Friday, February 1, 2013
The "Chust Nonsense" Story
It was an ordinary day. Heading home from a shopping trip to Home Depot when Carol, my wife, looked out her window and said, "Is that the Amish guy from the 'Amish Mafia' show?" I looked past her at the car sitting next to us at a stoplight and replied, "Could be! He's got the right kind of hat on." Well, have you seen the new show titled "Amish Mafia," which is a hit show on the Discovery Channel, that claims to provide a look at "the men who protect and maintain peace and order within the Amish community." We live in Lancaster County, PA where the show is being filmed. The place where I buy some of my stained-glass supplies in downtown Lancaster was featured in one episode and there is a sign on the front window the claims "This store is protected by Lebanon Levi." Draws quite a few stares and many photographs. I have never considered the Amish to be in need of anyone to maintain peace and order. Matter of fact the only thing that I believe they may have done is sell their goods to the public at a roadside stand close to my home without getting a permit from our local township and that's a no-no. Seems there are four main characters that are featured on the show: Levi King Stoltzfus (Lebanon Levi), Alvin Stoltzfus Lantz, John Freeman Schmucker and Ester Freeman Schmucker. Pretty scary Amish names if you ask me. They are considered the enforcers on the show and they are real-life residents of the community. A local newspaper story tells about our District Attorney having liaisons to the Amish community who keep him informed of any crime within the community. The liaisons as well as the Amish residents consider the show mostly fiction. Ah Ha! There always has to be the word "mostly" thrown in there. Several local Amish who have seen the show (in "English" neighbors homes naturally, since the Amish have no electricity) claim to know the real-life people who are portrayed on the show. They are people with an Amish upbringing, but have never joined the Amish church. And, they certainly are not violent people as portrayed. A local man who was raised Amish, but also never joined the church, say he knows most of the characters and when he first saw alleged ring leader Lebanon Levi clutching a semiautomatic rifle and commanding his legion of "enforcers," he had to laugh. Said that Levi would rather sit back in a corner than go after someone. Most of the Amish realize the show is entertainment and they get a big kick out of it. They appreciate the shows depiction of the rural scenery, including the beautiful farmland and horse-drawn buggies on the rural roads. About the only thing that does happen in the Amish community that could be considered alarming is the renting of a home or apartment that has cable television, telephone and Internet services for having a "hut party." These are gatherings mostly of young Amish who ask for a "cover charge" to pay for the place and refreshments. They can watch sports, meet others and enjoy the company of their English friends. At times they can get out of control. A local author and historian claims the show is a farce and calls it "Chust nonsense!" He is starting a tour attraction in April that will take tour guests to filming locations where a real-life Amish elder will explain Hollywood's fascination with the Amish culture. Fifteen minutes after he announced his tour he had a customer on the phone. One event that does upset the local Amish community is the shows mentioning of the attack at West Nickel Mines School in 2006 by an "English" man. It does show the Amish vulnerability and their need for protection from "outsiders." The reference to the shooting at the school was most offensive to the Amish, but the Amish reaction was exactly the opposite. They showed no outrage or thirst for revenge against the "English' community. Events in the show that prove the show to be all entertainment are: the holding of a pitchfork upside down, since the Amish would never do this because it signifies the devil; Amish using only push mowers which also is not true; the Amish belief that females won't go to heaven if they die without a prayer cover on their head which is a myth; and the fallacy that only Amish are allowed to have roadside produce stands. And one more problem the Amish do have is forgetting to get their "English" permit to operate their roadside stand. Now I have to drive another mile to an "English" stand to buy my produce. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.