Why are Amish targeted for harassment?
Attacks against Amish have a long history. These have ranged from verbal abuse to more serious offenses such as theft, vandalism, and arson.
In some cases, Amish have been injured or even killed. A series of barn burnings in Big Valley, PA in the early 1990s, or targeted assaults and robberies against Amish in the Nappanee, Indiana area, are just a couple of the more serious recent examples.
In a series of incidents in Steuben County, New York, Amish have suffered broken windows and arson (most, though not all victims here have been Amish).
Describing the Amish victims, the county sheriff had this to say: “In this case, they’re basically being terrorized up there in the late hours at night with objects striking the house and such,” Ordway said. “They keep to themselves until it gets to the point where they can’t tolerate it, and we’ve intervened.”
Why do Amish find themselves the target of attacks?
One point the NY sheriff makes: the crimes in question may have been committed by Amish themselves, a possibility they haven’t ruled out. Youth pranks (and worse) are not unheard of in some communities. Even though most Amish youth go peacefully through their running-around years, there are always wild ones.
Whether the culprits here are Plain or not, Amish evoke pretty ugly reactions in some people. A good example: the vitriol directed towards Amish, particularly online. And it’s not too hard to find in comments sections of news stories. Amish are portrayed as backwards, dumb, un-Christian, cruel, ruthless in their pursuit of money, and so on.
I only very rarely delete comments on this blog. The few times I’ve had to have been cases where commenters have taken the opportunity of a public forum and a screen name to air some pretty hateful and obscene views against Amish.
Not a thing they’d do without the cover of anonymity, I imagine.
Something about the Amish seems to bring out extremes–deep admiration in many, and in a smaller group, something quite opposite. Any thoughts why that might be the case?
Photo credit: John Oxton
I knew of a Amish woman and her daughter who were mugged in broad day light right in front of their home, and the police never heard a word about it. I asked why didn’t she tell the police, and was told ” its not something we like to do”. She and her daughter were very sweet people so its hard for me to imagine anyone wanting to take advantage of these 2 ladies. But sadly they were taken advantaged of because of their kindness, which sometimes can be a weakness for some. So i think some view the Amish as easy targets, and they know a lot wont go to the police unless its very serous in nature. I hope that i never witness that myself, and even though i most likely will be getting hurt in the process i couldn’t just stand by and watch something very bad happening to a plain person. Richard from Pennsylvania.
I truly believe that most of the hate is done because people don’t know anything abouth the Amish and in most cases would rather believe rumors than fiond out for themselves. Also, it is easy to pick on a people who will not fight back and won’t turn you in for your actions. Pretty cowardly. I try hard not to judge and fight my instinct not to try and find and get those types of people. Guess it it just the way I feel about bullies in general. There certainly needs to be more education about the Amish.
I knew the Amish people were in their own life, but never knew they were so abused. I see were someone stated it was because other people did not take time to get to know them. Stop and think about that. A lot of people do not know me, do not know other folks, but I have not had or been abused by people. why should these loving, kind, decent people have to be treated this way? Why do we not stand up and take control of our Counties where the Amish live, and protect them? Why do we allow this torture to go on against these folks in our area where this is occurring? We Are No Better Than The Ones Doing These Crimes If We All Do Not Take A Stand.
Why do some people dislike/hate the Amish?
Some people get very mad that Amish will not fight, lay down their lives,for the country. So they feel they are getting a free ride off of others efforts. (1)
Some believe that Amish do not pay taxes. No one likes to pay taxes and when someone doesn’t pay what we pay some get annoyed. (2)
I think the biggest thing that causes the English to pull away from the Amish is something we all do with others.
The Amish don’t look like us.
The old saying of “Birds of a feather flock together” comes to mind. The more unlike someone is from the majority of people, the more the majority places them on the outside. The language we speak, the color of our skin, the clothes we wear, where we live home much money we have or don’t have, how smart we are…. and many more things create bonds or divisions.
The Amish at first glance are visually not like the majority thus causing a division. Amish, at times, speak a strange language (compared to the majority) which creates a division. For some that is enough to want to keep them at bay. I personally think division is OK unless it leads the majority or minority to believe they have the right to make the others change through force.
I am getting to know Amish people as humans, and thus are fellow travelers in this world.
(1) I disagree with the English on this point.
(2) Amish do pay most taxes. They don’t pay Social Security taxes but then they don’t get to receive it when they grow old.
Tom Lincoln,NE LincNebr@hotmail.com
My "Amish experience"
A few years ago, I mentioned to my Amish friend, David, who has a cut-flower market stand at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, that it would be fun to be Amish for a day and sget an inside view of what life was like for ‘Aim-ish in the city.” Without hesitation, David observed that we were about the same size and that he just happened to have suitable clothing for me. “Do I need to shave my moustache?” I asked. ‘Naah,” said he,’Nobody will notice.” It was a fun day of helping for my wife and me, although she was an English helper. I clearly remember two contrasting experiences. When I visited their other market stand a couple miles away and forget to get a trolley token for my return to Rittenhouse, one of the stand owners recognnized my plight, told me to wait, and literally ran to her car and back to provide a token for me–and would absolutely not let me pay her. I felt that I had done her a big favor by accepting her gift. Later that day, when I stopped in for a coffee break at a nearby MacDonalds, a middle aged man took a look at me and announced loudly to me and everyone around, “You people think you’re better than other people.” Thankfully, I could not understand the rest of his message. However, it was clear by his tone, volume, and non-verbal behavior that he did not really care much for “us Amish.” My Messiah College colleague, David Weaver-Zercher,says that it’s easy for people to either idolize or demonize the Amish. In my Amish life class, we talk about reasons for anti-Amish sentiments, and students name things, such as ignorance (Why don’t these people pay taxes like we do?”); stereotypes (“All Amish dog breeders run puppy mills,” jealousy,a bad encounter with a deviant or hypocritical Amish person, theological differences, etc., etc. However, most of my Amish friends state that people think more highly of them than they ought and that it is dangerous “when all men speak well of you.” My four cents for the day. Rich Stevick
While I agree with the two previous comments, I believe in a nut shell the answer is fear! Fear of the unknown! It’s all part of a spirit of pride. The very fact that “most” of the crimes happen in the cover of darkness (at night) should be an indication. People do ugly things when they are in fear and they become very “courageous” in “the shadows!” The world would be a whole lot better off if people would just take the time to ask when you don’t know the answers or don’t understand something. Instead, people would rather leave it up to their own imaginations of how things are or who people are. Most of the time, people are willing to answer questions so that there is no confusion. Also I believe people that attack those they don’t understand is due to jealousy, which is also a spirit of pride. Secretly wishing they could be like the very ones they crucify, they lash out, out of their own perceived inadequacy. The Bible says we “all” fall short, but through the blood of Jesus Christ, we can become the very nature that He is, full of love, compassion and forgiveness, which is how I see the “plain people” of God.
In the second book in my series the main character is a target by the locals when they move down south. In researching the subject I came to find out there is a term for Amish haarrasssment, it’s termed CLAPPING, pronounced clay-ping, a run off of the clapping the Amish do. The research I found and those who have done the harrassing said they did it ‘becasue they could’. There are always going to be people out there who will pick on those they feel are weaker than them such is the case with the Amish. If those who harrass only realilzed…it takes much more strength to withstand and not retaliate, which is part of their faith.
I think that people harrassment the Amish because they think they
are an easy target and will not report the crime to the police and also they tend to take care of there own and last but not least is they are very quick to forgive any one who does harm to them. as for myself I have great respect for the hard working Amish as my Wife and myself travel to Lancaster county every month to vist the Amish County.
It's not just the Amish!
Anyone–especially in a closed group or separate culture–who seems different is likely to be picked on, or worse. Minorities know that all too well. In college towns, students–especially international students–become targets for local teens’ frustrations and violence. (I knew a black student from South Africa who had never been called the “n” word until a local kid in our MIdwest college town yelled it at her out of a car window.) Native Americans get it all the time. Ditto Muslims. And Jews, from time immemorial, have been scapegoats. Economics has a lot to do with it. People think they’re less successful than they might have been because someone somewhere is supposedly getting away with something at their expense: Amish and Native Americans “don’t pay taxes”; college students are “spoiled rich kids”; Jews “rip you off”; blacks and hispanics are “welfare cheaters.” In addition, the Amish are held up by some non-Amish as exemplars of what we should all be: thrifty, hard-working, sober, low-tech, family-oriented, pious, forgiving, cooperative, successful. They make us feel guilty, so we look for ways to prove they’re really not any better than the rest of us, and maybe worse.
My husband and I, though not Amish, live Plain. The worst harassment we experienced was in London, Ontario, where there is a large university. We moved there to find work and be closer to family, but the continued harassment we experienced on the street was at times frightening. After I had been verbally assaulted when alone, just two blocks from home, my husband asked me to stop wearing my prayer kapp in public. He cut his hair and shaved his beard, but our conservative clothes were still a target of the harassment. (I figured, “so what?” and went back to my kapp.) A young man with a car full of friends deliberately tried to hit us one night at a street corner as we returned from church. We moved after less than a year. Another friend who attended university there, as had my husband, said she received the same kind of verbal harassment because of her conservative, almost Amish style of dress.
It is bravado with young people; it certainly doesn’t make much sense in a group of university students who we think are receiving an education that includes tolerance. I expect that the traditionally dressed Muslim women in that community get the same treatment. We don’t experience the same hostility here, as the Mennonite and Amish in New Brunswick and Maine are welcomed into a farming community where they were needed.
I have had to leave the facebook community because of harassment and hostility, mostly from other Christians. I occasionally get hostile comments on the blog and usually just delete them. I take it as part of Christian life, that we will be subject to persecution at worst and at least, misunderstanding. It’s a subject that needs more attention from Christian leaders.
Magdalena, I am so sorry about Facebook, but I understand.Just know,as I am one of your old fb friends… you are missed!
what is right is right what is wrong is wrong
I find it very conflicting in the amish people when they don’t belive it right to have own drive a car,,, BUT will PAY sommone to ride in theres!!! They can’t own or have a phone in there house but will use anyone elses, now they are doing the cell phone thing, it used to be little houses beside the road with phones in them and some still have those. Again if it is wrong and they can’t have them in the house then why do they use and have them be hind there leaderships back????? I even belive that the leadership knows about them and dose nothing about it they turn there backs to the wrong doing as well. Cars and phones in my book are not wrong, but things that are wrong in my book I don’t do. The Amish all so turn a blind eye to drinking and smokeing. I think they are 2 sided in what they want to look like and what they do.
Sue, your surname and bad spelling certainly could identify you as Amish, yet your questions do not. Else you would understand that owning a car is forbidden, riding in a car is not forbidden.
Owning a TV is forbidden, watching TV is not. Having a phone in the house is forbidden, using a phone is not forbidden.
For some, having a toilet in the house is forbidden, using a toilet is not.
Seems you are confusing ownership with usability, where if you cannot own something then you should not be allowed to use it. In a perfect world you would be right, but in our current world, such an attitude is simply not possible or practical.
As to smoking and drinking, the Bible does not forbid such, those who forbid it are using man made doctrines, aka legalism.
As I travel around talking about my book, which sometimes leads to talking about the Amish in general, I have observed that oftentimes the people who live near the Amish tend to romanticize the Amish less who live farther away from Amish communities (such as in New England). I think if we are talking about “English” perceptions of the Amish, some of the criticisms of the Amish can come from disenfranchisement when their experiences with the Amish don’t match their views of the Amish. And let’s face it, many people have unrealistic expectations of the Amish, because of their reputation. So, when they see something that makes someone Amish fall off their pedestal, the tendency is to generalize that experience and think the Amish are all hypocrites. If we allowed “the Amish” to be human, like the rest of us, we would hold individuals responsible for their behavior as opposed to the Amish as a whole.
The Amish faith tends to lean towards perfection, which is also part of the problem. Many Amish young people, during their teen years, will notice that the actions of people in their community do not match what they strive for or profess to be, which can really cause a feeling of unrest and even turmoil, especially if they have endured abuse themselves. When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out — so if these young people don’t have any other way of dealing with their emotions, they are bound to come out in a dramatic way when they are under stress. There are underlying emotions in pyromania, just as there are in any other disorder, Amish or otherwise.
Erik, you raise good questions.
Sorry, I just noticed to mistakes… I meant to say, “…people who live near the Amish tend to romanticize the Amish less than those who live farther away from Amish communities…”
It would have been more accurate to say, “The Amish faith tends to strive towards perfection.”
I am thoroughly discussed with anyone young or old who do crimes against the Amish. They are just cowardly, nasty individuals. They know they won’t retaliate so who do they pick on. This makes me so angry and I say, LET’S DO TO THEM WHAT THEY HAVE DONE TO OTHERS.Leave the Amish alone and let them live in peace. I give the Amish so much credit for living the life they do. Unfortunately i could ot live this way, only because we are use to all the mocern conveniences, like TV, hydro etc. But if we had of been brought up that way, it would have been different. I would be more than pleased to have many Amish friends and neighbours.
I remember seeing a documentary about several teens who had left or were contemplating leaving the Amish. One of the young men who harbored significant resentment toward some Amish adults and bishops actually began harassing and vandalizing in his home community. He even went to jail for a while for burning someone’s buggy. It wouldn’t seem too surprising to learn that an Amish youth who had left the fold turned against his/her own. In order to find the strength to leave, must a certain element of hate need to develop to sever the ties? I’m sure not always, but I’m thinking about divorce, quitting a job, etc. Maybe some ex-Amish can speak to that.
Vengeance is mine, I will repay, sayeth the Lord
Please go read my comment on the 4th of July topic of a few days ago. Here is a link to it:
You can still watch that video series on Youtube. It is 39 minutes long. If you cannot get this link to work, search YT for the title: “Amish: The Outsiders”. Here is a link to the playlist:
RE: Sue Yoder
I have read and observed the Amish for many years and it is my understanding that they do not think cars and phones are bad. They prefer not to have them in their homes so as to not take away from family interaction and family time in the home and to keep the immediate family in close proximity. It is considered important to keep their communities small enough that they can travel by buggy to visit their neighbors and worship. But they, as well as common sense, dictates the necessity of longer travel and communication for family in far away towns, medical treatment as well as some need these items to accomodate their need to earn a living. Not sure I understand your idea that they condon drinking or smoking. I think that is mostly limited to a few during rumspringa, as a curiousity, not as a habitual vice. MHO !
I appreciate these insightful responses. Rich S really interesting how you saw both sides firsthand. I am glad you mentioned David Weaver-Zercher’s comments on this, I would say his “Amish in the American Imagination” is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic of how Amish are perceived.
Magdalena I was shocked to read that people intentionally tried to hit you with their car while you were in Plain attire. I admire your integrity and courage in continuing to wear it.
Saloma, I thought this was a great point you made: “people who live near the Amish tend to romanticize the Amish less than those who live farther away from Amish communities”. If you’ve ever read the comments section of Amish stories on Lancaster Online…
Ignorance & misunderstanding
I think that some people don’t understand and they may believe that Amish, because they are normally quiet and keep to themselves, think they are better than others. Some, like others have mentioned, just like to bully people that they know will not fight back. Sadly, bullying is a widespread problem that effects far to many of all religions, races, etc.
Guilt, envy, and "setting the record straight"
Damon you made some interesting points too, thank you–I think the idea on economics is a good example of human nature, namely jealousy. It is always easier to point fingers at others than at yourself.
I think this is a key point you made too: “They make us feel guilty, so we look for ways to prove they’re really not any better than the rest of us, and maybe worse.”
I asked David Weaver-Zercher a similar question to this in an interview on the blog a few years back. Here’s part of his answer which I think is relevant to this topic:
“The romanticized versions of Amish life lead those who are less than enamored with Amish life—including ex-Amish church members—to “correct the record” in ways that are often just as one-sided. That in turn gives purpose to those who consider themselves defenders of Amish life. And so it goes.”
Karen I think you are right, the fact that Amish are unlikely to retaliate is part of it as well. Someone like that is going to be a bully magnet.
And Beth I think you summed this idea it up well “they did it ‘because they could’”.
Fear of the Amish
Felicia, you know, I hadn’t thought of it in terms of fear–which on first look seems almost counterintuitive to the bully idea above. But, that is something to consider. “Instead, people would rather leave it up to their own imaginations of how things are or who people are.” Robert Gschwind is making a similar point I think too (Robert btw you have to teach me how to pronounce your last name some time, I find it fascinating 🙂 ).
Fear creates the barriers and maintains a level of ignorance that in some sense enables or encourages this behavior. Hmmm….
Sue Yoder, I think Karen gave a good response to some of the questions you had. On the last bit on smoking and drinking, there are some Amish who do permit it or at least do not prohibit it or come down as strongly against it as others. These actually tend to more often be the more outwardly conservative groups (wearing the plainest clothing and using the simplest technology).
Erik – it is Swiss and is pronounced Schwind (silent G). It means swift or fast.
I thought id pop by again on this subject. bullying has been around for a long time both in and out of the school , but i think its getting more attention now which i think is a good thing. The problem is with the bully themselves not the victims, and bullying only elevates in the bullies “mind” more of a level of self importance. So if anyone sees anything like that or is a victim of bullying it really needs to be stopped, if you have a friend in school whose a victim stand by your friend and support them. Too many teenagers are committing suicide over face book or my space or texting, it needs to stop starting with parents explaining that its only the internet. And all you have to do it not go to that web site or answer and block those nasty text messages, life is way too valuable to lose it over something that takes place on the internet. Richard from Pennsylvania
Abuse of the Amish
As in most cases of negative behavior, I believe it is a result of ignorance. If you are well-read and informed, you understand the Amish choices of lifestyle.
I agree with the person who said negative behavior is a result of a fear of the unknown, which is also again a result of ignorance.
Amish people are human beings with fallabilities and imperfections just like the rest of us. None of us are perfect. Most of us have to work at being better people.
My two cents
(This is an excerpt from an attempt of mine to create a snap shot of the Amish – non-Amish relationship during my youth)
The Amish had just won the right to educate their youth and exempt them from education beyond the ninth grade. The Vietnam war was going on at the time. There were strong anti Amish sentiments among some local non-Amish, partly because of the Amish position of not serving in the military. My older brothers and their peers experienced harassment from some elements of the larger culture. Having ones hat taken was common. The perpetrators would run up behind a buggy at night when the horse was walking and tired from going up a hill. My brother Dave’s girlfriend lived south of the Nickle Mines area. It was about a twenty mile drive one way. The tradition for couples who were “steady”, was for the boy to come to the girls house on Saturday night and drive back home on the same night. The lens through which I became privy to one such incident of harassment was through my brothers telling of it. The hero in my brothers story was their high spirited horse. Even though the incident happened on their way home which meant the horse had already clocked close to thirty miles that night, and the perpetrators had gathered at the climax of a long, steep, hill, all my brother Dave had to do, was release some slack in the reins, and the horse stormed through the antagonists.
Dave is quite the story teller. He’s a minister now, so I guess that talent got put to use. He describes how as they crested the hill and the buggy lights aligned with the plane of the road ahead, they saw several dozen ruffians assembled along the banks and in the middle of the road, blocking their way. It was an isolated and wooded area. The roadway had been cut into the crest of the ridge it passed through and there was, quite literally nowhere to go but forward, or turn around and head back down the hill they had just ascended. Turning around may not have been a successful evasive strategy because of the time it would’ve taken to turn around a horse and buggy an a narrow road. What was already a forty mile trip would’ve been extra-ordinarily inconvenienced by heading back down and finding another route. Dave pulled the horse to a halt and asked my brother Mose what he wanted to do. I don’t remember Mose’s response, there may not have been any. Dave told Mose, “if we can keep them off the buggy, they won’t be able to stop my horse”. Mose must’ve conveyed something in the affirmative, and Dave let the horse go. And go he did, scattering the assailants like leaves before the wind. I’ve heard the story countless times. One of the assailants ran along side the buggy briefly, kicking at the spoked wheel. This was a very foolhardy thing to do. If a kick would’ve carried the foot in between the spokes, the leg could’ve been caught and mangled in an instant. Dave, in an uncharacteristic disavowal of the dictates of his faith, stated that, “in the case that the guys leg got caught, there was no way that I was going to stop!”
Hopefully he would’ve stopped, but the reality is that, after having launched the horse into an unrestrained bolt, he wasn’t going to be able to rein him in short of fifteen to twenty yards at the least. By the way, the horse’s name was “Dyna”, short for dynamite.
I’m not privy to the specifics of another incident that had a very different outcome. Mostly what I remember is that fighting back didn’t work out so well for the Amish. It was an incident where an Amish guy in his early twenties was accosted by some non-Amish provocateurs and he got out of his buggy and thoroughly thrashed them. I don’t know these details precisely, but I would venture some thoughts on the dynamics of this. During the Vietnam war some Amish youth who were of the age to be drafted, due to their status as conscientious objectors, served in alternative service projects. The experience of being outside their community in a somewhat isolated fashion, ended up developing and influencing these youth in ways that were atypical. Ironic that alternative service as a conscientious objector would end up creating a more aggressive person, but there it is. What happened was, the original provocateurs came back with reinforcements and took revenge on a younger brother. I think if the older brother hadn’t been a true conscientious objector by the end of his alternative service, he was after this incident.
I recall a good friend of mine
suddenly becoming greatly concerned about
Amish puppy mills. She was rather worked up
and insisted “@&’$ the Amish! They run puppy mills!
She didn’t want to hear anything regarding the possibility
that maybe, just maybe, not all Amish run puppy mills.
The other day I was wandering the Internet and got on the puppy
mill thing (possibly through this site). Apparently, Oprah had some
Amish puppy mill show around 2008. My friend happens to
be a big Oprah fan and I think this happened at about that time.
This from a normally rational, tolerant person.
Eli, I hear you on the puppy mill thing.
There have been a few stories in The Boston Globe about Amish moving into Maine and the reader comment sections filled with many anti-Amish, puppy mill comments (even though I am not even aware of any dog breeders in the Aroostook Amish settlements that were detailed in the stories and that I now live somewhat near.)
Here’s a gross generalization of my own: My native eastern Massachusetts is very liberal and “progressive.” Church attendance in eastern MA is way down compared to when I was a kid while vegan-ism, etc. is probably more common in eastern MA than anywhere else in the US, outside of California’s Bay Area along with a long history of extensive feminism. MA has a high regard for college and technical education as well a high love and regard of an all-controlling, extensive form of government. Until I saw those Boston Globe comments, it never occurred to me as to how many ways Amish lifestyles stand at odds with the supposedly “enlightened” folk in the Boston area. Once I kept all that in mind, I was better able to comprehend all the puppy mill comments Globe readers brought forth.
Yes, Lance, that was the video I was talking about. You’re a wealth of information.
Great stories, Elam Zook.
As always, some very thoughtful and objective replies. I have no particular insight into what causes this phenomenon, probably like anything else the truth is that there as many reasons why someone would target the Amish for abuse as there are people that would abuse them. However, I do think there is the possibility of two distinct types of dynamics at work here; one in which outsiders who have no personal relationship with the people they are attacking target the Amish; such as the examples that Elam Zook provided. And, although people may not want to hear it, I think there may be a second scenario or situation where people very local to the Amish … including English neighbors and maybe even former or even current Amish strike out at them. Let’s call this behavior what it is; this is almost always criminal behavior regardless who perpetrates it.
I am not a criminologist or otherwise trained in these types of things, but I do have a brother that retired a few years ago after about 3 & ½ decades of service to a large metropolitan police force. One of the things that he told me about his experience was that it is surprising how often people commit crimes right in their very own neighborhood. Sounds counterintuitive, but it really isn’t. They are familiar with the area, they know who is coming and going at what times, they have a safe “base” to retreat to and if they are seen out and about in the neighborhood no one will realty think much about it, because they belong there.
Additionally, I have a friend who just retired from the very same police force (he never knew my brother) in the city that many consider to be the most international city in the world … Houston, Texas. My friend worked undercover narcotics for many years and that eventually morphed into work on the gang task force. He said that in his experience foreign nationals that move out into and live in the mainstream culture are no more likely to be targets of crime than anyone else is. It is almost always random when it happens. However, when they choose to live in a cloister of people from their homeland they are often targeted by a criminal element. In these cases the crimes are overwhelmingly perpetrated by members of their own community. Why? Well, for the same reasons by brother gave about crime within a neighborhood; plus that fact that these people are often from cultures that distrust the police / government, they are often from cultures that don’t wish to publicize their problems to the world, they are often very private people and they often have a cultural bias towards dealing with problems internally and not involving the courts. Who does that sound like? Of course, who knows these tendencies better than people that live right among them or are even part of their culture?
So if I were a police officer investigating a crime against the Amish I would look externally when the crime was overt and confrontational, such as those that Mr. Zook detailed. If I were looking to find out who burned down an Amish barn in the middle of the night I would start by looking very close to the scene of the crime, very close. May not be popular to say, but human nature being what it is I think that this approach would have merit more often than not.
Sorry for the mega post. I word-smithed it best I could and that was about as small as I could get it.
Eli, I think there is some legitimacy for blaming all Amish for puppy mills. The Amish put a lot of emphasis on conforming to certain standards which they hold each other accountable too. Minute issues, down to the fraction of an inch of the width of their hat brims. Submission to these standards is a moral issue for them. Lack of compliance is seen as destructive to the whole, with serious repercussions meted out for the rebellious. Yet with puppy mills you’re feigning western culture’s values of individual freedom.
With out even getting into what standards and conditions in animal husbandry are legitimately a problem, shouldn’t the Amish seek to make peace with their neighbors in every way possible, particularly if it doesn’t infringe upon their relationship with their deity?
If an Amish farmer uses a tractor too liberally on his farm, he can expect a visit from the deacon about it, why is it such a stretch to establish a standard for keeping the peace with their non-Amish neighbors regarding the conditions of their dog kennels?
The conservative movement has been very active in promoting the idea that government should stay out of people’s business. My opinion is that the Amish make a horrific mistake if they make common cause with conservatives on this issue. It may feel like the natural thing to do at the moment, but in the end, Amish society is still dependent on the good will of it’s host society. Getting on one side of a political issue is a very treacherous place for them to be.
Now, I am not an expert on the Amish by any means but even if they lack a lot of what we would call “individual freedom” don’t things vary greatly from district to district and community to community? Thus, blaming “the Amish” for not stopping puppy mills or statements like “$@&; the Amish, they have puppy mills” seems unreasonable to me.
I’m sure a deacon in Ohio would have little say about conditions in Lancaster, PA or the other way around.
Eli, I suggest that your argument is dependent on what I would describe as (fake diversity)? It doesn’t really matter whether one district allows bicycles and others don’t, in the ways that matter, they’re all very much alike. All Amish are predominately patriarchal and authoritarian. While there are a wide range of levels in which Amish participate with their host culture, they’re all the same in that they self-identify with the measuring stick of, (how separate and apart they are). What makes a person “not Amish anymore” is the degree which he or she stops evaluating whether they’re separate from the larger culture. (most “ex-Amish” still do this, even though they haven’t been conforming church members for many years)
An Amish person can participate in a non-Amish activity, say for example, like, patronizing a bar. What makes him still Amish is if he self identifies his behavior as “bad” or “non-Amish”, or at the very least, he will identify it as such, once he is confronted about it by his fellow adherents.
The premise under which I posit that the Amish are all to blame for puppy mills is that, to be Amish, you’re an active participant in this self-identification of what makes you Amish. Each Amish person has an internal barometer by which all of the details of there life are measured, for their “Amish” quotient. Some of those details fall under a neutral category. In other words, one can choose to do something or to not do it, and it doesn’t impact whether one is Amish or not.
I see the Amish as having made a collective choice that the puppy mill issue is one of those neutral issues. This unwillingness to be judgmental in this instance is in and of itself a choice. For a society that is willing to be stridently judgmental in a lot of ways, neutrality in this case is tantamount to approval. Taking a stand is inherently an Amish thing to do. Their failure to take a stand on this issue says all that needs to be said!
I beg to differ with you, Elam, though it sounds like you also grew up Amish. Until I started doing book talks, I didn’t even know about the “puppy mills.” As far as I know, there are no Amish in my original community who even raise puppies, much less under these circumstances. So, I do not feel like all Amish can be held accountable for the puppy mills. And people in Geauga County and other places where this issue doesn’t have to do with them are certainly not going to “take a stand” against it– why would they? One thing I don’t often see is one Amish community correcting or criticizing another. It is one of the reasons they can co-exist and be so different from one another. And that is another thing I would differ with you on — the issue of whether there is diversity among the Amish. I think there are only a handful of things you can say about “the Amish” in general. I am still discovering just how different they are from one community to another.
Another thing that people in my audiences have asked about is the treatment of horses among the Amish. I always defended the Amish in the way they treat their horses, because in my home community they were treated pretty well. However, I was recently in another large Amish community, and I was appalled with what the horses looked like… ribs showing, tongues hanging out as they were running down the road on a hot day, and they were not at all well groomed. So I can understand where the criticism comes from, it’s just that I don’t think all Amish can be held accountable for individuals’ or a group’s neglectful ways.
There is one thing I do agree with you about… I do believe that all the Amish I know do have a great deal of male domination going on… in fact, I don’t think the culture would survive if the women did not play their part — submitting to the men in nearly all aspects of their lives.
Now, to counter this criticism, I would also say that most Amish I have a sense of community that the rest of mainstream America can only imagine. When tragedy hits, people come together and support the family — everyone knows their place, and everyone plays their part. It is truly something to behold to see such a community at work. The down side of this is that one has to sacrifice one’s personal freedom to be part of the community, and for some of us that price is just too high. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss that sense of community when we leave.
I would love to email you sometime and compare notes…
Saloma, Somewhere in my heart of hearts a would like to be able to interject some levity into the discussion, but you know, if I tend to get a bit bombastic, maybe it’s just my heritage showing through. Ha ha
There probably are Amish communities who don’t have any puppy mills, but my argument here would be that issues like abortion and gay rights aren’t really an issue among the Amish, but they still take a stand against them. My sense is that they are predominantly taking a stand on these issues for the sake of solidarity. My argument is that they have a vested interest in keeping the peace with those who are offended by their puppy mills. In the case where it doesn’t require a compromise on their religious practices, it’s my understanding that, (seeking peace) is an absolute duty on their part. I point this out for the sake of advocating for their best interests. One can question whether it’s appropriate for me to take that position and whether the position is valid, but that’s where I’m coming from.
The reason IMO they’re not “seeking the peace” in this case is because of the solidarity thing with conservative sentiments. They see the people who are offended with their puppy mills as liberal yuppies from the big cities. It’s through government that puppy mill opponents try to effect the change they want to see. Liberals and government are two of conservatives favorite bogey men. So the Amish need to be inconspicuous is superseded by their desire to show solidarity with conservatives. This choice of aligning themselves with conservative sentiment is a direct violation of their purpose of being separate and apart. They’re participating in a activity which is “non-Amish” on the basis that it’s one of those “neutral” issues.
My argument is that choosing solidarity with conservative sentiment isn’t a neutral position. But that it’s actually a direct assault on a necessary part of what it takes to be Amish.
I’m on facebook if that works as a way to connect http://www.facebook.com/easyEZ
Just to prove my bona-fides, that I defend the Amish on the puppy mill issue, here’s a letter to the editor I wrote. can be found here; http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/232811_-Designer-dog–craze.html
The plain community would be much better off if they took responsibility for the welfare of their dogs in a way that would be above reproach. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they won’t get this monkey off their backs.
That said, let’s be honest, on the other side. This is not just a “plain community” problem.
An article in the Milwaukee magazine 12/22/08 notes that, in 2005, dog breeding was a $14 billion-a-year industry. It mentions a “craze” for “designer dogs” which sell for $3,000 per animal. Meanwhile, the Humane Society estimates the number of cats and dogs that are euthanized in a year are 3-4 million.
Does this excuse the plain community for mistreating animals? Absolutely not! But it certainly reveals that they aren’t the only ones off their rocker when it comes to relating to Fido!
It’s non-plain community folks who created a society totally dependent on the automobile. Let’s do a tally of the havoc that cars wreak on animals (wild and domestic).
After envisioning all the broken and mangled little bodies left in the wake of our lifestyle, it doesn’t leave much question about who has the bigger beam in their eye.
I doubt whether I can comment intelligently on this, but I do have a thought I’d like to express.
Regarding comments on how the Amish seem to align themselves with Conservative political views: The more popular issues that stand out in my mind seem to be supported by Bible Scripture (I’ll be a coward and not mention them). Is that why they seem to have a Conservative stance?
Additionally, in Genesis 1:26, God gives man dominion over the animals. They were given to subdue and use for their purposes. I know from a personal friendship with a Plain family that they think the “outsiders” often have twisted thinking when it comes to how they view pets and animals – often treating them much better than fellow human beings. Could these feelings have something to do with why they won’t renounce the puppy mill practice? A sort of non-confrontational statement?
A month ago I was visiting these friends. A cow was having calving trouble, so I observed as they used a “come along?” to pull the calf out. The calf was dead. As the cow looked and licked at it, I said, “Oh, how sad!” The man said, “It was just a calf… a little sad on the pocket, though.” That seems to be the sentiment.
Tamara, the basis of my argument isn’t dependent on objecting to or even questioning that the Amish stance would be aligned with conservatives. The point where aligning themselves with conservative ideology becomes a problem, at least in this case, is that politically, it means being adversarial and defiant. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but in this case, there’s no compromise to how they practice their faith being sought. So the only reason for them to be engaged on this issue is a political one. To me, this means they’re behaving in a “non-Amish” way.
Elam, I do not think the Amish are aliening themselves with the secular world, it just happens that Amish morals and ethics are of a conservative nature. Any similarities with that and the secular world’s ideas on conservatism are merely coincidental and not intentional.
If the Amish were to vote in elections and such, then yes, by their vote you could say they are siding with conservatives, but as the Amish do not vote, they cannot be accused of siding with conservatives.
Elam, I understand where you are coming from about the issues many Amish tend to side with conservatives on and which ones they shy away from altogether. And if we are looking at the world from conservative v. liberal, “liberals” are more often concerned with this issue. Perhaps that, too, adds to the reason why many Amish are not concerned enough to renounce the practice.
I totally agree with you about the market for the animals… I have often thought that the people who buy these puppies ought to take some responsibility for the issue. Thank you for the statistics about the price of dogs, and how many are euthanized each year — this is astounding. And your point about dogs being hit by vehicles on the road is actually a very good one.
After being asked about the puppy mills and the way that “the Amish” treat their horses several times from people in my audience, I answered the question by first saying I never knew anyone who bred dogs for sale, and that in my home community the horses were treated pretty well, so I could not speak to the issue. However, I said that for many people, it seems this is the only acceptable way to criticize the Amish, and that I think there are many issues, such as the abuse of people, that go unrecognized because of the focus being on the breeding practices of dogs. Tamara, I think you were touching on that. That is a sad story about the calf, but unfortunately those sentiments were all too common in my home community, too. It was as if it was beneath them to identify with the suffering of animals, especially if the suffering came from natural causes, as in the case you described.
Erik, thanks for yet another great discussion. Now, one of these days, I need to go and post something on my own blog!
Glad you thought so Saloma, I’ve found this to be one of the most interesting we’ve had. Appreciate the input from all. Didn’t want to keep you away from your blog, but you’re always welcome here!
I suspect Amish are targeted because they are “different ” and because we feel guilty because they act better than we do
2 reasons: Shame & Difference --
I’ve heard several remarks toward the Amish “you think you are better than us” If the idea that the Amish were not better had not at least crossed their mind THAT remark would never have been uttered – I think somehow people who make it already feel some ill placed guilt that they cannot be as “moral” as the Amish – I know I wish I COULD be – I wish I had the moral fortitude to trust God to get vengeance when I am wronged, that I had the moral strength to turn the other cheek instead of losing my temper when things don’t go my way — I wish had the will power and/or desire to live such a clean righteous life …the good ole boy way is to resent people who have or are what they don’t have or aren’t – it does not take the Amish thinking they are better – it’s already in the minds of people who hate blindly – unfortunately those kind of people don’t care what ANYONE thinks – IF THEY DID it would be deterrent enough to keep this kind of hate from running so rampant because they would know how small it makes them look – they are not men they are mental babies, emotional cockroaches and quite frankly do not deserve to breathe the same air the rest of us do. so their own personal shame at being so vacuous, so spiteful, so hateful – they look in the mirror and see what we see and hate themselves for it and take it out on folks like the Amish – they’d never admit to it but I do believe that self loathing – shame – is one of the biggest reasons that they target the Amish –
The other is we as humans fear what we don’t understand and in a day and age where everything is a click away – where we would literally be cut off at the knees if the power grid failed – we could not shop, cook, clean, travel – a time where we are totally reliant on restaurants and grocery stores for our food – if the power grid failed we would be totally paralyzed – we simply do NOT understand how people like the Amish exist. It is beyond our comprehension and we don’t like the unfamiliar – the unknown – instead of embracing those differences many resent the differences – we don’t understand their sense of community, that they stay to themselves, don’t like the same things we like, don’t do the same things we do — it’s one of the great human flaws – hating what we don’t know or understand.
Those I think are the two main problems
My opinion about targeting Amish is that our current society has so little respect for each other. By stereotyping any group of people, we are not respecting their individuality, or right to be uniquely different from us. I agree with the fact that getting away with their crimes gives an added bonus to troublemakers, since the Amish don’t help prosecute. What makes any person better than another? They should be admired for their honest and hard working ways, and their devotion to a higher being, whether you are Christian or not. They leave us alone, so we should do the same.
People who do such things, Amish or not, don’t deserve any respect: