Sunday, April 6, 2008

Crisis in Amishland

The community I work in has three types of people. Amish people, English people who like Amish people and English people who don't.

(note: despite the fact that we aren't English, that's what Amish people call us. Maybe because we speak English instead of PA-Dutch?)

On Friday a Pro-Amish guy was by the office. He was ranting and raving about government oppression of the Amish.

Amish people drive in horse-drawn buggies (or pony drawn carts, or on horses, or on bike or they walk - but mostly the buggies). The obvious disadvantage to buggies is that it takes a lot longer to get places so a lot of times Amish people hire drivers to take them to Wal-mart or anywhere that's a couple towns away. There are a lot of people who make side money "Hauling Amish" - or they used to.

Sometime last year the government started threatening fines on all the Amish Haulers who weren't properly licensed and insured as commercial drivers. The thing is, the licensing and insuring would cost more than these people make off driving. A few people went through the proper channels and started hauling again (I guess they had enough business), most stopped hauling, and others kept hauling illegally.

Well, according the the Pro-Amish, man the government has been staking out Wal-mart and stopping vans of Amish people as if they were checking the border. If the driver isn't legal all the Amish people have to get out and the driver has to leave them there. The Amish people asked what they're supposed to do the government officials have said they don't know and don't care.

Here's the thing. Yes, the driver is breaking the law, but the law in there to protect the people he is driving. If I went to a nail salon and it turned out the manicurist wasn't licensed (yes, you need a license to slap on some nail polish) they wouldn't be hauling me away (or ripping off my acrylic nails!). It isn't my job to check that the person is running legally, when a person hangs out their shingle the customer assumes that they are legal unless they're selling crack or something. So why are they punishing the people who the lack of insurance leaves at risk?

I'm not pro-Amish en-mass (though there are Amish individuals that I like), but this just seems absurd. Pro-Amish man went on for quite some time and told us another story about family's who'd gotten in trouble because their horse was foaming. People sweat, horses foam. Evidently this is abuse. Another time a horse had icycles hanging off its nose because it was cold out and the foam had frozen. Again, abuse.

So - no drivers for the Amish, but they can't use horses either.

The Amish people asked what they were supposed to do and the police officer told them they should change their ways. Probably this is not a government attitude and the police officer had simply had to dodge one too many buggies. Everyone has those days - even so.

Drivers, Amish, and businesses are upset about this. Wal-mart probably doesn't care, but Aldi and other stores have seen their profits fall. So there's going to be some sort of meeting with government officials to discuss the situation.

We were telling out boss about all the drama (and petitioning him to let us report on the meeting) when another guy came in. He was not pro-Amish. He doesn't see a problem. After all, why should the state change the rules for just our county? We should we have special priviledges?

My boss mentioned that the drivers are being charged more than drivers in the city (who make more and have a higher accident risk). I just think there should be rules for this situation. Other counties don't have Amish so of course they wouldn't have rules providing for them (though many Indiana counties do have Amish communities).

I'll you know how the meeting goes.


Emily said...

I didn't realize all this drama was going on. That would be frustrating.

Melody said...

Well, the drama had really died down until just recently.

Ken said...

I think the rules are a bit ridiculous also, and in all likely-hood, the only reason they are in place is out of fear of law-suits due to some car accident.

However, businesses are required to post any licensing they need in a location visible to all patrons, not just to protect the business, but also the patrons. They are expected to take note of those licenses and if they do not see them, then they are supposed to question the business. If we buy services from an unlicensed business, we are legally responsible.

If you get into a cab or bus that does not have their license posted, then legally you are supposed to inquire of their licensing and they are required to show it to you. Granted this is not something we typically think about when flagging down a cab, but the law still remains.

I agree the Amish should not have to deal with this sort of problem, but I can see how it will be a tough legal battle for them.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Are those a pair of Crocs???

Melody said...

Crocs are a big seller with the Amish.

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