October 3rd, 2006

Clash of civilizations: the modern world comes to the Amish

The headlines that announced the killings of five young girls in an Amish school (“Amish School Shootings”) seemed more than oxymorons. It seemed as though matter was colliding with antimatter in a meeting of opposites that shouldn’t have been able to even exist in the same dimension. The killings appeared–for the first moment at least–quite literally, impossible. But in retrospect, why should they be?

When I was a child, a mass murder in a school–any school–seemed just as incomprehensible. But recent decades have erased that perception, and now schools are relatively commonplace settings for shootouts, so much so that security measures are also commonplace.

But in Amish country? Among the most peaceloving and pacifist people in the US, perhaps the world?

The gunman was not Amish; that was somehow a relief to hear. But it seems his life until the last few months gave no hint of what was to come: a pleasant family man, a good father and husband, who had nevertheless secretly been building up a stockpile of armaments and ammunition, waiting and planning carefully for this day.

The human heart can be a dark, unknown, and unknowable place, the human mind likewise. I would not be surprised if an autopsy of the killer were to reveal some organic lesion such as a brain tumor in a vital area connected with judgment and aggression. Or perhaps that’s just what I want to believe, because it would appear to provide a neat explanation when in fact there can be no neat explanations for such an outrage.

The killer selected his victims carefully. All were female children, the most vulnerable-seeming of the already vulnerable. And why the Amish? They were nearby. But perhaps there was more. If part of the gunman’s aim was to shock as well as kill, to commit an act especially outrageous in its targeting of those ordinarily most removed from violence, he certainly succeeded.

But the same thing that made the choice of victims so shocking makes them especially logical, because those who are particularly defenseless make the best victims of all. The Amish are pacifists and are committed to nonviolence; they don’t believe in having guns, and there was no security at the school.

Crime was not a total stranger to the Amish, even before this particular event:

Crime among the Amish is rare, but not unheard of. Almost always, it is an outsider who takes advantage of a Amish hospitality, naïve by modern standards, to steal and even murder.

Amish schools are similar to many country schools of old:

School doors are commonly unlocked during the school day…The schools themselves are one-room affairs with outdoor bathrooms, and have many windows to let in the sunlight since there is no electricity. There is usually just one teacher – most often a young, single, Amish woman – who sometimes has a helper..There are no guards.

The dedication of the Amish to nonviolence and pacifism is long and deep. The original Amish emigrees to this country were motivated, among other things, by their refusal to serve in the military of their native Switzerland. Another anti-military detail is their refusal to this day to wear buttons, associated in their eyes with military uniforms:

[The Amish's] pacifism and social conscience cause some of them to be drawn to left-of-center politics, while their generally conservative outlook causes others to favor the right wing. They are nonresistant and rarely defend themselves physically or even in court; in wartime, they take conscientious objector status; their own folk-history contains tales of heroic nonresistance.

Heroice nonresistance is wonderful, but it has its limitations against a crazed gunman. I want to make one thing very clear, however: by discussing the pacifism of the Amish, I am not suggesting for a moment that their nonviolence caused this attack. And security precautions might not have prevented it, either. But as a sometimes student of the phenomenon of pacifism (see this), I’ve puzzled over the dilemmas it presents.

I don’t know much about the deepest philosophical underpinnings of Amish thought, but my hunch is that this incident will not cause them to change their ways. Nor should it. Nonviolence is at the heart of the belief system of these strong people, and their society will absorb this blow.

The existence of a pacifistic culture is only possible, however, under two conditions: if all societies were pacifist, or if the pacifists live under the umbrella of another society that does have a police force and army and other protections against violent predators and attacks.

Those protections are far from perfect, of course. And the very society that is not pacifist–and that therefore needs a police force–is the same society that is generating the violence from which we (and the Amish) need protection.

But until the day the lion lies down with the lamb, an event I don’t see on the horizon–or any horizon that involves human beings–how do we best protect ourselves? And what is the price of such protection, in the psychological and spiritual sense?

These are questions the Amish may be facing today, or perhaps tomorrow. They are questions they’ve faced before, no doubt, when they made the decision to be pacifists and to shun much of modern life. The latter was probably thought to be protective, and for quite a while it was.

The Amish not only do not believe in violence, they do not believe in anger or recrimination, not even now:

“It’s just not the way we think. There is no sense in getting angry,” said Henry Fisher, 62, a retired farmer…He also said he did not expect additional security such as locks on schools because this was a “freak accident…”

A 25-year-old Amish man who declined to give his name said he lost his 13-year-old niece in the shooting and another niece aged 11 was in stable condition in a Philadelphia hospital.

He expressed resignation rather than anger. “I think it was going to happen. God has his hand in it,” he said….

There’s a limit to how much any of us can protect ourselves, or our children. The Amish have an especially restrictive code about this, and are highly unlikely to compromise a stable way of life because of this “freak accident.”

And the rest of us continue to make our own individual decisions about how much worry is too much, and what measures to take to keep ourselves as safe as possible without making it an obsession. Buy a gun? Learn karate? Carry mace? Move to the country? Barricade your kids in the house? Let them ride the subway? Security alarms? What sort of lock is best?

We make our own decisions knowing that ultimate safety is impossible. And the Amish make theirs, knowing the same. The answers are different, the dilemma universal.

55 Responses to “Clash of civilizations: the modern world comes to the Amish”

  1. smokeandashes Says:

    Neo –

    I believe you are correct about the Amish and the decision that people must make about how far you must go to protect yourself.

    Do you have any thoughts on reports that he claimed to have molested female relatives and was recently dreaming of doing it again?

  2. Nancy's Apology Says:

    More violence creates more violence. More guns, more guards, more locks, more secret weapons, and soon we are living in a jungle. Our culture is dying on the rack of violence.

    I am a pacifist, though not Amish. I just see their point. The only way to stop violence is to refuse to participate in it. Occasionally, you will be a victim of it. But in the long run, there is no other path out of the nightmare.

  3. DaveindeSwamp Says:

    The guy’s a coward, assualts and murders little girls and then blows his own cowardly self to hell. I hope he is burning . Too bad we can’t bring him back to kick the hell out of him.

  4. Aged Aged Says:

    Occasionally “you” will be a victim of it.

    Unfortunately, when dealing with people like this shooter, “you” only get one chance to stand by your principles before he makes a corpse out of you. Are you sure your pacifism is worth dying for? Worth allowing others to die protecting you from less-enlightened people?

    I would submit that giving up violence means giving up defending yourself – and that means giving up responsibility for your own fate. This is not a healthy position for a grown-up to take.

  5. Nancy Says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and well-written post. I’d put one up earlier, wasn’t totally satisfied with it, but it was the best I could do.

  6. douglas Says:

    “Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay — and claims a halo for his dishonesty.”
    Robert Heinlein

    “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force, which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him it was his duty to defend me even by using violence Hence it was that I took part in the Boer War, the so-called Zulu Rebellion, and the late war. Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.”
    -Mohandas Gandhi

    Even Ghandi realized that civil disobedience only worked because it was against the essentially civil British. I’m fine with people choosing pacifism, but I don’t understand resignation to ‘God’s hand’ in incidents such as these. What has God to do (directly) with a man exercising his God given free will to commit evil? If you hold as the Amish do that it’s all God’s hand, then what of free will? What does it matter then, what we choose to do or not if it’s all going to be controlled by God’s hand anyway? So this man who committed this act of evil was the hand of God incarnate? Those little girls were evil and deserving of such a fate?

    Doesn’t being sheep that won’t even raise a hand to defend one’s life (or anyone else’s for that matter) under any circumstances ENCOURAGE violence by those who seek to exercise their power over others? I say yes, so while I weep (literally) for the families of those little girls, I cannot understand them, and I’m not sure I can say they are completely innocent.

  7. dicentra Says:

    The trouble with being absolute pacifists is that it guarantees that the only survivors are the predatory, violent people. Imagine if we had all taken the absolute pacifist stance during WWII: Hitler and the Japanese would rule the world even today, anyone who dared speak out would be murdered, and the rest of the population would be horribly oppressed.

    That’s the population of the whole world, by the way, not just the hapless inhabitants of one or two countries.

    It’s not a matter of defending *yourself* so much as a matter of destroying the bad guys, who, after they kill you, will go on to kill others. And after they’re done killing, they’ll subject the survivors to Saddam-like sadism.

    Unfortunately, it often comes down to whether you value righteousness enough to prevent it from being swept off the earth or if you want to preserve your peacetime scruples even if it means that evil prevails.

  8. Cathy Says:

    We shared an initial reaction: that there must be an organic cause. There’s no comfort to be had in all our ruminations as to causes. The heart staggers, our mind runs for cover – perhaps escape in a rerun of “Everyone Loves Raymond”. I’ve been reminding tmyself that the incidence of depression among the Amish is the lowest recorded in the US and that the bereaved will have the solace of close community ties. Perhaps this will allay some of the anguish. Small comfort, that – but, still, something to push back at the wall of darkness.

  9. Steve Moore Says:

    I wasn’t going to comment on this but the anti-pacifism needs clarification.

    #1, Pacifists don’t “need” a big brother with a gun to protect them. There have been numerous pacifist sects across time. They are rarely wiped out by violence.

    #2, Most pacifists have a POV that could be described as fatalistic. It may not be a POV I share, but I respect it.

    #3, Most pacifists also tend to be non-attached to this world. They think either that this life is an illusion or that a more permanent life comes after death. Again, I don’t share the POV, but it deserves respect.

    #4, Pacifists definitely do not believe that they control the hour of when our lives begin, or end. I strongly agree with this. As a result, if they chose to “resist not evil” by their pacifism, that’s their business.

    There’s definitely a problem with acting as though pacifists, or Amish in particular, are somehow “freeloaders”. There’s a strong current to religious thinking that does not hold that creating a heaven on earth, in terms of material satisfactions, is either possible or even desirable. Killing the wicked, to achieve this, is, to many religious people, a contradiction in terms. I don’t expect anyone hereabouts to agree with that attitude. Just give it some thought.

  10. harry Says:

    Steve,

    I dont think many people have a problem with the Amish on their pacifist beliefs, (OK, possibly Douglas does, I dont know.), but those who openly preach pacifism to us from a standpoint of moral superiority over the rest of us.

    In that case it becomes freeloading especially when done behind our laws, courts, police and military power.

    I dont know which pacifist sect has survived history the longest, but I suspect it is those who migrated from a region of high oppression/aggression to a lesser one populated by others willing to protect themselves and others.

    Can you name an exception?

  11. Danny Lemieux Says:

    Actually, the only reason there have been pacifist sects here in the U.S. is because they could come here to escape those that were persecuting them in other countries. So, yes, it is the “others” who protect them here from those that would do them harm. I, for one, have no respect for pacificists. From a religious perspective, how could any individual have so little respect for God’s great gift of life to them that they would willingly throw it away, and leave their predator free to do the same again, again and again? I know of a very nice young man who was shot by a burgler and, as he lay bleeding, believed that it was the “Christian” thing not to press charges. The burgler, of course, was set free to commit the same crime again. I asked this nice young man if he would take responsibility for this shooter’s future victims. He admitted that he had not thought of that. I have met Amish people. They tend to be very nice people. That alone does not make them right or particularly moral.

  12. camojack Says:

    As always in these situations, I find myself wishing that the perpetrator had started with himself.

  13. douglas Says:

    You know, it’s funny Steve, I had more respect for the Amish before this event got me thinking. Of course, my primary emotions were sympathy for the families, and anger, perhaps even rage at the perpetrator, but then I got to reading things like Neo’s post, and thinking more about it, and I must admit I felt a little angry that the Amish allow themselves to be such easy targets. That they rarely are victims of crime (that we know of- do they report everything?) is irrelevant. They allowed themselves to be the near-perfect victims to this predator. He didn’t just pick the nearest school, he picked the one where there was no phone to call for help, no men, armed or not, and no one who would even raise a hand in self defense because of their teachings. Thank God he never got to carry out his apparent plan to molest the Girls before he killed them. They can’t have a phone because it’s a connection to the outside (evil) world, but that’s not going to stop an evil man from walking in and killing them. Having a phone, on the other hand, might have allowed them to call for help and save lives. Instead, he had an hour or so to block the doors and prepare for the arrival of the police.
    The Amish are an apparently peaceful society because they espouse good moral values, but also because they have a semi-closed community, they watch each other closely, and have severe punishments within the community for breaking the rules- including banishment, which some people, particularly those raised in a semi-closed society would consider rather frightening and harsh. Once you get beyond things like how they eschew buttons on their clothing because they are too reminiscent of military uniforms (true), you see they aren’t so different from the rest of us, they just chose as a group to trade some or perhaps many freedoms for security. I suppose there are some loose parallels to tyrannical societies that also have little or no crime. The presence or absence of crime isn’t an absolute indicator of the value of a society.

    Note Ghandi’s quote in my previous comment, I have great respect for him. I guess it’s not seeking peace that bothers me, it’s people expecting it I find troubling. Well, that and people not protecting their children and writing off bad things happening to them as ‘Gods will’.

  14. Amish Furniture Says:

    The world knows little aboutt he peace loving amish people. The media should cover their lives respectfully without infringing on their way of lives. What happened was very sad. But the world should learn fromt he amish how to conduct themselves inthe time of such grief.

  15. beatrix Says:

    “Nancy’s apology” wrote,
    “I am a pacifist, though not Amish. I just see their point. The only way to stop violence is to refuse to participate in it. Occasionally, you will be a victim of it. But in the long run, there is no other path out of the nightmare.”

    The problem I have with this mindset, Nancy, is that “you” are not the only one who can become a victim. Others will be victims, too. And if “you” have the ability to protect those others and choose not to use that ability, then “you” are participating in the violence by enabling it. The choice that you imagine to be a refusal to participate in violence is, in fact, its facilitation.

    It is a hard thing to acknowledge, but the hard reality is that there are times when nothing but violence will stop violence. Confusing the use of violence under such circumstances with the aggressive use of violence by insisting that they are both the same is nothing more than an exercise in denial. Do you think, for instance, that anything short of a physical attack of some kind could have stopped this man from executing those children? Do you believe, really, that he could have somehow been reasoned out of this action before he opened fire? And if you do, would you still have been willing to rely on this belief if it were your child lined up in that classroom at the other end of his gun, with her ankles taped together?

    Mind you, the pacifism I am criticizing here is not that of the Amish. I don’t know if there is anything they could have done to keep this from happening, even if they had imagined that it might — and honestly, why would they have imagined that it might? In any case, though I know little about their beliefs, I suspect that they, like many other religious pacifists, believe that protection of the innocent is not their role but that of God. I do not share that belief, but I do believe it deserves respect.

    I do not, however, respect the beliefs of those pacifists I know — and unfortunately, I know several well — who do not believe that God protects the innocent and yet preach pacifism at others, not just for themselves but to the point of arguing that no nation should even have a military. Such people are willing, it seems to me, to sacrifice the innocence of others for the sake of their own imagined purity of conscience. This makes them participants in evil. I find nothing to respect or admire in their views.

    As for the Amish, I noticed something important in this terrible story: they called the police, when of course they knew that the police would use violence in an attempt to rescue their children. I am not suggesting at all that this was in any way hypocritical. To me, it implies that their pacifism is grounded in a sound understanding of its limits, and a recognition that this heartbreaking world will sometimes present even the best of people with problems that pacifism cannot solve.

  16. jgr Says:

    The question arises: why have American schools become battlegrounds, or killing fields?

    I see no national figure or group willing to address that terrible reality.

    One would have thought the NEA, PTA other educational groups, and parents, would have had mass marches demanding answers.

    But Columbine continues recently in Wisconsin, too. (And Tennessee earlier, and Pennsylvania before that..) When will it end?

    That parents wring their hands and fear; allow metal detectors for 7-year olds/elementary school; and have police roaming the halls says we have surrendered the essence–and safety– of our culture.

  17. A.Hunn Says:

    I suspect pacifists are the first to call the cops and have them enact violence on their behalf. I suspect many of them greedily smack their lips while they feast on chicken, beef, mutton and pork that has been killed for them. I suspect they don’t hesitate to have growing, healthy flowers uprooted and killed so they can send them to a funeral home to be placed beside a rotting human corpse as a perverted symbol of sympathy. Pacifists make good stars in Jihadist beheading videos because they cower and wimper so well and pacifist women would make good breeding cows for Jihadists too and would meekly accept beatings for not having the burka on properly. A real pacifist would refuse to pay taxes that support violent cops and the military. They may well be genetic misfits and should at least be willing to have their canine teeth extracted to demonstrate their purity of belief.

  18. Fistandantalus Says:

    This is truly a sad story for the Amish community. I work in a mostly Amish community at the Regional Hospital. They constitute about 40% of our patient base and are incredibly thoughtful and consistent.

    Recently a family in our area had a terrible tragedy befall them. 5 children were in a buggy heading home from some event, with the oldest being around the age of 16 driving, various ages sprinkled in, boys and girls. A drunk driver plowed through the entire buggy at over 40 miles per hour, killing all the children and the horse. All were rushed to our hospital. The children were all pronounced DOA. When the drunk was brought in he was fighting with deputies, nurses, doctors, screaming, carrying on and in general being a violent asshole. The parents of the children came in and were quiet, reserved, and accepted their children’s deaths in a very subdued manner, praying in the waiting room and then after getting all the information on collecting their children, leaving quietly, shunning any assistance.

    The drunk fought constantly through the treatment of his injuries, being very abusive to the staff of the hospital…

    The differences in our cultures are quite interesting…

  19. goesh Says:

    jgr – I don’t have any good answers, yet we can’t say this is an epidemic given a population of 300 million and thousands of schools in operation. Our frontal vision, opposable thumbs, bipoedal ability, large cranial capacity and as Mr/Ms Hunn (a pun?) previously noted, our canine teeth, all combine to make us the most lethal, killing predators the Cosmic has ever produced. Yet we selectively allow ourselves to be horrified, perhaps because we can’t afford a psychic overload of the real gore that permeates our collective existence. Children are beaten to death every day in human cultures. There is no telling the exact number of reports of child abuse and neglect our social service agencies receive each day and the high percentage of said reports that are validated. The same applies to spousal abuse. We’ve got internal and external terrorists no doubt, but we muddle through, somehow. I am surprised the Left is not calling for law-abiding, sane, responsible citizens to be disarmed as a means to stop deranged folk from killing people. I’m all for waiting periods and stringent background checks and excluding people with domestic violence and mental health records and criminal records from buying guns and I certainly am in favor of coming down hard on rural flea markets where guns are sold like used clothes and tools, no questions asked. Was this deranged killer able to legally own guns? I don’t know, but he could have just as easily waited outside the school, ran a bunch of them down with a truck then used a knife or club on the shocked survivors. I do note that immediately we start to look for clues as to what went wrong with this human aberration, and I note the sexual pervert Foley is now telling the world that he was molested by a priest when he was young. There is always an excuse, a reason, mitigating circumstances. Indeed something is out of sync when we can’t collectively celebrate the demise of monsters. Some elements of our society feel sorry for the deranged felons who kill people, take hostages then get shot in the head by a SWAT sniper. We certainly don’t give the benefit of the doubt to our protectors and we have even allowed home invaders to sue their victims. I think we get what we deserve.

  20. Stephen A. Meigs Says:

    I would say there’s nothing extraordinary about the man’s behavior. Child molesters naturally use molestation to dominate their victims. Once the molestation occurs, they naturally tend to want to be very scary people to the victims they try to force to their will. A child molester who is into gaining control by torture and terror naturally will want to expose his victims to hype about how he is the sort of person who kills very easily, such making him more terrifying. But child molesters aren’t the brightest bulbs nor skilled at finding their own true selves. Sometimes they believe their own hype about how they enjoy killing (as opposed to enslaving), and so you get incidents like this, where they kill even though obviously they hurt themselves by doing so. Bertrand Russell was fond of pointing out that bad deluded people are often worse than bad non-deluded people; here is an example. The murderer, though probably he was naturally into molesting girls, would not likely have killed if he hadn’t caught up in the hype from movies, etc., about how his sort very much enjoys killing. One notices these sorts of events occur in groups, as though hype and immitation does play a role.

    It is interesting to note that semen contains alegesics (like prostaglanding E2), chemicals that increase sensitivity to pain. Thus I figure sodomy probably makes torture more effectively terrifying, which is why sodomy tends to be associated with these sorts of killings. Molesters, and more particularly child molesters, tend to prefer to enslave and torture the sexually innocent and those who are unsure of their own true sexual tendencies, which I can imagine Amish girls tend to be to an unusual degree. If someone has too much experience with getting molested, they tend to realize more that the addictive pleasures (I think semen also contains addicting chemicals) of getting abused don’t depend much on who abused them, so those are not the child molesters’ favorite targets. And it is harder to warp someone’s sense of their own sexual desires if they already have thought enough about sex to have an idea of what they naturally are.

    People are good because it is more rewarding to promote beauty (of which goodness is a part) than anything else. Badness is thus the least rewarding thing to promote. My guess is that most people who are evil, i.e., who go beyond the much more typical bad selfishness into actually serving badness, are not evil by nature, rather, they are people deluded by their own lies.

  21. goesh Says:

    Boy! What an opportune time for Pete to lay some morbid numbers on us…any train wrecks to report on Pete that can be attributed to Bush??

  22. ZZMike Says:

    jgr’s question is important: why schools?

    I think that part of the answer is the age-old “copycat syndrome”. “It worked at Columbine, …, it just might work here”.

    In a way, the Amish seem much like the early Christians, who would sing hymns as they were dragged off to the Coliseum to face the lions.

    In a country of almost 300 million, there are bound to be – and there are – quite a lot of evil, crazed people, who are all too glad to impose suffering on someone else.

    What to do about it? Pray, and watch your back.

  23. dicentra Says:

    People are good because it is more rewarding to promote beauty (of which goodness is a part) than anything else. Badness is thus the least rewarding thing to promote.

    Badness is exceptionally easy to promote — it offers a shortcut to instant pleasure and gratification.

    Theft is sold as a quick way to get material goods. If you’re not tempted to break into someone’s house to steal their plasma screen, you can stealthily skim funds off your employer, rationalizing it as “they rip me off anyway via low wages.” People who shoplift do so because they get a high from beating the system.

    Murder is the ultimate power trip, the ultimate rush. Torture is also about power and the high you get from that. Like it or not, our brains can produce endorphins when we do some pretty rotten things.

    Likewise, jihad is extremely heady business. If nothing else, the jihadis possess passion, and they obviously get a buzz off it.

    We live in an extraordinary society. Murder and mayhem are not the norm but the exception. In the rest of world societies, throughout history, life has been brutal because wicked passions are allowed free rein, from the tyrant king who sucks his subjects dry to the errant soldiers who pillage and plunder for the fun of it to the sadistic beating of children by their parents.

    We are lucky to have inherited a civilized society where the benefits of rule of law and peaceableness are so evident. But it’s a fragile miracle we’ve got going. Evildoing is easier than doing good, because it doesn’t require self-restraint. Imagine what would happen if the power went out in the entire country for an indefinite period. That fragile miracle called civilization would break down in a trice, and the worst of our natures would quickly become evident.
    .

  24. Aged Aged Says:

    I’m wondering how the Amish handle genetic variation and sheer bad luck. I’m not talking about starting a nature/nurture argument, but is their lifestyle really so healthy that they never have to deal with the odd, inexplicable “bad seed” who seems to pop up once in a while in most cultures? Any Amish schizophrenics out there?

  25. Sergey Says:

    In my opinion, the best text about morality and pacifism from Christian perpective was written by Russian philosopher Vladimir Solov’ev. It is a book “Three Conversations”, containing a direct polemic with Lev Tolstoy and his teaching of non-resistance to evil by violence (inspired by Ghandy). I do not know if there is English translation of this book, but if it exist, I recommend it to everybody interested in this problem: it is short, concise and very clear.

  26. expat Says:

    Aged,

    Michener’s book “The Novel” might interest you.

  27. Don Says:

    #1, Pacifists don’t “need” a big brother with a gun to protect them. There have been numerous pacifist sects across time. They are rarely wiped out by violence.

    Which ones were not under the protection of a “big brother with a gun (or sword)”?

  28. Don Says:

    People are good because it is more rewarding to promote beauty (of which goodness is a part) than anything else. Badness is thus the least rewarding thing to promote.

    No, it is the payback visited by nonpacifists that suggests chosing good over evil.

    The bulk of human history is of conqest and war, not goodness.

  29. Don Says:

    More violence creates more violence.

    False.

    More guns, more guards, more locks, more secret weapons, and soon we are living in a jungle. Our culture is dying on the rack of violence.

    Guns, and the men who use them, have helped create this culture, and the civilization and security your pacifism depends upon.

    Left wingers sometimes put this sticker on their cars:

    “War doesn’t decide who’s right, only who wins”.

    And they are exactly right: that’s why the good must be armed and capable of violence.

  30. Don Says:

    I’m not talking about starting a nature/nurture argument, but is their lifestyle really so healthy that they never have to deal with the odd, inexplicable “bad seed” who seems to pop up once in a while in most cultures?

    Suspect most “bad seeds” leave for the larger culture. That’s where the money, porn, and booze is.

  31. Cappy Says:

    Nancy’s blog makes me glad to be an American, and glad that she’s not.

  32. Don Says:

    The latest news I saw was that the killer brought along personal lubricant and a board with eye bolts (perhaps for bounding the girls).

    Looks like he wanted to engage sexual fantasies, but he had the understanding that he was going to be caught. So he planned to fight it out and receive suicide by cop, killing his victims in the process.

  33. Anonymous Says:

    Nancy’s blog makes me glad to be an American, and glad that she’s not.

    Nancy’s comment here is one of the few that makes sense, you godawful, bullet-mouthed yankee.

  34. Ymarsakar Says:

    I’m fine with people choosing pacifism, but I don’t understand resignation to ‘God’s hand’ in incidents such as these.

    it is just inshallah, douglass.

    I’m not a pacifist, so I don’t view things in a pacifist setting. If someone of a pacifist belief system is willing to die and willing to let his loved ones die, for his beliefs, without any attempt to stave off death, then I would at least respect their total waste of a philosophy. Having a wasteful philosophy is bad of course, but it is much better than having one and not following it.

    At least those pacifists who are true to their beliefs, are honest and the Real Deal, instead of just fake opportunists that preach one thing and do another. This includes self-described pacifists who are NOT “sure” of whether they would kill in self-defense. If they aren’t sure, then they sure as heck can’t describe themselves as followers of pacifism.

    Security is a symbiotic relationship. You have your warriors who specialize in death and destruction, and then you have your civilians who specialize in peace and prosperity. Combining the two, provides a very good solution to security and the cost of security.

    The ultimate hybrid society, thus, consists of every individual who is both a warrior as well as a civilian. If a person, if every person, can switch between the two at will, the costs of learning defense becomes diluted by the mass community.

    There’s definitely a problem with acting as though pacifists, or Amish in particular, are somehow “freeloaders”.

    They are only freeloaders if they require others to defend them, without contributing in any fashion or way. Thus if the Amnish contribute even economically in taxes, then they do deserve protection, regardless of their belief systems. It is only people who say that you should protect them because that is your reason for existence, that people should find a problem with. Like France and the Un for example.

    The one thing that doesn’t make sense, is why people come to this blog to read a lot of stuff, that to them, makes no sense. That makes no sense.

  35. beatrix Says:

    There is “Nancy” and there is “Nancy’s Apology.” They are not the same person, and I think the people who have been commenting about “Nancy” probably mean “Nancy’s Apology,” but it’s hard to be sure.

    Also, I would like to know what Nancy’s Apology is apologizing for. It must be pretty heavy-duty to justify the nuisance of lugging around such an awkward name.

  36. Stephen A. Meigs Says:

    Dicentra,

    What it is rewarding for bad people to promote is their own selfish interest. It is not rewarding for them to promote badness for badness’ sake, as an ideal, as good people promote beauty for beauty’s sake. It can be advantageous to be the sort of person to promote beauty because a consequence is that people who share and sense your virtue will unselfishly love you. But promoting (as an ideal, unselfishly) badness won’t make anyone unselfishly love you, since badness is basically selfishness. You aren’t loving a group that shares your unselfishness, so it’s not your group; moreover, unselfishly loving a group because it is the least likely to unselfishly love your group can’t be expected to evolve; evil, unselfish serving of badness is something that happens mainly just when bad people are deluded. I suppose you might also say that often people promote badness to make their own bad behaviors look good or powerful, but this is not done to promote badness per se (as is the case with good people promoting goodness), but to promote their own selfish interest of not looking bad or weak.

    I don’t buy that murder is a power trip; and consider such irrational opinions being commonplace as part of the reason senseless killing is as commonplace as it is. I wouldn’t be surprised this murderer felt kind of disillusioned before he shot himself, because he certainly had been silly, getting and accomplishing nothing from the shooting and killing he did.

    It is excessively cynical to believe, as Don apparently does, that people aren’t good unless they feel their bad deeds will be punished. Some people are mostly that way, and yes, we need police and military to protect us from them, but not everybody is mostly that way.

  37. Sergey Says:

    Behavioral studies show that there is close correlation between punishment and development of altruistic behaviors in children. In certain range, the more punishment, the more altruism. Human nature requires some punishment and frustration in order to evolve beyond pleasure principle. All decent religious and moral doctrines recognize this from ancient times; but now we have also scientific proof of this statement. See “Science”: PSYCHOLOGY: The Value of the Stick: Punishment Was a Driver of … http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/312/5781/1727a
    And I do not understand, Neo, why it is so important for you to believe that there should be some organic causes for heinous crimes: is it not enough to recognize existence of original sin, or, scientifically speaking, of fallibility of personality development processes? Why any sociopath must be medically or genetically aberrant? Faults of socialization explain this all nicely.

  38. Sergey Says:

    This article from 23 June issie of “Science” is not in free access, so I give some quotes:
    “You evolve into more cooperative beeing if you grow up in a world where there are punishers”
    “Individuals in all societies were willing to pay a price to punish unequal offers… Some societies were less punitive than others. And societies with a greater willingness to punish were more altruistic…”
    This study resolves long-standing problem of evolution of altruistic behavior. Natural selection here does not work, because it encourage selfishness. So artificial selection, much more powerful, comes into play and drives in exactly opposite direction – by punishment. Humans have domesticated not only volves, creating dogs from them; humans have domesticated themselves. And some cultures were more successfull in it than others, having bred more amiable strains of Homo Sapience.

  39. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Maybe he wanted to prove that people who refuse to take up the gun can still be shot by them.

  40. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “Thus if the Amnish contribute even economically in taxes, then they do deserve protection, regardless of their belief systems.”

    They don’t. They get the same special exemptions from property and income taxes natives do, and they don’t even have to pay sales taxes on anything they buy or sell, as long as everything is produced by the Amish community.

  41. Don Says:

    It is excessively cynical to believe, as Don apparently does, that people aren’t good unless they feel their bad deeds will be punished. Some people are mostly that way, and yes, we need police and military to protect us from them, but not everybody is mostly that way.

    Stephen,

    In fact, I think most people are good, although I don’t think it has anything to do with promoting “beauty”. By saying most people are good, I’m saying that they behave well according to the behaviours of their culture. We are a social animal, with all that implies.

    Human history is that of armed conquest. We tend to build groups within which we tend to behave well, and outside the group we tend to behave badly. Trade and capitalism tend to push us towards working well outside the group, in a sense greed leads to good behaviour.

    However, there are those who will behave very badly if punishment is not a likely result, and furthermore there are nasty cultures that will behave badly towards outsiders, if they are not kept in check.

  42. Don Says:

    More on goodness:

    We evolved as a social animal that had to cooperate for survival. Evolution favored those with good social behaviour, and our idea of “good” is submitting to the social norms of society.

    Asthetic appreciation, beauty, and other such concepts have nothing to do with it: it is evolution driven by a need for cooperation.

  43. newton Says:

    Unfortunately, it often comes down to whether you value righteousness enough to prevent it from being swept off the earth or if you want to preserve your peacetime scruples even if it means that evil prevails.

    Interestingly, a group of people trapped by sickos (not disimmlar to that one on Lancaster Co.) on an airplane over the Western PA skies answered that same question over five years ago.

    They didn’t live to talk about it, but they didn’t drop on the floor in a trance-like state waiting to be slain when they realized what was going on. They faced evil head-on, knowing that they had nothing more to lose than what they were about to. Their actions have become an inspiration to us all.

    Unfortunately, too many pacifists answer that question to themselves when they’re at receiving end of the bullet, the knife or the sword. For martyrdom? Maybe so.

  44. Chuck Says:

    OFF TOPIC BUT INTERESTING:

    THE NEW YORK TIMES
    On Language

    Islamofascism
    By WILLIAM SAFIRE

    [EXCERPT] . . . First, Islamic radicalism seems long, bookish and weak, because a radical need not be any kind of terrorist.

    Second, militant jihadist is redundant if you take jihad to mean “holy war.” But some Muslim scholars translate the Arabic word as “spiritual struggle,” from jahada, “to strive,” and besides, jihad is too unfamiliar to many English-speakers to register quickly as a label.

    Third, Islamofascism. A popularizer of the term has been Christopher Hitchens, who writes for The Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair and Slate. He declines coinage credit, informing me that he wrote that the 9/11 attacks represented “fascism with an Islamic face,” (a play on Susan Sontag’s phrase about the Polish coup of 1981, “fascism with a human face,” in turn based on the 1968 “Prague spring” theme, “Communism with a human face”). The first use I can find is in The Independent of Sept. 8, 1990: “Authoritarian government, not to say ‘Islamo-fascism,”’ wrote Malise Ruthven in the London newspaper, “is the rule rather than the exception from Morocco to Pakistan.”

  45. rightwingprof Says:

    Although you are correct about the Amish being pacifists, you are incorrect about their not having guns. All the Amish have guns. They don’t target human beings with them, however.

    Owning guns has nothing to do with being violent, except in Rosie O’Donnell’s very screwed up world.

  46. Sergey Says:

    The name “Islamofascism” is not exactly correct, but it already stuck. Personally, I belive that this is a new and recent phenomenon, the third form of eschatological totalitarism with ambition of world domination, after communism and facsism, but it, of course, have some resemblance to both. Any ideology with such characteristics is very dangerous and malignant and can provoke world war. And, of course, pacifism provides no solution to this problem. Such satanic evil can be stopped only by violence.

  47. Ymarsakar Says:

    They don’t. They get the same special exemptions from property and income taxes natives do, and they don’t even have to pay sales taxes on anything they buy or sell, as long as everything is produced by the Amish community.
    Tatterdemalian | 10.05.06 – 1:18 pm | #

    if that is so, then any protection a state or government agency provides to them, would be unfair and probably would constitute as a gift. It would be even more unfair if the Amish asked or demanded for such treatment, as kind of like the Native Americans who want gambling tax breaks.

    It is a good thing that the Amish usually does not ask for such favors or assistance. However, other pacifists, do demand quite strenously that people should die for their beliefs. Which makes the Amish very tolerable in comparison to the other wanna be pacifists in the world.

  48. MissJean Says:

    Tatterdemalian’s claim that Amish don’t pay taxes is false. I grew up in a rural community in Michigan that has a large Amish community. The Amish pay property taxes, millages, business taxes, etc. (An ironic fact: They paid their share for Dial-A-Ride system, which they don’t use.) They also were involved in every Red Cross blood drive in the county and many clothing drives, contributing quilts and such for the “English”.

    They aren’t perfect, but they aren’t freeloaders. In an age when people are sue-happy and demanding other people pay for the consequences of their stupid behavior, the Amish are kind of refreshing.

    And, as a little aside, they do contribute to American society as a preserver of skills and arts. I’ve paid good money to see re-enactors at Plymouth Plantation and the like, but a visit to an Amish household gave me a lot more insight into how our forefathers lived.

  49. MissJean Says:

    I should add that the only property that seems to have a tax-abatement is the schoolhouse.

  50. Tatterdemalian Says:

    The tax exemption only applies to fully self-sufficient Amish communities, not to mixed communities like you describe, MissJean.

    Even a fully self-sufficient community profits from the fact that they are surrounded by peaceful territories patrolled by US government forces, but personally I really couldn’t care one way or the other. They pay the price of refusing modern police services when incidents like this occur, so as long as it’s a sacrifice they’re willing to make, along with all the other sacrifices they make in the name of self-sufficiency, they can spend their lives without paying a dime to Uncle Sam, for all I care.

  51. Anonymess Says:

    Nothing ever really really explains heinous acts such as this one. While we can usually understand some of the facts and connect some of the dots (if early reports are accurate, Roberts was a child sex offender–he could have been sexually molested himself as a child–who was reportedly filled with anger at God and who knows who else because of a daughter who died when she was less than one-week old) that shaped the person and led to the crime, the facts never explain the whole story. Unless you yourself are capable of committing the same crime, how can you or anyone really understand the mind of such a person whom we like to call a madman—mad angry and mad crazy. I’d like to think that given the same life circumstances as Roberts I would go for help, tell someone about my inner demons, or at least kill myself before taking someone else’s life. Would I? Or maybe we all have some of the madman in us just waiting for the right conditions to ripen and explode.

    Roberts probably was consumed with anger/rage, hurt, and envy/ jealousy whenever he encountered young, happy, full-of-life girls. His victims, I suspect, were his daughter’s age had she lived. He likely followed the news story of the recent Colorado school molestation and killing and decided to become a copycat molester and killer and vent his presumably pent-up rage and hate on these young, defenseless, schoolgirls. Why should they be allowed to live if his daughter couldn’t. Again, none of this, even if true, really justifies or explains how depraved, how base, how cruel, how “inhuman” he was or became. Crimes such as this one unfortunately no longer shock or even surprise me. If we humans can kill six million Jews, one of our kind can certainly find a ”reason” to kill five or six Amish girls. As a naive child I held high regard for humanity in general. Sadly, those lofty ideals have withered with time. For me now, it’s become a question of just how low, how cruel and how deadly some humans can be toward one another. Rwanda, Darfur, Terrorism, and many many other unspeakable acts of torture and death remind us again and again that at least some humans have no obvious regard for the value of a human life, including their own. With North Korea and Iran vying to become nuclear combatants, we all may get to witness and experience just how low and inhuman our race can go before it’s gone.

  52. jgr Says:

    A few replies:

    “And, as a little aside, they do contribute to American society as a preserver of skills and arts>”

    American diversity needs protection. Our roots are being destroyed. Miss Jean makes a good point above.

    ” Or maybe we all have some of the madman in us just waiting for the right conditions to ripen and explode.”

    No, Anonymous. Still take the average 21c American–especially young people who are even more vulnerable– and expose such to the nihilistic music, art, media culture prevalent, and violence is a predictable outcome. Check your local crime headlines for any part of America. Someone has said that if the Islamists did not favor us with their continual atrocity display, American TV and movies would invent them.

    Sergey says:
    “the third form of eschatological totalitarism with ambition of world domination, after communism and facsism, but it, of course, have some resemblance to both.”

    Thank you for this helpful definition.

  53. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “Unless you yourself are capable of committing the same crime, how can you or anyone really understand the mind of such a person whom we like to call a madman?mad angry and mad crazy.”

    By educating ourselves about them.

    This is, of course, yet another clumsy attempt by some sheep to pretend that sheepdogs and wolves are all the same.

  54. Anonymous Says:

    Such satanic evil can be stopped only by violence.

    You lack imagination.

  55. Michael Andreyakovich Says:

    Is it he that lacks imagination, or you that lack a spine?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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