Stephen W. Browne | Rants and Raves

Oct/06

6

The Amish Tragedy

What did the Amish do to deserve what happened to their children this week?

Now if you thought that I meant that in anything but a rhetorical sense you’d condemn me as a moral monster- and you’d be right.

The Amish are one of America’s so-called “peculiar peoples” i.e. unassimilated minority cultures that have settled among us. Others include the Hutterites, Gypsies and perhaps Cajuns. One might have included Mormons at one time, though they are now pretty much part of the mainstream in America. After all, what’s another new religion in this country?

Amish live amongst us, not entirely separate but keeping to themselves in terms of worship, socializing and marriage. They do business in the mainstream economy, very well in fact. They never bought into the trap of agricultural subsidies and cash monocropping and so they don’t seem so vulnerable to agricultural price fluctuations. They eschew modern technology, but not as much as people think. (For example they often keep cellphones for business purposes, usually in an outbuilding – which sometimes sounds like a good idea to me.) They are quite reasonable as concerns legal requirements that their buggies have electric lights for night driving and their requests (you can’t say “demand” with the Amish) to be exempted from the common laws concerning education and social security taxes can be accommodated easily without burdening the majority culture – quite the contrary.

As odd as their ways are to us, nobody I know of ever said that they were anything but the best of neighbors. So what did that bastard have against these good people, and why did he kill five of their little girls?

As to motive, I have speculations I’ll go into later, but short answer: nothing, and because he could.

He picked the Amish because they were “soft targets”, pacifists.

An extreme doctrine tends to attract well, extremes. Pacifists in my experience, tend to be either cowards – or the extremely brave. Quakers for example, refuse to serve in the combat arms of the military but have a tradition of serving as medics and stretcher bearers – a job much more dangerous than being an infantryman if you think about it. A man with a stretcher has to go where the shooting is with nothing to shoot back with, and can’t crawl and take cover when he is carrying a wounded man.

It is also known that Quakers are “practical pacifists”, i.e. that they can be pushed too far. I’ve been told that the Quaker saying goes, “I would not harm thee for all the world friend, but thou standest where I am about to shoot.”

Can you imagine anything more terrifying that a pacifist who has been pushed to violence? Because by the time he has exhausted every non-violent alternative, he has eaten a lot of s#%t and is really pissed-off!

This is a far different breed than the pacifist who seems to be loudly advertising to the world, “Don’t hurt me, I’m not a threat!” You can tell this kind by their hypocrisy. They won’t fight you, but they’ll sue you. (Using the power of the law for compulsion without dirtying their own hands.) They are the kind that favor all kinds of social legislation, backed by the power of the state to “do good”, without considering that all law is enforced with the threat of violence. All law, without exception. A true, consistent pacifist must necessarily be an anarchist. (Though of course, not all anarchists are pacifists.)

There are variations of course. One of them is Pacifism as a Way (Do, Tao in some Asian languages). This is a decision made by one who does not deny the necessity for violence on some occasions, but has made the personal choice to seek peace through friendly persuasion and renouncing the use of force even at the cost of his own life. It’s interesting to note how many of this kind have been soldiers at some time in their lives. Gautama the Buddha (born into the warrior caste), Ashoka the Conqueror (who had a “What have I done?” moment on the battlefield and devoted the rest of his reign to spreading Buddhism) and St. Francis of Assisi (called by some, “history’s only practicing Christian”).

I don’t know what the exact position of the Amish is, but I note that at this terrible time they’ve found some compassion within themselves for the wife and children of their children’s murderer. I cannot express how much I admire that – I don’t think I could do it.

It reminds me of an interview I once saw with the mother of one of Ted Bundy’s victims. The interviewer asked her if she had any thoughts about Bundy’s parents. She said, “I’d rather have my daughter than their son.” Or Corazon Aquino when asked how she felt about Ferdinand Marcos, i.e. how she felt about the man who ordered her husband’s murder. She looked very thoughtful and said, “Somewhere on the road to becoming a great man, Marcos took a wrong turn.”

Now having said that, I also wonder how much the Amish realize that the United States is one of the very few places in the world where they could live the way they do? (I suspect they do, they’re definitely not stupid.) They can live a pacifist lifestyle because they live in the midst of a benevolent, tolerant and free people who are not pacifists. Note that the way they immediately dealt with the situation was to call the police.

What am I getting at here? I’ll have more to say about it, but it comes down to this; a great many people in this rich, happy country of ours think that if somebody hates you, it has to be something you did to them. (Or something your group did.) Repeat after me, does-not-follow. (Or, non sequitur, if you want the Latin name for that logical fallacy.) They cannot imagine that someone could hate you enough to kill you, not for what you did, but for what you are and what you have.

Sometimes it’s your wealth, but more often what you have that they hate you for is something they could destroy but cannot steal, your happiness.

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Speculations on motive.

Firstly, let me note that attributions of motive, a favorite arguing tactic of the Left, are always speculative. True motive is the one thing we cannot know, since it resides in peoples’ heads, is most often complex and mixed, and is one of the things people are least likely to be honest about. To be credible, speculation of motive must be introspective and ruthlessly honest. That is, you have to take the position of, “I think this may be the motive because I can look inside myself and see it makes sense.” This can be terrifying.

So what the hell is going through the head of someone who kills a lot of people at random and then himself? I suspect that you might have someone with a lot of rage who thinks (probably correctly) that if he died nobody would notice or care. “Ah-ha, but I can make them care.”

There is a story that King Herod once asked his advisers how he could ensure universal mourning in Israel when he died. All but one said, “Oh great King, all will mourn when you die!” But one brave man said, “Order that at your death, Rabbi Hillel’s throat is to be cut.” Same logic.

What about his guy? He had a wife and two kids. And if initial accounts are to be believed, they were as surprised and shocked as anyone. He left a note saying he had molested two young relatives 20 years earlier, but the relatives said they don’t remember any such thing. Huh? What’s going on?

My guess is that this guy was plagued by desires and fantasies of sexually molesting young girls. Desires he could neither suppress nor live with. Finally, I think he decided that he wanted to act them out even if he died. Preliminary reports indicate that he came prepared to rape as well as kill but was interrupted before he could carry out his plan. He killed himself out of self-loathing, he killed his victims as a projection of his self-hatred.

At any rate, that’s my five-cent psychiatric evaluation.

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2 comments

  • Jonh Neo · October 7, 2006 at 12:55 pm

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  • Jeremy · October 8, 2006 at 7:56 pm

    Interesting post. You made a good point about the difference between courageous and cowardly pacifists. I have to say my respect for the Amish greatly increased after I heard they invited the shooter’s family to the funerals, as well. Whether you are pacifist or not, remaining true to one’s principles is often something that requires a great deal of courage and strength. The Amish families showed both.

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