Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website www.lenoreskomal.net.   Read more about this blog.
Posted: November 26th, 2012
What’s up with the latest Amish fixation?

I thought I’d heard everything when a so-called reality television show called “Here comes Honey Boo Boo” aired and got great ratings. But my last glance at the television set proved me wrong. Reality television is officially scraping not only the bottom, but the sides of the barrel as well to come up with the most inane plots to meet what must be our collective desire.

The latest in this genre of visual entertainment is “Amish Mafia.” My cursory Internet search to find out if organized crime is truly a reality for this traditionalist Christian church fellowship proved to find no Wikipedia entry and only repeated references to the show on various blogs and websites. There was one site unrelated to the Discovery Program, that outlined the history of such a group in Las Vegas.

Now I’m not saying that there is or there isn’t an Amish Mafia. I’m just saying I don’t care. The Discovery program comes on the heels of another Amish reality show called “Breaking Amish,” which if you’ve never seen an episode, consider yourself smarter for it.

What’s our sudden fixation with the Amish? I admit I was curious when I moved here, having had no exposure to Amish before then. But that has since waned.

I’m no stranger to the sect, having had a lot of work on our house done by neighboring western New York Amish. All the time spent driving them back and forth in my car for months made for some insightful conversation and telling insights into this exclusionary group. Like Hasidic Jews, the Amish are a culturally intriguing group mainly because of their religiosity, dress, clannishness and largely misunderstood way of life.

Given that, is reality television the best path to understanding? Especially since devout Amish–or at least the clan I’m familiar with–never would let themselves to be manipulated by the English, or spend time in the Devils’ Playground, and certainly never allow themselves to be photographed intentionally, since their religion prohibits posing for photographs.

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