Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Anti-amish hatered on Facebook

Amish buggy on my favorite Lancaster road.
Photo Lorcan Otway all rights reserved

There are several anti-Amish groups on Facebook. I've drafted this response to post when I get to a faster computer, hopefully this morning before Meeting.

Dear Friends:

I have been reading the postings of this group, and feel called on to offer a response. Prejudice is often a result of a lack of self reflection and has little place in the United States, in light of the goals upon which this nation was founded. Part of those goals grew from the events leading to my Amish friends coming to this continent. We Quakers, like the Amish, were a people who were killed in large numbers in our European home nations because of our faith. We were killed because we would not conform to the idea that part of citizenship was to break the commandment against killing and to conform to the slavery of class.
By luck, we Quakers were given the charter for a colony, Pennsylvania, wherein we promised the religious freedom we did not know in England and Ireland. Anna-Baptists from Germany and Holland and Switzerland came, as did French Huguenots, European Jews, and other nonconformists. In this colony we set a standard for fair treatment which is remembered in the American Indian community of nations today, as we did not break a single treaty with Indian nations in Pennsylvania. We also became a destination for Africans, brought to this continent to be slaves, in their escape north, away from that stain on this nations soul.
Some of the objections to the Amish, voiced here have been that their children sometimes die in farming accidents. This is true. In the world outside the Amish community, some children also die. They die, in this land of wealth, from the effects of poverty, neglect, and prejudice as well as the happenstance of living in a world where accidental death is always a possibility. Worse, they die in wars, seldom fought for the reasons given by political leaders. Some Mennonites (the root community of the Amish) as well as Quakers die in these wars, but they die as we do, trying to mitigate the horror of war by being medics or other workers for peace. In this world of uncertainty, it is not so much a matter of avoiding death, but how we face unreasonable, unexpected death, and the response to the deaths of the children at Nickel Mines, in Lancaster spoke volumes about how Amish people face such death.
It has been said that Amish people do not smell good. I have not found this to be the case. I dress plain, as do my Amish friends. I live in a city, so I do not do farm labor. As such, I suppose I smell the way most urban working people smell - of soap. I have found that Amish who labor in the fields smell as do farmers I have known in rural Ireland, England and France, Upstate New York, and other places where the food you eat is grown. I suggest if the smell of a farmer offends you, you might try working a farm someday. After all, I expect you live off that labor. If you find it objectionable to be around farmers, stop buying up farmland and turning it into suburban sprawl. There is plenty of room in the city, where folks do "clean" work.
There are statements here about the Amish being backward, or not intelligent in the choice of how they live. Well, as I write this, we are in the middle of a world wide recession which resulted from the simple basic greed of the other world, Amish have chosen not to live within.
The idea that making fun of people is harmless because they cannot hear you is simply wrong. Each of you that harbors prejudice hurts yourself deeply. You are hurt by a lack of self reflection. Self awareness comes from reaching out to those things you hate or fear. Germany was not made stronger by nazism, or the United States made stronger by the klan. England was not made stronger by the national front, nor was France made stronger by collaborating with the nazis. Nations become stronger, when as Daniel Webster reminded us, we pull together. No community can afford the luxury of ignorant prejudice, and no individual is fully complete without the love of neighbor.
Today this world is being ripped apart by wars rooted in ignorant prejudice - it continues or ends with each of you.

With love, respect and trust in your soul's ability to heal
Lorcan Otway