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Interview With The Amish


Interview With The Amish


James Bernard Shoemacher, ѓ±JBѓ°, has been a friend and business associate of mine for about three years. He was born and raised in an Amish community in New Harmony, Indiana. JB spent twenty three years inside the community until he was married, then he left to join his brother who lived closer to town than the community was. Together they make up the New Harmony carriage MFR., this is how I came into contact with him. I first met JB and his brother Jed in a draft horse auction in Waverley In., he was there with several of their hand crafted carriages. I got to talking with him and soon thereafter started a business relationship with him that has lasted already five years. Over the time that Iѓ­ve know JB I took in a lot of knowledge about his culture and heritage, thus making him a prime suspect for my interview. That, and Iѓ­ve always been intrigued by the Amish people. After talking with JB for a while I started to understand his English dialect as if it were the country bumpkin slang I have grown to love.

Premeditating the oncoming interview I developed a series of twelve questions that I hoped would help me better understand the Amish people and there never changing way of life. I wanted to be able to sympathize with the man in the horse-drawn buggie on the side of the road and be able to see the world from their perspective. As we sat in one of the finished carriages in JBѓ­s barn I began my quest for enlightenment. First I asked, what are the main differences between the Amish and American cultures? He stated that the Amish teach separatism and that they are not allowed to go to war, take oaths, or hold any public offices. They are not allowed to use any kind of electrical element inside the home, E.G. telephones, computers, and televisions. Amish people focus a lot on togetherness, the whole community will be involved in what has been made popular by Hollywood as a ѓ±Barn Raising.ѓ° Farming and personal simplicity is the way of life. But when seen on the street the main differences between them and us is their forms of dress. The men wear dark suit-like clothing and the women wear long dresses and a bonnet.

Second, What kind of differences are there when it come to language and terminology? JB was a perfect example of this. He described their language as if you were to go back in time to the 1600's. They use a lot of old terms for new things such as there word for an automobile is a motor-buggie. Third, What is considered ѓ±explicitѓ°, or uncouth in your society? He replied that the interactions between men and women outside of marriage were strictly ruled. That if one were to break the rules they would be ѓ±excommunicatedѓ° and shunned by the entire community. Overall there isnѓ­t much of a punishment stature in the community except for the rules broken in the Bible. Fourth, how do the Amish youth find it hard to live in America? He said that for the most part its relatively easy for them. They donѓ­t travel outside the community much to interact with the popular culture. Up until the age of fifteen boys are considered children and when they turn of the age of eighteen they take what they cal a ѓ±hiatus.ѓ° This is for the men to come to a lifelong understanding of their community and religion. Fifth, in what ways are the Amish people subjected to American culture? ѓ±The Amish people,ѓ° he stated, ѓ±have become very commercialized.ѓ° It is popular these days for Americans to purchase Amish made items such as furniture and food. This brings in a crowd of people every year during the summer to the communities where they live. Sixth, does your society rely on American culture? If so then how? If not then why? Traditionally, no, but more and more communities have begun to get used to the markets and the constant cash flow from the tourists every. Essentially, the Amish would be perfectly fine and supported if there were no visitors but times are changing. Seventh, Is the standard of living different in an Amish community? How? JB said that compared to most American homes that he has been to, Amish living is nice and clean. A big philosophy of the Amish is, ѓ±cleanliness is godliness.ѓ° Although he remembered a time when he was a teen in the seventies when polio and tuberculosis broke out among his community and killed two of his friends. It wasnѓ­t until the government came in and took care of them when it went away. Eighth, what is the general attitude of the Amish people towards the rest of the U. S. population?



He said that there are no hard feelings carried towards them. That they enjoy the tourism and that most people respect their privacy. He did say that Americans are very impatient. Ninth, how are the Amish communities changing with the flow of western civilization? This on I had to explain a little. JB finds that their communities are beginning to rely on the cash flow from the marketplaces and they are not as self-reliant as they have always been. He said, ѓ±a recession or depression would hurt us just as much as you.ѓ° Tenth, In what ways is the Amish community effected by the local and national governments? There really arenѓ­t any interactions between the two. ѓ±Except for my business and others who are in the public trade the government doesnѓ­t bug us much,ѓ° said JB. Eleventh, in what ways do people outside your culture stereotype your people? JB said that passers-by on the highways or roads near the Amish communities will often times remark by shouting out a name or something like ѓ±hey Jedediah,ѓ° or something of the sort. But, for the most part the stereotypes are true because of the fact that there culture goes on unchanged. Twelfth, what roles are played in your community? Men are the primary leaders in each household. The father and then the mother and then often times the eldest son. In the community there are a group of older men who have been selected by the members of their group to take up a leadership role. These men are called the ѓ±Elders.ѓ° They make decisions concerning the community and membership therein. The are for the most part the religious leaders. Women do not play a role in the community except for that of a homemaker and mother. But, they do ѓ±rule the roost,ѓ° when the men are away.

I found it important to list each of the questions individually because each answer I got from JB was filled with information but the five I found most interesting were: The fact that people were excommunicated and shunned for there transgressions. I didnѓ­t realize how much interaction took place between the community and the outside society as a whole. I almost feel bad for taking part in the commercializing of their works. I fully expected the Amish community to have harsh feelings towards outside influences of the tourist and American culture, but each of the children growing up in the Amish world is taught to love everyone no matter what. The last most intriguing piece of knowledge I picked up from our conversation was how the Amish community is governed by a group of elders and they decide the future and fate of most of the people inside of it.

James was more than willing to give me any information I needed. Although at times there was a gap in communication, I had to resort to my southern upbringing to verbally relate to him and help him understand my meaning. I learned more about this man in forty-five minutes than I had in the last five years. I think the interview went so well because we were both in a place where we both felt comfortable. Him in his own place of business and me inside of a barn. We both could have probably talked for another hour about the topics, but I had to drive back home. Next time I will have to invite him into my home.

The one thing I learned more than any other from JB and his family about the Amish people is that there is much more than what is in front of your face. That each of the people we see on the side of the road believes in the same thing and will always believe that. Their faith and strong will have proven them through many centuries of persecution and will continue to provide them with its shelter.




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