– The plain modest clothes; the women in their white head scarves, the men with their braces and beards. They are quiet, polite and keep themselves to themselves. Riding an Amtrak train is a unique opportunity to see the Amish people up close – or at least as close as anyone from so far outside their close knit community is likely to get.
The Amish people reject modern machinery and the motor car, but train travel is acceptable for longer journeys. At a time when just about everyone in America is following the presidential election, this is one group who are letting the event pass them by. They can’t follow it on radio and television as both are forbidden. They don’t really talk about it in their communities. They won’t be voting on November 6.
Far from feeling left out, one young Amish man in Bloomfield, Iowa told me not being involved “feels good.” Levi Miller smiled, “Oh yeah, it really does,” he said. “A lot of things you’d hear about on TV or radio we don’t find out about. So we don’t have that worry of what’s going to happen.” As barely interested observers, would they have any preference at all? “Naturally we would lean Republican. That’s more our thought process.”
TV and radio is so hard to avoid in this country, so was he never tempted to explore it? Was it difficult to stay away? “We’ve got a nice life… most people treat us good,” he explained. “I’ve never really had that longing. There’s people that do, especially when they’re young. They see this and say, hey that looks good, and they try it. Some come back, some don’t.”
For me, steeped in the election with its sound bites, accusations and politicians playing fast and loose with the facts, this individual Amish view was a very different way of looking at things. No worries, no concerns, and most of all, complete ease with their position on the sidelines. I can’t say that would work for me; I want to be a part of the process. But I can see its attraction for a community dedicated to a simpler way of life.
While you and I will watch the debates in the weeks ahead, Levi will have other things on his mind.