“Plain Intolerance” Amish documentary

Two weeks ago we looked at growth of the Amish in Tennessee.  This documentary (now unavailable) examines Amish expansion near the town of Moira, New York.  Karen Johnson-Weiner provides some good commentary.  I found the various reactions of the locals particularly interesting.

What do you think?

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    1. Amy Jo

      “Plain Intolerance” Amish documentary

      Very interesting. This came across to me as a true documentary – it seemed as unbiased as possible wjile presenting positives and negatives. I think the reactions of the non-Amish in the area to be most like those of most other places. There were those more tolerant than others. Change is not easy for most people no matter the situation and the perceived less positive reactions of non-Amish and Amish presented here seem to me to reflect the people’s response to change or ‘differentness’ to me. I would be interested in a follow up with the same individuals in a few years to see if perceptions, or the like, have changed. I do think we tend to be very cautious when presented with ‘different’ – it can sometimes seem to be a threat to what we have accepted as our normal, right, and good. I also had a brief wistfulness, I guess – cheap farmland, living close to the land, living in community with others and in a less populated area seems – aaahhh. Then, I snap out of it, realize I am an old woman who seems stuck – and grateful I can at least experience these things, let’s say, somewhat vicariously. I also fall to whims of rambling! 😉 Thank you, Erik, for the post!

      1. Amy Jo I think it’s generally harder when it’s a more conservative group that is not as naturally inclined to interact with the non-Amish population. That’s probably not a hard and fast rule, but intuitively I think it makes sense. More mainstream groups are probably more likely to hold events such as auctions that could involve non-Amish. Karen Johnson-Weiner has some good observations on differing reactions to different groups in her book New York Amish.

    2. Alice Aber


      I found that quite interesting. Unfortunately I have observed similar points of view in other areas of the country. It seems to be you either “love, respect” the Amish or you “hate, don’t respect” them. In our modern world there are those who want to go faster, want what they want now and have no respect for others whether they be Amish or not. In general our modern day society has become very selfish with zero tolerance for others if they percieve them as getting in their way.

      We also have a group of people who want to slow down, go back to the old ways, a bit of nostalgia. I believe that group of people have more respect for the Amish because they long for a similar life. Maybe not as strict as some would call it but the simpler life.

      When I got to the Amish area in Arthur, IL I enjoy slowing down. I feel a sense of peace just taking my time. But I do respect their way of life and I too would love to go back to the old ways. 🙂

      Thanks Erik this was an excellent post and I enjoyed watching the video.

      Blessings, Alice

    3. New York State of Mind

      I really enjoyed the documentary especially seeing that I live in New York State and not far from some Amish areas. So many farms are being sold now days do to recession and having a bad year. It is good to see the Amish come in and take them over. When fruit and vegetable season there is nothing like going and buying from an Amish or Mennonite farm. You know it doesn’t have all sorts of sprays and stuff on it like the non-Amish or non-Mennonites use. This year I bought my first home made maple syrup from an Amish man. He said once you use-you won’t buy that store stuff-and he’s right. I am glad to see the farms. I do know about the horse manure you sometimes have to drive through. I do know what it’s like being behind a buggy and you want to pass it-but can’t. To me farms are America. I hate to see farms being sold and housing developments in their instead.

    4. Rich S

      Well done student documentary

      I know second hand, at least, how much work these students put in to their 14 minute documentary. It was finely nuanced in showing the conflicts with the English that invariably rise in the “neighborhood.” I remember my initial shock years ago when we moved into Lancaster County to find that many of the locals were far less interested in and entranced by their plain neighbors than my wife and I. Anyway, this was an A plus project, in my less than humble opinion. Karen Johnson-Weiner’s thoughtful commentary was right on the money. Her book on the Amish of New York offers an excellent and informative overview of the wide varities of Amish affiliations and expressions in the Empire State. Machs goot, Rich S

    5. Mixed feelings. This is sort of like Muslims moving into the heart of my neighborhood. I am not comparing Amish with Muslims. All I am saying is I know the mixed feelings of the locals.

      1. Traci Banville

        To Katie Troyer – The difference being that the Amish have been here in some places since 1670, are American citizens, speak English ( as well as their own dialect),do not have a “controversial” reputation, etc. etc. etc.

    6. Kim in NY

      comment on "Plain Intolerance" Amish documentary

      Seems balanced, interesting, well done! Thanks for sharing, Erik!

    7. Roberta

      As I was watching the video I saw a range of reactions similar to ones I see here but think some people were holding back because they were being taped. The men here who are concerned about “things” on the road have never called it “exhaust” even in front of me (the white haired library lady).

      The Amish here live much as I imagine my own family lived around 1900. There are a few things that bother me about their old fashioned ways; their treatment of animals, for example. But if I turn around and look at my English neighbors, I see many more things they do that bother me. I see them leaving the tavern drunk and driving past my house at 30 mph over the speed limit. I see them write bad checks. I hear them yelling threats at town board meetings and see them vandalizing the cemetery. So which ones make better neighbors?

    8. Annmarie

      I watched this documentary about a week or so ago…along with another about a Dr. Holmes Morton who opened a children’s clinic in Strasburg, Pa to treat Amish/Mennonite genetic disorders. I thought both were great documentaries which truly gave you an inner glimpse into their community. As far as change goes, sometimes it is a good thing and other times it is a bad thing. When I see how far “we as a people” have fallen…that is when I dislike change.

      1. Annmarie thanks for mentioning the Holmes Morton doc, I probably ought to dig that one up and share it here.

    9. Felicia

      Plain Intolerance

      Thank you for giving us the opportunity to see this documentary. It becomes increasingly hard for me to watch these videos of people who live in the “land of the free” and want to smite their neighbor. I don’t believe I am being overly critical or harsh when I say that plain intolerance, in general, is plain ignorance! I live in the heart of the south, where tolerance is PARAMOUNT! My heart stirs for a people who just want to be left alone to live how they “choose” to live. We each choose our own lives and out of “inconvenience,” there are those who would try to make it hard for a people who choose to live a life “separate” from this world. It’s also astonishing to me that there are those who would dare make comments about riding behind a buggy and having to “dodge” a natural substance, while they don’t mind another riding behind their vehicle as it expels exhaust exposing them to “unnatural” substances or inflicting cigarette smoke and exposing others to second hand smoke, which is unnatural, all for their freedom and choice to live that way. We live in a self exposed, hypocritical society that is on a downward spiral, which if we dared to live a quarter of their lifestyle, most certainly would stand a lot to gain! They aren’t perfect, but they don’t claim to be. They just claim who they are and want to live how they choose….just like the rest of America!

    10. Andrea

      America should be blessed to have the Amish there

      Hi found this very intresting, people should be glad that they are living along side the Amish. They are very enviromentaly friendly, some are a little more open to talk to folk, guess it comes down to how strict they are with talking to the english folks. I live in the uk but have found that a lot of the Amish values of simple living and following there faith to reach out too others is a lesson we all can learn ( born Again Amish like Mirian and Dave). We have a lot we can learn from the Amish, we that are christians often forget others in God’s world because we are often so self focaused that we miss what jesus teaches . I myself are trying to live a more simple and plain life. And do you know my life is better for this. I only found out about the Amish last year and have read so many books about them, they have lots of things right in this world, family is the key, marriage is the key but most of all Jesus Christ is lord of there lives.

    11. Ann Whitaker

      Pushing past intolerance

      Erik, thank you for an interesting documentary. My hope is that people will certainly be moved to tolerance, but more importantly that they will move from mere tolerance to transformation. We have so much to learn from one another.

    12. Can’t stand the intolerance of some of the folks in the movie. Live and let live.

    13. Alice Mary

      People are people...

      This is more like it (a documentary rather than the phony “reality TV” version of Amish life)!

      I thought it was telling that the Amish man being interviewed commented that they (the Amish) ignore (I believe he said something like “…don’t need ’em”…) the English in the neighborhood who don’t want the Amish there.

      People are people, change is scary/difficult, and tolerance can at least bring about a semblance of peace while both sides are living & learning with & about one another.

      Thanks, Erik! That was pretty good for a student film!

      Alice Mary

    14. Tom in Kentucky

      I am beginning to wonder out loud if non tolerance and frustration with other groups is simply a part of human nature. Why as humans do we group everything based on some sort of loosely defined connections? Why do humans value similarities among peoples as a good thing, and chastise others who may practice a different set of living standards? Are humans afraid of other cultures that are different or are humans to prideful to admit that others may have the ability of clear rational thought? Perhaps these questions would be better left for a sociologist, anthropologist, or a seasoned philosopher. But the condition of intolerance spreads well beyond the boundaries of the plain people, in fact intolerance reaches clear around the world and leaves no community untouched. Some may even go as far as charging me of being intolerant of intolerant people. Perhaps as humans we can not escape this trap.

    15. Carolyn B

      Racial intolerance??

      I was very surprised to hear Karen’s comments re: racial intolerance.

      I know that here in MO close to the Seymour Amish Community that I have seen a couple dark-skinned kids dressed in Amish clothing following their white-skinned Amish guardians. I don’t know any Amish now personally so I can’t say if these children are adopted, being fostered, or may be biological from a rebellious teenaged relationship.

      Erik, any thoughts or information you or any commenter may have would be appreciated if anyone wishes to add to this topic. Thanks!

      1. Carolyn B

        I apologize in advance if I offended anybody by my word choices.

        I was too far away to recognize if the kids were possibly, African-American, Hispanic or mixed from either. Maybe I should have used the word “light-skinned” in referring to the Caucasian parents/guardians.

        1. Ed

          Hi Carolyn, I’m not offended by your words, but I do want to point out, that most mixed kids are not the products of a “rebellious teenaged relationship.” Lots of non-rebellious, sober-minded adults have married outside of their own race, produced wonderful kids, and grown old together. So, I’d be careful in making too many assumptions!

          1. OldKat

            Is that true?

            Ed, is that true in Amish communities as well? I think the instance that she was citing was in an Amish community.

            There may be cases of people that are ethnically non-Amish marrying into the Amish community; Marlene Miller, the lady that wrote “Grace Leads Me Home” comes to mind. However, I have never heard of anyone that was black or of any other darker skinned origin doing so. I am sure it is possible, I just don’t think it is common if it exists at all.

            1. Ed

              Old Kat, since the Amish practice endogenous marriage, I think you’re right, although the convert Erik refers to may be one exception.

        2. OldKat

          Your comments were NOT offensive

          You were merely reporting what you saw. If someone finds that offensive; well they were probably looking to be offended.

          Interesting situation regardless.

      2. There have been adoptions of non-white children by Amish, and at least one conversion I know of.

        1. Carolyn B

          Thanks for responses

          Erik, thanks to you and the other commenters for your responses re: my question about racial intolerance.

          OldKat, just want to say doubly thanks so much too. 🙂

    16. Naomi Wilson

      Some just like to complain.

      Those two ladies just sounded like they wanted something to be negative about. I bet they complain about everything. Sheesh!
      If an Amish community moved in near us, I would be doing a happy dance, that we had neighbors who showed by example a less materialistic, more Christ-centered way of living. I would be so happy if my kids grew up knowing they weren’t the only ones who were expected to work around the home instead of indulging in mindless, electronic-dependent entertainment.

    17. Ed

      Interesting documentary. It sounds like the Amish have really revived the town of Moira, NY.

      Many new immigrant groups encounter resistance when they move to a new area. But personally, I’ve with Naomi – I’d love to have Amish neighbors!

    18. Two cents

      I appreciate everyone offering their thoughts here. My hunch is that underlying distrust or ill feeling in situations like these can be remedied by simply getting to know the other party via real personal interaction, even something like a simple shared lunch. I realize that’s not really a profound observation. But maybe it’s as simple as that.

      I’m skeptical that the people who responded negatively in this video had much authentic personal contact with their Amish neighbors (and this would go both ways as the Amish family interviewed also expressed some negative feelings towards some of the English).

      On the other hand, since Amish seem so different and exotic to people who are not used to them–and since some Amish people are more inclined to keep to themselves than others–I think that means a wall of sorts is there, automatically. The instinct may be to resist knocking that wall down…and it may be harder to overcome with more closed groups (and I am referring to potentially both Amish and English communities here).

    19. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      I thought

      I thought this documentary was interesting. And as a school project it was quite well done. Given the time restraints, it showed the good and the bad of things. I can’t comment on the state’s infrastructure spending habits, because I don’t know their budget etc, but that can be a bigger issue, buggy wheels wrecking roads, versus horse pies – tires get dirty.

      The Weird Al and Witness clips where interesting choices, I thought. Maybe the students thought it was a good idea to show the misunderstanding shown in the clip of an Amishman checking the time on a Flintstones-style sundial wrist watch, for instance, as a rather obvious exaggeration of Amish lifestyles.

    20. Cam

      Very interesting and informative. I too appreciated the documentary approach rather than “reality”.
      It seems to me that both groups actually have many things in common- living in a smaller community
      and possibly the desire to live a more simple life. Erik, I think you have a great point about interaction.
      It’s very difficult to teach somebody to be tolerant. As the gentlemen at the city hall said “it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be.” Perhaps it’s what you choose to make to it .

    21. Ava

      Totally fascinating.
      It’s odd to me how many people now object to having Amish people in or near “their” English communities.
      Talking with relatives, who formerly lived in areas with high concentrations of Amish people, generally in the 1940’s through the 1980’s, they couldn’t remember anyone making negative comments about the Amish in their area.
      I wonder if this is something new, or just someone my family didn’t happen to hear about.

      1. It could have more to do with the particular Amish group that settles an area. Some groups by nature are more insular.