Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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Freedom and Responsibility

Erik Wesner, of Amish America, brought up an interesting issue about Amish in Kentucky who are refusing to use the orange triangle on the backs of their buggies. Here is my opinion added to the mix:


With every freedom comes a responsibility. No car drivers have use of the roads, paid for by all, without obeying the rules of the road, so why should buggy drivers be allowed to use the road and ignore all safety precautions? In my opinion, the Amish should be choosing their issues — the triangle is a trivial issue. If the government were to outlaw buggies because of safety issues, then perhaps they would have an issue. Having said this, I don’t believe the triangle is going far enough. There is a huge difference in how visible buggies are from one community to another. When I was in Shipshewana, Indiana, I was appalled at how hard it was to see the buggies at night… and this in a “high” Amish group. In Geauga County, Ohio, the Amish have adopted LED lights, both flashing in the back and “headlights” in the front and there is reflector tape outlining the back of the buggy… in flat places, one can see a buggy from a mile away. Now it is up to car drivers to take the proper precautions and slow down. 


I once had an experience in my old neighborhood that outlines the issue by taking the Amish beliefs out of the equation. I was backing out of my driveway — I’d looked both ways, but at the height of cars or someone walking. I was ready to back up, but intuition told me to look again… partly because I noticed a mother walking her baby in a stroller, and I knew she had two other children. Lo and behold, right behind my back tires, was a little toy car, driven by a five-year-old, and she had stopped right behind my back tire, barely visible in my rear-view mirror. Her little sister was in the “passenger” seat. Had I backed up, and hit those two little towheads, I would have felt guilty for the rest of my days, and probably had nightmares about it, too. And yet none of it would have been my fault… 


This is the side people don’t take into account when they hear of a buggy accident, in which someone was hurt or killed. What about the person who was driving responsibly, and could not avoid the accident, simply because he or she could not see the buggy? That is as tragic for the car driver as it is for the people who were hurt — how does one recover from such a thing? Sure, the Amish would forgive you, but could you forgive yourself? I know I would be saying “If only….” for the rest of my life. By chalking everything up to God’s Will, we are not taking into account our own will and our sense of responsibility. In my mind acting responsibly is bringing our own will into alignment with God’s. 


I wrote the other day, about the Amish ability to take what comes, and their sense of not taking life for granted. In my mind, for the “low” Amish to ignore safety precautions as they drive their buggies on the road is an example of taking this point of view to an extreme. I’m glad for all of us that most Amish have a more moderate approach to life and do take precautions and are responsible buggy drivers.
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