Friday, November 12, 2010

The Devil's Playground

Being brought up in an Amish lifestyle includes no electricity, no musical instruments, and no access into the "Devil's Playground."  The "Devil's Playground" is the Amish term for the American way of life.  Amish culture forbids any knowledge of modern culture.  Since education in Amish culture is intentionally stopped at 8th grade, one has no real ability to leave the culture.  This lack of education leaves the average Amish person with little opportunities to support themselves in a life other than farming in Amish community.
Supposably,  the Amish teenagers are given the opportunity to spend 24 hours in the "Devil's Playground" to choose whether they would like to live a life with the Amish or join modern society, although this usually only applies to males within amish community.  But how much choice are they given when they only posses an 8th grade level education at the age of 16?  What kind of jobs can they acquire as an uneducated minor in the modern society?  This choice to stay in modern society is a one-time choice, meaning that they cannot decide to come back later if they so desire.  Choosing to stay in modern American culture also entails that a person will not be in communication with their family ever again.  So as it may seem a "fair" ultimatum to the average person, how "fair" opportunity is it?  With little education, money, family, support, or real job experience, I'd say not as fair as one would think.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Amish Exemption

One question I continue to ask to myself is, how have the Amish learned to thrive off American culture but then also shun it?
Regular activities like using electricity is rejected by Amish culture, however, they thrive off our economy by selling us their Amish-made products.  Many people believe that the Amish are exempt from paying taxes, however, they are not.  They are exempt from the "Social Security Act."  They feel that paying insurance is not "trusting in god."  Who's to say that an Amish person will not need emergency room care?  They are also exempt from medicare.
The Amish believe in a separation between church and state and that they should be able to take care of their own.  Many problems arise when this complete separation and power is given to a culture within a nation.  How can a society not become corrupt when there are no regulations from the federal government?  The perception of a peaceful, loving, non-corrupt and non-harming community allows them to commit such atrocities of sexual abuse, animal abuse, and ignoring some federal laws without much attention.  
It can be Argued that allowing such independence can lead to corruption in society.  Most people do not see the Amish community as a threat.  However, any independent society should not be trusted.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Stories of Sexual Abuse

In Amish Community, the embarrassment of drinking too much is far greater than the entire community knowing you raped innocent children.  Also, it does not help that Amish women are taught not to speak up, nor are they taught anything about sex, making it even harder for them to describe what has happened to them.  22-year-old Mary Byler, another who escaped from Amish Community, recalls only having the word "bad" in her vocabulary to describe what had happened to her.  Her childhood within Amish society was filled with sexual assault and rape.  She recalls the horrific memories from her adolescence, "If somebody was raping me, I'd look up to ceiling, count the blocks or count the cracks in the wall, or [I would be] completely not there emotionally.  I would have committed suicide many times over if I wouldn't [have been] strong."  Throughout her childhood, Mary was sexually raped abused by many different members of the local Amish community.  The most shocking, however, was her brother Johnny Byler.  Johnny began sexually abusing his sister when he was 12 and she was just 6.  Her brother's abuse continued into her teenage years.  She remembered fearing being alone, walking to the outhouse or anywhere.  The abuse in Mary's family started with her stepfather, who consistently beat Mary and her siblings throughout their childhood.  He used shovels, hacksaws, even his fists, anything he could get his hands on.  Despite these tragic events, members of the Amish community were very accepting of this sexual and physical abuse, as Mary's story is not uncommon.  The amish community puts a strong emphasis on the importance of confession.  A public confession to pretty much any crime will be forgiven in Amish community.  To expand on my earlier comment, drinking too much has the same punishment as raping a child.  For Mary, to imagine that her abusers would only get a "slap on the wrist" for their life-scarring actions she will never forget, was devastating.  The final straw for Mary was when she suspected her younger brother was molesting her 4 year old sister.  Her sister came to her and said, "You know, Mary, David is bad to me," a statement very similar to when Mary described her encounters with sexual abuse.  Her sister then confided in her mother, who told her not to speak about it and that she needed to forgive her brother.  Upon hearing this, Mary left the Amish community for good and the police got involved with her history of sexual abuse.  Her brother, Johnny, openly admitted to raping her, however argued that it was not between 100-150 times as Mary has said, but moreover between 50 and 75.
Three of Mary's brother were charged and served time for their sexual abuse towards Mary and her sisters.  Not surprisingly, the Amish community viewed Mary as the villain rather than the victim.  They did not understand why Mary would put him through court when he had already gone through the public apology, and been forgiven within the community.  As a reaction to the crowd, Judge Michael Rosbrough stated, "The thought occured to me, How many of you have ever cried for Mary Byler? You may have prayed for her, I don't doubt you have, but how many of you cried for her, for the loss of her childhood?" Unfortunately, Johnny was only sentenced to 10 years probation.
Despite this, Mary Byler lives a very different life now, with aspirations of pursuing a career in nursing.  She makes it a mission for herself to help others suffering from abuse in Amish Community.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Amish Teen Charged With Reckless Horse-and-Buggy Driving and Animal Abuse

In July of summer 2010, an Amish teen was caught with underage possession of alcohol, reckless endangerment, failure to stop at a stop sign, failure to yield at an emergency vehicle, and lastly, overdriving an animal.  Seventeen-year-old, Levi Detweiler, ignored the stop sign as well as the deputies orders to stop his buggy.  Detweiler then started a horse-and-buggy chase with the deputies.  The chase only lasted about a mile when Detweiler made a sharp turn and ended up in a ditch.  He then fled the scene, but later was found.
Just four days before this incident, four eighteen-year-old Amish boys were arrested for underage drinking and littering.  They were caught tossing empty beer cans from their horse-and-buggy.  The past year in December, a young Amish man was arrested with charges of a DUI while falling asleep at the reigns of his buggy, leaving his horse to continue down the middle of the road.  
However, contrary to these cases, Levi Detweiler was charged with overdriving an animal.  Although Detweiler, faced charges of animal abuse.  Punishments include paying a modest fine, performing some community service, or at the maximum, spending a few days in jail.  Overall, these charges and punishments are nothing more than a "slap on the wrist."  At least this time, the horse's torture and overdriving was considered.
New York Governor, David Paterson, is taking steps towards ending cruelty within the commercial carriage horse industry.  He said that the horses need to be treated better, or they will simply be banned.  Unfortunately, however, it is harder to regulate animal cruelty within the Amish community due to their rejection of the outside world.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Secret Amish Abuse

Abuse within secret society is known to be common.  The Amish are by no means immune from this.  As a community, the Amish are extremely reluctant to converse with the outside world.  Abuse within Amish Culture falls under the name of discipline.  What may be most shocking is how far abuse and forgiveness can go still under the name of discipline.  Amish are told how to live most aspects of their life.  They are taught how to dress, wear their hair, even to include what color inside their homes should be.  They are taught about forgiveness, even to forgive acts of adultery, rape, or even murder.  It seems almost any sin is forgivable, except the ultimate sin: leaving Amish culture.  David and Fran Yoder committed the unforgivable sin."Once I was gone I was not allowed to step foot on my father's property. They wouldn't speak of me. They considered me dead. The entire Amish community turned their backs. I was not allowed to attend my parent's funerals and neither were my children," David Yoder explained.  In fact, Amish law even forbids reporting acts of crime to authorities.  Fran Yoder confessed "I was raped by my brother-in-law when I was just 17, but as a woman I kept quiet for a while."  Amish authorities prefer to handle crime without the federal government involvement.  
In the past, there have been few known cases of rape within amish community, because reporting crime is highly looked down upon.  In the case of Jacob Weaver, 55 year old Amish man, who was charged and pleaded guilty of raping a young child.  A family member commented about his trial.  "We would just be happy to continue on and we would like to fellowship with him and bring (him) to church and move on in spirit and grow that way. That's why we want him home,"  The family of Chris Mullet, a 28 year old man who was charged with rape of a young girl, said a similar statement about his trial.  “If you ask for forgiveness and they show us they’re sorry. We don’t think about it. If it happens today tomorrow it’s forgotten.”  Acceptance of rape in Amish community is far beyond average American culture.  It seems as though a person faces complete rejection in society if named  a sexual predator.  
As if rape wasn't bad enough, even cases of murder have been covered up within Amish Community. David Yoder claimed that his sister even confessed to the murder of his niece.  Yoder explained that authorities response to the confession was "This can never leave this room.   It has to remain this way for the betterment of community."
How ironic that the Amish are able to forgive acts such as rape and murder so easily but are unable to forgive those who wish to experience a life away from Amish community?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Amish Farmers Polluting The Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Bay is polluted from many different factors.  Alarmingly, the Amish contribute an extremely high level of fertilizer as runoff to the Chesapeake Bay.  The Amish community own 5,000 of the farms in Lancaster County, PA.  The manure and fertilizer from their farms run off into local streams, which eventually run into the Chesapeake Bay.  Such runoff can lead to Dead Zones in the bay, which can be a fishermans worst nightmare. 
"They are very resistant to government interference, and they object to government subsidies," Donald Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College and studier of the Amish, said.  The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to approach each farmer individually, suggesting different changes they could make to fix their continued damage to the Chesapeake Bay.  While some Amish decided to make improvements on thier manure and fertilzer damage, many felt insulted by the EPA's interference.  The Amish Community rejection of any kind of government influence or regulations could lead to further destruction of the Chesapeake Bay. 
Not only are the Amish polluting the bay, they are putting themselves at risk for many health issues.  The New York Times article reported on an assessment of 24 Lancaster County farms. "Twenty-three of the farms were plain sect; 17 were found to be managing their manure inadequately. The abundance of manure was also affecting water quality. Six of the 19 wells sampled contained E. coli bacteria, and 16 had nitrate levels exceeding those allowed by the E.P.A.”  While the Amish may think that they are living sustainably, they are seriously contributing the destruction of the bay and risking their health in the process.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Amish Puppy Mills

It may come as a shock to many Americans that the Amish community, known to have a good moral christian lifestyle, own 20% of puppy mills.  If you are unfamiliar with the atrocities of puppy mills, here is a brief description.   Last year, over 5 million dogs were killed in puppy mills, that’s over 11,000 dead dogs everyday.  Dogs in puppy mills are kept in horrible conditions.  The dogs used for breeding are kept in cages for their entire lives.  The cages are stacked up to 10 cages high, leaving the dogs in the bottom cages with a 90 percent chance of getting an eye or ear infection.  Their cages are made of wire, which their feet can sometimes slide through, making their feet sore and swollen.  If dogs are rescued, they are unable to walk due to being confined in such a small space so many years.  When the dogs are no longer able to reproduce or simply aren't sold as puppies, they are mass murdered by being drowned, shot, or even put into woodchippers.  Dogs in these puppy mills are routinely "debarked" by shoving a steel pipe down their throats.  The Amish consider the dogs in their puppy mills livestock, which allows them to commit these atrocities without any law imposing against them.  Nevertheless, outsiders are rarely allowed into these puppy mills.
It was once reported that in an amish-owned puppy mill in Berks County, PA a man named Elmer Zimmerman shot and killed 80 dogs after being told they needed to be checked by a veterinarian.  As if that information isn't disturbing enough, a local animal rescue stated that out of the 80 dogs killed, at least 70 of them could have been place in homes.  Although in Pennsylvania it is legal to shot ones property, its inhumane for these kinds of tragedies to take place.
You may be asking yourself how can the Amish behave so completely heartless while they are known for being such a peaceful non-harming community?  It is possible that since the Amish discipline their children so harshly, they are often abused.  This overly strict and abusive discipline results in continued abuse that is projected onto animals.  Questioning any sort of authority is not accepted in Amish society, which allows the puppy mill owners to have complete community support. 
The Amish have created a deception to Americans that they are a peaceful, loving community, living in one with nature and its surroundings, while in reality they deceive the average american routinely with their secret abuse.