Archive for December, 2011

The Hobbit is Coming!

I wasn’t planning on posting anything until Christmas- I have been working long hours and trying to prepare for Christmas, with a house full of coughing people- but I ran across this, and it is too good to wait:


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Icon by Daniel Nichols

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Murder in Amish Country?

Late last Thursday night a young Amish boy looked out his window, having  heard a noise in front of his house. He saw the family horse pulling the buggy in circles in the lane, the buggy his older sister had taken to a Christmas party earlier. Concerned, he summoned his father, who went outside only to find his daughter lying on the ground, blood streaming from a bullet wound in her head. Using a neighbor’s phone, an ambulance was summoned and she was taken to a hospital, where she died.

Her name was Rachel Yoder. She was 15 years old.

The enormity of this crime is magnified by the setting: the hilly countryside near Fredericksburg, Ohio, where I lived for the first three years after I moved to Ohio. It is a beautiful place, idyllic, a garden-like landscape of small, tidy, mostly Amish farms. It is a sort of distributist/agrarian/green wonderland, a place of thriving small farmers, craftsmen, and shopkeepers.

Not that the area has not been touched by violence in recent years. A couple of years back, just a few miles away, in another bucolic village, Maysville, an Amish man plotted the murder of his wife with one of his lovers, a Mennonite woman who fired the fatal shotgun blast as the wife lay sleeping. And a few years before that, down in Holmes County, an Amish man shot his wife and son to death before turning the gun on himself.

These crimes shocked the area- and strangely got no attention beyond Wayne and Holmes Counties- mainly because the perpetrators were Amish, who are more often noted for their non-resistance and sometimes heroic forgiveness to those who have wronged them. The crimes themselves were all too common among humankind, unusual only because violence is rare for the Amish.

But this killing, of a young girl, shocks because of its random cruelty. No suspects have been named, so this is speculative, but it seems there are only a few possiblities.

First, perhaps the murderer was an Amish acquaintance. This seems highly unlikely, for the simple reason that it is hard to see how anyone could desire the death of a 15 year old. But there is a remote chance that this was the act of an Amish psychopath.

Second, it could be a hate crime. Though not often commented on, there is a lot of anti-Amish bigotry around here. The Amish are resented because their relative prosperity and large families keep land prices high. And they are resented by pure tribal prejudice: they are different, very visibly so, and there is much prejudiced gossip about them. But I have never heard of this escalating into violence, let alone murder.

Which brings me to the third, and most likely possibility, that this was the act of punks cruising around, taking a potshot at a buggy, a prank gone horribly wrong.

Let’s hope that if this is the case that someone in that car will be so consumed with guilt that he will come forward. It is hard to see how this crime, committed on a country road in the dark, with no witnesses, will otherwise be solved.

And it is hard to see how the Amish of Ohio will sleep well at night until it is.

Update: As of Monday morning there are no leads in the killing of Rachel Yoder.

Some have speculated that she could have been shot by a stray bullet from racoon hunters (coon hunting is a nocturnal affair). I think this unlikely, because if there were coon hunters in the vicinity someone would have reported it by now; coon hounds make an ungodly racket.

Others have wondered if this has something to do with a dissident Amish faction that has been in the news lately for roughing up rival bishops, shaving their beards and cutting their hair and that of their wives. This is not likely for several reasons:

First, the “Mullett cult” (as they are called around here, for the name of their bishop) targets bishops with whom they have a particular grievance; they don’t just attack random members of rival groups.

Second, while they have hardly been nonviolent, their violence has consisted of shoving people around, not shooting them.

Finally, Rachel Yoder lived on Salt Creek Road, near Fredericksburg, which is New Order country, and the Mullett gang are Old Order.

Update: Freak Accident, not Murder

It turns out that the death of young Rachel Yoder was in fact an accident, and one so unlikely that no one had guessed it as the answer to the mystery.

It seems that just over the Holmes County line a young man was cleaning a muzzle-loading rifle and discharged the weapon into the air. It was that round that killed Miss Yoder when it came back to earth a mile and a half away. The chances of this happening are incalculable; people in cities shoot off guns to celebrate all the time, and you rarely hear of a fatality from it, however foolish the practice is, and here in the countryside, with homes set far apart a young girl dies? Very strange. The man who shot the gun, whose name has not been released, will probably be charged with some kind of criminal negligence.

And while this death is tragic for her family and her Old Order community – I was wrong to assume she was New Order from her address- as well as for the man responsible for her death, thank God it was not an intentional act. At least the Amish of Wayne and Holmes counties can sleep at night and not lie up wondering if their child is next.

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Both the Emperor’s commands and yours [person in authority] must be obeyed if they are not contrary to the God of heaven. If they are, they must not only not be obeyed; they must be resisted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          – St. Euphemia

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 “Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.”

More: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/nearly-half-of-americans-are-low-income-as-rising-expenses-unemployment-shrink-middle-class/2011/12/15/gIQAP7SEvO_story.html?tid=pm_business_pop

Meanwhile, the rich get richer:

“Chief executive pay has roared back after two years of stagnation and decline. America’s top bosses enjoyed pay hikes of between 27 and 40% last year, according to the largest survey of US CEO pay. The dramatic bounceback comes as the latest government figures show wages for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation.”

More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/dec/14/executive-pay-increase-america-ceos?newsfeed=true

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Description from Amazon:
Freewheeling capitalism or collectivist communism: when it came to political-economic systems, did the twentieth century present any other choice? Does our century? In Third Ways, social historian Allan Carlson tells the story of how different thinkers from Bulgaria to Great Britain created economic systems during the twentieth century that were by intent neither capitalist nor communist. Unlike fascists, these seekers were committed to democracy and pluralism. Unlike liberal capitalists, they refused to treat human labor and relationships as commodities like any other. And unlike communists, they strongly defended private property and the dignity of persons and families. Instead, the builders of these alternative economic systems wanted to protect and renew the “natural” communities of family, village, neighborhood, and parish. They treasured rural culture and family farming and defended traditional sex roles and vital home economies.
Carlson’s book takes a fresh look at distributism, the controversial economic project of Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton which focused on broad property ownership and small-scale production; recovers the forgotten thought of Alexander Chayanov, a Russian economist who put forth a theory of “the natural family economy”; discusses the remarkable “third way” policies of peasant-led governments in post–World War I Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania; recounts the dramatic and largely unknown effort by Swedish housewives to defend their homes against radical feminism; relates the iconoclastic ideas of economic historian Karl Polanyi, including his concepts of “the economy without markets” and “the great transformation”; and praises the efforts by European Christian Democrats to build a moral economy on the concept of homo religious—“religious man.” 

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Fleet Foxes

I have recently discovered this band (I know, I don’t get out much) and think them very fine indeed. Not a lot of musicians can capture the sound of ecstasy like this:

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