I've always admired the Amish tradition of rumspringa – which is not merely a really fun word to say but also a show of tremendous faith in the power of a belief system. Upon reaching adulthood (if 16 can be so described) young Amish people are encouraged to explore the non-Amish world. Some, although certainly not all, go all out and spend a year or two indulging in big city life with all the sex, booze, and teen shenanigans they can find. The theory behind it from the perspective of the Amish is simple: if our faith and way of life are worth a damn, people will come back to it. They will see what else is out there and decide that the our way is superior. If they like the mainstream society better, then it's best they go to it.

This is something that fundamentalist Christianity, for example, can't do. That is why parents of that persuasion work so hard to shelter their children from the rest of the world (the love affair between fundies and homeschooling being a good example). They know that their ideology is ridiculous and their way of life both unfulfilling and miserable. The children must be raised on a strict diet of fundamentalist nonsense and never be allowed to stray into the normal world. If they clamp eyes on a Harry Potter book, they'll realize how will we keep them reading Left Behind?. Great pains must be taken to forbid them any basis for comparison, because humorless, ascetic, fundamentalist Christianity of the American wingnut variety will always look like the inferior option. The only way it can win is if it has no competition.

This analogy comes to mind as we observe the pitifully predictable pant-shitting from the Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck types over the decision to try the five biggest al Qaeda names in custody in a civil court in New York. If we have any faith at all in our system and the guilt of these men, what difference does it make where and how we try them? Extensive evidence exists linking them to their crimes, evidence independent of the admissions they have made under various levels of coercion and punishment. We have miles of bank records, for example, detailing Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali's role in al Qaeda. Why do these people insist that he be tried in a darkened room by a military tribunal? Of what are they so afraid? Do they seriously think any of these people are going to walk? If so, that is irrational. If not, they are only afraid that the trials will embarrass them by revealing their disdain for the law whenever it gets between them and their goals.

There should be nothing to fear in an open courtroom. Either we have a rule of law worth defending and to which we adhere, thus differentiating ourselves from terrorists, or our system is a sham and we need to resort to Third World justice to get the outcomes we want. If their guilt can't be proven without resorting to allegations beaten out of them in a metal shipping container somewhere in Afghanistan, then obtaining guilty verdicts in kangaroo courts would reduce us to their level. Actually, it would make us inferior to them, as at least they are forthcoming about their disregard of the law.

24 thoughts on “RUMSPRINGA”

  • I think some people simply lost some faith in the justice system since O.J. Does anyone think he was innocent? He seemingly got away with murder in criminal court only to get his financial punishment in the civil court down the road. Our system blows calls every once in while. If these guys aren't guilty, no one is guilty. We simply have to sit back and hope no one fucks up a sure thing.

  • The Right's fear isn't because of the trial. They don't want to willingly let a terrorist in the U.S. for fear he will somehow break from his chains and wreak havoc upon the country. That is a completely logical concern for people that think

  • Isn't there also an issue of jurisdiction? What laws were broken? What is the legal status of the defendants? Military tribunals are for members of enemy forces. Is it appropriate to view terrorists as a unified entity? Would that establish an appropriate precedent? They crave legitimacy, and I'm not inclined to give it to them, but even if I were — they are not a military organization. This case should not go to a military tribunal, any more than it should be heard in family court.

  • 1) Love this.
    2) Cleary, some (including some previous commenters) believe the terrorists to be wilier and smarter and better than us. Bringing them into this country is, therefore, going to result in them obviously getting out of our prison system. I am glad I don't live with this sort of irrational fear.
    3) I think you have some extra words: "If they clamp eyes on a Harry Potter book, they

  • @Daniel: OJ was quite guilty, but the reason he walked was because of the gross violations of procedure for the police department involved. OJ going free was never a statement of his innocence. It was a lesson in why law enforcement must do their job within the bounds of the law they are sworn to uphold. It was a demonstration that we will not jail someone unless due process is followed.

    The significance of it, ultimately, is that we as a nation made a statement that the government cannot simply do whatever it pleases to convict someone of a crime. They have to follow the laws and procedures established, as they are there for a reason.

    And that's what the ultra-right is afraid of here, as well. They are afraid that they will be held accountable for their violations of so many of this nation's laws regarding justice. They are afraid that they will be made to live by the laws they constantly claim to love and uphold.

    I have no love for those involved with the terrorist attacks. But I have even less love for a fascist government that would piss on its own laws to punish them. I would rather those men walked than our government be allowed to flaunt its own laws whenever it pleases in the name of vengeance.

  • But there is a certain logic to their actions. And, since you appear so eager to reconstruct Amish logic, a deeply fallacious inference, I'll offer mine:

    1 America is a nation founded on Christian principles.
    2 God's elect can do no wrong.
    3 Ergo, it's OK to inflict whatever punishment we decide on those brown assholes.

    I mean, it's not much more mistaken than the reasoning of somebody who raises children in an inbred environment artificially frozen circa 1840, then sends them out into the world to make a 'free' choice — as if the choices of such agents could really be called free.

  • @Desargues: Seems like the only logical choice then is to become a Christian and get elected. Your first act as a elected official would then be to declare that all elected Christians are wrong. At which point the contradiction you just created would cause God and the universe to cease to exist and Glenn Beck's head would explode.

    And did you really use "agents" to describe amish people? That paragraph sounds like you're describing an amish version of the matrix.

  • If only Amish kids were let loose on the "big city," then they might actually make an informed choice. I grew up in Northern Indiana, which has a huge Amish population, and those kids don't venture anywhere near anything resembling a city. Hell, I didn't venture anywhere near anything resembling a big city until I was out of high school. It's the middle of nowhere. All they get exposed to is rednecks, Coors, and meth. They leave the farm and the only place to go is the trailer park.

  • Andrew: Sorry, I should have made clear the meaning of my term. It's a technical phrase used in ethics — an 'agent' is not some kind of fifth-columnist or mole for nefarious powers; rather, it has the much blander meaning of 'entity endowed with a capacity for choice and hence responsible for its actions.' From the Latin agere, 'to do,' originally 'to drive cattle.' An 'agent' is anyone who is the author of their actions. Hence the derivatives actio, agens, actum, all easily recognizable from their modern English counterparts. I'm afraid the 'agents' of moral philosophy are a great deal less exciting than Morpheus and his bunch — even, horribile dictu, an Amish Morpheus.

  • They know that their ideology is ridiculous and their way of life both unfulfilling and miserable.

    Actually, they know nothing of the sort. You obviusly do not know or understand these people. They have the one true faith and it is a continuous source of joy and comfort to them. That is why they are evangelical in their pursuit of converts, and that to be a missionary is the highest calling. I am not making this up.

    Harry Potter, frex, is a temptation put into our paths by the devil who is alwasy seeking to capture our souls into eternal damnation. We are human and weak, and need all the shelter and protection we can get. This is, in part, the purpose of a Chrisitian faith community.

    What this says about God's perfection and ability to create a reasonable world for the creatures he loves so much, I will leave to your imagination


  • An insightful bunch of men quickly saw through the bullshit of orthodox Christianity, and posited that this universe must be the defective product of a lesser, incompetent Demiurge — surely not the true God. Naturally, Christians with an obvious interest in dominating this world here and now, especially its human inhabitants, saw to it that the Gnostics were suppressed, and their insights never reach enough of us to wake us up.

  • As the DoJ set up different tiers of justice, anybody getting tried in US courts is pretty much guaranteed to be found guilty — so I agree with dbsmall's statement #2 above.

  • For a subculture which violently eschews Communism or anything that reminds them thereof, it's odd that fundamentalists, as a group, have forgotten the refrain from the Cold War days that people were trying to get out of the Soviet Union, but trying to get into the United States, therefore our way of life was superior.

    People are clearly trying to get out of the fundamentalism subculture, and trying to get into the wider world. To crow for years that the bad guys fence their people in, then to do the same yourself without noticing the hypocrisy… it's staggering, but then again, self-awareness is not a core fundamentalist virtue.

  • Right on jazzbumpa. Troof.

    Also I'd add that the reason we can't bring them for trial in the states, is because, I mean shit, haven't you SEEN the movies? If you bring the bad ass guy out of the special prison, and surround him with ordinary keystone kops, they'll escape and run rampage for SURE. I mean, as a move it's almost as stupid as splitting up to investigate when the psycho gets loose, and slowly opening the creeky door to peer through, and only slightly better than saying "I don't…. need you guys! Ill make it on my own!". Man, EVERYBODY knows what happens next dude.

  • The Amish ARE fundamentalist christians, and their level of indoctrination and shelter from the secular word surpasses that of even the fundie homeschoolers. Amish don't even allow their children and education beyond the 8th grade. They may have a year or two to live outside their communities, but they are functionally illiterate and so heavily indoctrinated with the fear of hell and punishment, that even those who don't go back into the fold, are still 'believers' more or less.

  • Are there statistics on how many kids go back to the Amish life after experiencing Rumspringa? BTW, a former colleague told an entertaining story about how he had a three-way with two Amish girls on Rumspringa back in Ohio in the 1980s or early 1990s, but I have no way of determining the story's veracity.

  • OJ's acquittal should _restore_ faith in the justice system. The cops behaved incompetently and in a racist manner, and the physical evidence was not properly safeguarded. The state failed to prove its case, and the jury told it so. Actual guilt or innocence is peripheral to the outcome of a criminal trial, by design.

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