposition to what the article conveys at face value, which is the idea that our lives would all somehow, magically be better, if only we were more like the Amish.
The author never bothers to understand the Amish and our relationship with them and vice versa, enough to know whether the references used have any validity or make sense.

What contempt she must have for the Amish?

What concerns me is, when will this blatant indifference towards the Amish start showing up in public policy towards the Amish? Or has it already?

npr poops on the Amish

NPR does the typical erroneous portrayal of the Amish here.

Don't get me wrong, there's some scary stuff going on in the financial world and if Amish farmers are making their mortgage payments and that contributes to the banks staying solvent, I don't mind hearing about it!

That said, this piece so distorts reality that it should never have made it past the editor's desk in it's current form.

The producers of this piece submitted wholeheartedly to the old canard that the Amish are somehow impervious to the things that effect the non-Amish. The message was unmistakable, (stability vs. chaos).

Convenient omission number one. Over 50% of the Amish in Lancaster county aren't farmers. What about their mortgages or incomes?

Omission number two, the money that pays off the loans for the farms? Where do you think it comes from? Let me let you in on a little secret, it's not because people are paying $20.00 a gallon for bessie the cow's milk! Simple fact, the money that pays off the farm is not being generated on or by the farm!

The money that's paying for those Amish farm mortgages is coming from tourist trinkets, quilts, manufacturing jobs, construction jobs, if the general economy goes south, so will those Amish loan payments.

The implied message of the article is that the Amish aren't effected by the financial crisis the way the rest of society is. Whenever they're covering the Amish the media reaches for this theme like a drug addict reaching for a crack pipe, they absolutely, positively, can't help themselves.

There was a time when an agrarian life to some extent shielded the Amish from western culture's convulsions. The violence on campuses and civil rights protests during the sixties, or earlier labor disputes that got really ugly are examples, of what one could say, the Amish took a raincheck on.

But they're not isolated anymore. It will be of little consequence how well they or their bank is doing at this point, if our economy implodes there's no way those Amish farm loans won't be adversely effected.

So exactly what was this story about?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Using the Amish

"The permit itself might not be so bad, but to change your lifestyle to have to get one, that's against our convictions," Borntreger said as he sat in his kitchen with his wife, Ruth.

If his convictions were important enough to him, he would seek a solution other than just defiantly ignoring a law he knows his neighbors are required to abide by. He's turning the teaching about "going the extra mile" on it's head if you ask me.

"They just go ahead and don't listen to any of the laws that are affecting anybody else. It's quite a problem when you got people next door required to get permits and the Amish don't have to get them," said Gary Olson, a county supervisor in central Wisconsin's Jackson County, where Borntreger lives.

This defiant posture is particularly out of character for the Amish whose faith asks of them, "to be like strangers in a foreign land, towards civil authority". It makes me question whether the Amish in these cases are being "coached" or egged on by non-Amish acquaintances, who want to push back against zoning regulations and are using the Amish to advance their cause.

The recent political atmosphere has repeatedly produced a marriage of the conservative agenda and the Amish.

Here's a letter to the editor I wrote that highlights the incongruities of such a relationship;

"the Amish have, only recently, successfully petitioned Congress for an exemption to child-labor laws prohibiting people under the age of 18 from working in woodshops. Amendment HR 1943 sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts and signed by President Bush in January 2004 permits Amish children, ages 14 to 18, to work in woodshops but prohibits operation of machinery.

It makes little sense that a community known for its generous charity to each other would seek, through a child-labor law exemption, to gain access for their children to work in an area known to be fraught with injury and death.

The minority views attached to HR 221 reveal no hearings were held where opposition views could be presented, the Department of Justice was not given enough information to make a decision on the constitutionality of the proposed legislation and it was stuck onto the end of the year Omnibus appropriations bill (HR 2673) which ruled out debate and an up or down vote on its own merit.

A chilling display of Republican arrogance and disdain for the deliberative process. Conservative ideology agrees with Amish belief when it insists government interference is always bad. But Republicans have a track record of passing legislation that favors the rich and powerful while leaving the weak and the poor to fend for themselves.

Are these the kind of values the Amish community wants to be known for?"

We're expected to buy this argument that the Amish are unable to practice their faith because of the big bad zoning requirements, and yet, there has never been a time in all of their history in which they've enjoyed such a cozy relationship with the civil authorities.

Here in lancaster county President Bush has repeatedly had these "spontaneous" (yeah right, these things are never spontaneous!) private, no press allowed, meet and greets with the Amish.

Here's my take on it. I smell a rat, and it's not wearing a broad brimmed hat!

Friday, December 5, 2008


I like what John Ruth had to say about the application of Matt 18 which is the model of church discipline. When Jesus spoke about the one who rejects the counsel of the ecclesia
(church community) he is to be unto us as a heathen and tax-collector.

Before we take this to mean that we are to despise such persons, we should remember that Jesus himself socialized with tax-collectors and had friendly relations with Non-Jews. So what he means in his statement regarding the person who rejects the counsel of the circle is that he may be told, ‘We’ll be neighbors, and we’ll treat you as fairly as anybody but we won’t call it church’.

In effect, you are not in the church if you don’t listen to it. Just as, if as batter you want to call balls and strikes yourself, it’s not baseball. What ‘shunning’ is about is how to relate to someone who on bended knee has promised in the presence of the covenanted circle to obey Christ and the Church and then leaves that particular covenant. End Quote

I think the umpire reference reveals the archaic, subject versus ruler, reality of the Amish church member. There's a lot of happy talk by folks like Kraybill, that the ordnung is mutually agreed upon. It's all a bunch of shit! There's no debate, no discussion, no dissent, nothing that could ever be construed as being an open forum. Sure everyone agrees, but can it truely be said that it's not under duress?

Holding that thought, he contradicts himself here

It is important to remember there is no sacramental value on the ban to the point a banned one is considered as going to hell. The Lord is still the final judge.

If they're not going to hell;

And as to what it is like when somebody does return. The parable of the lost sheep in Matt 18 is very descriptive. Many tears are shed and there is a feeling of restoration.

What are all the tears for? If the bitch ass, black sheep, mother fucker would've just stepped out for some air you wouldn't be bawlin your fool head off, now would you?
(sorry, sometimes it just all comes out at once.)

Sometimes I wonder if the Amish haven't become a very close reflection of western culture. And shunning is just one of those tricks (like the corporate world uses) to dump their dregs, leaving them with a sexy bottom line.
We're starting to understand that when Walmart uses an accounting gimmick to deprive employees of health care insurance eligibility, we as a society pick up the tab.

The Amish peoples practice of shunning may have a price that's being paid by the rest of society also.

The main character in the documentary "Devil's Playground" ended up in jail for drug related offenses.

How many ex-Amish people are wards of the state? Mental institutions, prisons, homeless, on welfare, whatever. Do they really take care of there own?