Sunday, May 29, 2016

Who Hates Amish and Mennonites? World War II Veterans and their Families


When I moved to Lancaster County in 1980 to go to college, I was surprised to find people who hated the Amish and Mennonites.  Who could hate people who drive buggies and farm with mules?

World War II veterans.

From 1981 to 1985 I worked on the dock at the Yellow Freight break-bulk terminal in East Petersburg, just north of the city of Lancaster.  As I got to know my co-workers, they mostly fit in three groups:

  1. Former athletes, either amateur or college, with a career-ending injury, but who could still load trucks.
  2. Vietnam War veterans and other former service members.
  3. Farmers who needed the extra money a Teamsters job provided.  We made $12/hour.
It was the third group who first told me about how their father or their uncle or their neighbor served in World War II and how the family ended up selling the farm while the soldier was away at the war.  The buyer of the farm was often an Amish or Mennonite farmer who did not have to serve in the military and made a lot of money growing food for the war effort.  

Nearly forty years later, those resentments were as acute as at the end of the war.  "My father did his duty.  They stayed home and made money."  Most of the men I spoke with had some variation of this statement, usually laced with swearing.  

Envy destroys communities.  When one guy gets something and the other guy doesn't, hatred follows. Whether pacifists are sincere or not, they start life well ahead of the soldier who goes to war.  In yesterday's post I quote C.S. Lewis on why he is not a pacifist. You can follow the link or read it here:


Lewis describes the life of a soldier on active duty in a war:
All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity, severally, is collected together in the life of a soldier on active service. 

Like sickness, it threatens pain and death. 

Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst, and hunger. 

Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule. 

Like exile, it separates you from all you love. 

Like the gallies, it imprisons you at close quarters with uncongenial companions. 

It threatens every temporal evil—every evil except dishonour and final perdition, and those who bear it like it no better than you would like it. 

Then he describes the life of those who avoid service, whether by pacifism or other means:

Though it may not be your fault, it is certainly a fact that Pacifism threatens you with almost nothing. 

Some public opprobrium, yes, from people whose opinion you discount and whose society you do not frequent, soon recompensed by the warm mutual approval which exists, inevitably, in any minority group. 

For the rest it offers you a continuance of the life you know and love, among the people and in the surroundings you know and love.