Some local youths were indulging in a new ‘sport’ – that of ‘clayping’. It involved riding fast cars past slow Amish buggies and throwing stones or lumps of hard clay at the occupants. On this particular occasion, the stone found its mark, hitting the head of a six month old baby and killing her. The baby’s older sister witnessed who had thrown the stone. The film explored the response of the Amish family to the loss of their child and the pressure they were under to testify against the youth in court. The film starred Ron Perlman, (more recently of Sons of Anarchy fame), and featured a young Brad Pitt as the offending youth, distraught by what he had done.
This was the first time I had come across the Amish and although I knew the film was a fictionalised account, it did give a glimpse into Amish life and practice. As many before me, I was enthralled by the simplicity of it all, the dignity of the grieving family, their forgiveness of the youth concerned, and their total acceptance of God’s will for their lives.At the end of the film, the older sister, Rachel, told her father she wanted to go to the court to testify so that something like this didn’t happen to anyone else. Clearly he finally relented, even though it was against their practice, because the film ends as Rachel and her parents enter the courtroom and Brad Pitt changes his plea to guilty. Even though I had not come across the Amish before this, I was acutely aware that they would be unlikely to have changed their minds about testifying, as it went against not just their practices but also their beliefs, which were firmly rooted in the Bible and faith in God.
In the real life story, the family did not testify,“The Amish did not wish to testify against the boys, and never did, saying that "their punishment is not up to us. We didn’t want to file charges." In the end, the four boys involved ended up receiving suspended jail sentences and fines of $2,000...for killing a baby.” http://www.amishnews.com/amisharticles/peopleofpeace.htm
...but that doesn’t make for good television.Not long afterwards, I also happened to see two more films: Witness, starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis, and Harvest of Fire. These three films inspired in me a great longing and desire to know more about these quiet people, the Amish. There began a long pursuit for knowledge and understanding of these people. I read everything I could lay my hands on and watched everything the TV brought my way. Not long after an airing of a reality show about the Rumspringa (the Amish youths’ time of ‘running around’, where they can experience non-Amish life first hand), I was asked if I was Amish, probably because of the head covering I was wearing. People were beginning to learn about the Amish and associated a covering with them.
The Amish, of course, don’t have television. They don’t even have electricity, so they couldn’t watch TV if they wanted to. So it was rather peculiar really that I was finding out what I most wanted to know from the television. And books, of course.