Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hey, English, you have something on your backside.

Based on the soft spot people have for the Amish, this may not be popular.

The Amish. Noble. Frozen in time. Mercurial. Fuzzy Beards. Got a lot of wood.

The Amish. I'd have fewer issues with them, if they weren't another under examined isolated group in this country that has a level of under reported abuse. Then you had an orthodox nutter break away sect that has been going around and attacking other Amish, shearing beards off (an act of humiliation and emasculation) and being...what you'd expect. And then you have people all over the country who hold the Amish in patronizing awe, like living like it's the early 19th century is an accomplishment, or the secret to some insight.

No. They're living by a set of rules their founders set up for them, and avoid changing where possible. And fine. Do that. To each his own. But, please, they aren't magic gnomes, or Brigadoon.

Most of the problems, as bad as they can be, are internal. Like Christian Science parents denying a child medicine, it's bad, but they aren't closing the clinic. It's when they think that the world needs to bow to their religious quirks, even when it puts other people at risk. Then we have to say, no.

And for some Amish (in this case, another quite orthodox subgroup) the fight is on putting pretty nontechnical orange safety triangles on the back of horse buggies. You will have seen these on the back of many slow moving vehicles that enter road ways. If you've driven at night you will likely have seen these as you come up on things, like construction vehicles being moved. So, if you will imagine, a very black horse drawn buggie is going down the side of a highway after dark...would you like to be sure you see it before you plow into it? I would.

But for some it is an affront. An affront to them, and an affront to God. Yes. God will keep them alive (This is a refrain from many Amish when safety rules and regulations are brought up.). Great.

And as was one person noted, the Amish do get a lot of passes and forbearance. And that is fine to me. They want out of society and social security, fine. They refuse to fight in wars, I can respect that. But they also want safety laws that affect us all to be written to fit their thinking. And as they violate the law in these cases they just out and refuse to pay fines, because...God.

So what is the problem with orange safety triangles:

  • It's orange and bright, which counters their black buggy motif.
  • It's a triangle, which is a religious symbol. (It's also an established safety standard.)

So EVERYTHING that makes it a safety tool is their problem...are you fucking kidding me? Yes, I know that the Amish are enamored of the idea God is protecting them, but what happens to me? Does God throw my car away from your buggy into a tree, cause he's all about you? Will God help me out to? I'm not on Team Amish, maybe God wants to smite me? What the fuck does God have to do with simple safety standards used nationally to keep people alive?

Now they want "a dialogue" to find an alternative that doesn't offend. How about you put battery powered lights on? No? How about cheap reflective symbols car drivers will recognize? Oh, that's right, that's horrible.

Now, some have used some reflective tape on the back of buggies, cause even in this group, they know they need something, or they might get killed, or be jailed. But that hasn't been enough, because we do set safety standards in cities, counties, states, and nations. We teach drivers to recognize them so that they can respond efficiently. What's more, less orthodox Amish just put the damn triangles on and got on with their lives. Because using a simple reflective triangle instead of lights and other higher tech safety tools IS the compromise.

I know I've seen online commenters on news stories coming to the Amish side. They say many things, including:

  • Religious freedom! No. You don't get the freedom to put other's lives at risk for your beliefs. This is basic road safety. You are in a slow moving dark black wooden box. You want to disengage with rules, but still want to use the roadways. That is not acceptable. Which is why most Amish accept it.
  • The triangles don't work. Then why didn't the Amish arrested make this argument? That would be a good debate to have. When I am driving at night I see them. So I would like to see this proven. Until this, it's an excuse to ignore basic road safety.

Another annoyance to me is that the ACLU has come in to help the Amish. I love the ACLU, and appreciate the stand, but this is basic highway safety. People that can't see shouldn't drive, and people in slow moving black vehicles should be barred from highways if they don't make the basic effort to make themselves visible. Where am I wrong?

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