7 Killer Amish Loopholes and Workarounds
Ah, the Amish. A strange, wide-hatted people that always inspires the thought, “Oh yeah, those guys.” Even as the appeal of a Luddite lifestyle might seem more and more like it isn’t all bad, it’s still a highly curious lifestyle choice. What inspires more confusion is if you ever have the chance to spot an Amish person using something you’re pretty sure they’re not supposed to be using. Not that you’d know who to call, nor that they’d be able to pick up.
It turns out, though, that the Amish have some significant flexibility in certain areas (admittedly, customs vary from community to community, but nobody wants to read an article full of constant caveats, so let’s acknowledge that up top). Here are seven Amish loopholes to make you go “hmmmm”…
Pneumatic Power Tools
This one feels especially weird, given the mental picture most have of the Amish. An essential part of our imagination is them toiling away old-school on their farm, callousing up their hands with good honest work. And so, power tools seem like exactly the sort of thing they’d attribute to Satan as a source of sloth and an enemy of good character. Piety can only argue with productivity for so long, however, and they figured out how to make it work. Amish people use modified power tools that operate on pneumatic motors instead of electric ones. Here I thought the word “motor” would still be a problem, but they argue otherwise.
Trains Versus Planes
You would assume that Amish people cannot travel by plane (except in severe emergency), and you would be right. The idea of a great steel bird violating the gravitational will of God is a step too far for them. Weirdly, though, it’s not necessarily just the technological aspect, but because they consider air travel a luxury. Not too crazy, based on plenty of Instagram accounts I’ve seen. So what’s a long-haul Amish to do? Board the Amtrak. Despite the fact that we’re a long way from steam engines, electricity-powered Amtrak trains have become a common Amish hauler.
Being on Reality Shows
Another reason that Amish aren’t often taking to the skies has to do with identification, or lack thereof. In accordance with Amish custom, having your photo taken is a form of blasphemy, to the tune of “making unto thyself a graven image.” Not an ID-friendly statute. So, then, you can find problems with the preponderance of Amish reality shows far before getting into any of the icky emotional baggage. After all, the word “Amish Celebrity” is a straight-up oxymoron. I assume they allow it in pursuit of some sort of outreach, as if the people watching dogshit reality TV four hours a day are good candidates for a cordless life.
Buggy Turn Signals
Here’s one that, to be fair, they’re probably not particularly happy about either. The horse and buggy, the traditional mode of Amish transportation, is so deeply connected to them that it might be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear them mentioned. The thing about horse-drawn buggies, though, is that they travel the same roads as regular old cars, as residents of some parts of Pennsylvania well know. Because of this, they're required to have basic lighting systems and turn signals. Not that brake lights are that important when you’re going five miles an hour because you’re stuck behind a fucking horse.
Okay, let’s move from the entries that inspire a “hmm, I guess that makes sense” into ones that deserve a straight up “fuck off.” First up: cellphones. Despite topping any Family Feud board of “things Amish people aren’t allowed to use,” they’re cleared in some communities, albeit with rules. The most common one is that they can never be brought inside the household, so I guess there’s some sort of weird wooden phone booth with a Motorola RAZR sitting in it. Still, doesn’t seem quite disconnected enough. The Amish should have more separation from a cellphone than a kid in timeout does.
The Amish Computer
An oxymoron brought into existence through an absolute religious minefield, computers for the Amish do indeed exist. To be fair, they’re so old as to barely be considered modern technology, given that they aren’t capable of connecting to or doing much of anything. Their main use? Spreadsheets. Imagine you, tired of the daily rat race, give it all up and flee to an Amish community, looking forward to a life of simple, honest work, and when you get there, they plop you in front of Amish Excel. I’d throw myself into a wheat thresher.
What feels like the biggest bad of them all, the devilish energy known as electric, isn’t all that uncommon in some communities. The distinction they’ve made to allow themselves access to Zeus’ teat is that they don’t use electricity from the public grid. This allows them an invisible, and largely meaningless, degree of separation. They rely on generators, or, I swear to god, solar panels. Despite the fact that “an Amish man with a solar panel” feels like a folksy saying for someone who’s struggling with a new job.