Category Archives: Society

We need to follow the Amish example

Just a few weeks ago, the world heard the news of the tragic school shooting at an Amish school in rural Pennsylvania. A deranged man entered the schoolhouse, bound and gagged female hostages, brought along torture equipment, and shot 10 of them. 5 died, and the remaining 5 are believed to still be hospitalized.

Back in 1990, a deranged man committed a series of murders near the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. The story mentions 5 people that were killed.

Both were tragic situations. Both men killed people that had their whole lives in front of them. Both shook an entire community.

But look at how the communities responded. The Amish responded like this:

CNN reported a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls said of the killer on the day of the murder: “We must not think evil of this man.”

Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts,” he told CNN.

The Amish have reached out to Roberts’ family. Dwight Lefever, a Roberts family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them.

An article in a Canadian newspaper the National Post stated that the Amish have set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. (Wikipedia)

In addition, the Amish invited the Roberts family to attend the funerals for the Amish girls he killed.

Gainesville reacted this way:

Dianna Hoyt, Christa Hoyt’s stepmother, said Rolling’s execution has been eagerly awaited by the victims’ families. Some will be inside the prison to witness it. . .

Sadie Darnell, who was the police department’s media spokeswoman at the time and developed enduring friendships with the victims’ families, said Rolling’s execution still matters, even if it also provides him more of the notoriety he sought.

“Retribution . . . is important because it represents that our society is holding that person accountable,” said Darnell, now a candidate for Alachua County sheriff. (CNN)

We’ve all heard of murders that have taken place lately. Usually they are accompanied by calls by politicians, victim’s family, and sometimes even clergy to kill the perpetrator. In the days after 9/11, there were reports of anybody that looked Middle Eastern being attacked in several different places around the country.

I have never understood this great desire for revenge. How does that help anyone?

What the Amish did was right religiously and morally. They truly followed the New Testament call to love your enemies and forgive. It is not easy to follow all of Jesus’ teachings, and nobody said it would be. But they are doing it, and they have already begun healing. Reports are that the Roberts family has become friends with several of the Amish in the area, and they are working to help each other out after this horrible tragedy.

Even putting religion aside for a moment, the Amish actions are quite simply the right thing to do. By spreading love instead of hate, and friendship instead of revenge, they have succeeded in making sure that no cycle of violence starts there.

In contrast, 16 years later, the families of the victims in Florida still aren’t healing. They are still angry and bitter. They are still seeking revenge. They hope that their lives will get back to normal after the murderer is killed. But after 16 years of stewing about it, will they really? And what about the family of the murderer, whose lives certainly must have been a mess for the past 16 years? They will now lose a family member. Does anyone care about them, or will they now turn angry at society and possibly spread the pain more?

Imagine what would happen if so many more people around the world took the Amish perspective — to forgive those that wronged us. How long must it be before we can forgive? How far back do we spread our hate? Do we still hate those that were involved in 9/11, or can we forgive them? Do we still hate the Germans for what their ancestors did in World War II, or can we forgive them? Do we hate politicians with whom we strongly disagree, or think are liars? Do we still hate all those that have wronged us personally — someone that stole something from us or the sadistic boss?

Knives, electric chairs, and bombs do not buy reconciliation. They can not “win over” the hearts of others. They do not make our lives easier. Hate brings more hate, and more resentment.

Forgiveness is not easy. We all hope that we will never be involved in such a tragedies as these. But let us follow the example the Amish have shown — forgive for all things, big or small, important or not, painful or not.

Only then will we be at peace with ourselves, and only then will we have the chance to be at peace with our neighbors.

Today’s New Word: “Tuttled”

So remember Jerry Taylor, the man from Tuttle, OK that threatened to call the FBI on a Linux vendor because an unrelated hosting company had misconfigured Apache?

Well, this story is just getting funnier and funnier.

First off is this story from the Tuttle Times. It basically repeats Taylor’s view that the CentOS people were expected to help him with his problem, and that he was somehow entitled to their help. But there are some funny tidbits in the story:

“Phone calls from across the country started coming in to the newspaper and city offices, and e-mails from Switzerland, Australia, Wales and England were received. Many of the web sites discussing the exchange are in foreign languages.” I hate to break it to you, but Australia, Wales, and England all speak English.

(Ok, so they did switch from talking about email to web, but it still sounds funny.)

“In their search to find out more, web surfers discovered that the Tuttle Times online forums were hacked, and theorized that it was in retribution for the e-mails. Those forums, however, were corrupted several months ago, and the newspaper’s now former web hosts did not repair it after numerous requests. New forums should be available at the Times site in the coming weeks.” I’m so glad to know that your forums were merely corrupted for months and not hacked. Sounds like the IT problems in this town extend well past the city building.

Taylor said: “[CentOS is] a free operating system that this guy gives away, which tells you how much time he’s got on his hands.” Grumble.

Quoting Tuttle Mayor Paxton (trying to say what was more important than this): We have issues with sewer. People here want better park facilities. They want a library. I think this has just validated every stereotype people have about Oklahoma.

Tuttle is more than 7 times larger than my hometown in Kansas, and yet my hometown has had a library for years.

Jerry Taylor also reported having 500 e-mails and numerous phone messages when he arrived to work Monday.

There’s a new blurb on the Wikipedia page about Tuttle about all this. And in their talk page about the now-deleted article on Jerry Taylor, one person wrote: “Mr. Taylor’s actions have coined a new term of art “Tuttled”, in reference to the invocation of criminal consequences by one who is ignorant of the true situation. Since this is now a part of the English vernacular the story behind the term should be explained to give it an historical context. It is no longer about the action of a single person and an attempt to publicly vilify him, it is about a world-wide common experience of dealing with a Kafka-esque minor government official who, through ignorance, creates problems far beyond their normal sphere of influence. The page should be returned to the public.”

The Register has two new stories about it. The first reports that Taylor has been interviewed by all sorts of media and says that he did the right thing. The second, Linux conquered, Tuttle man takes on London is a story about the grandson of the namesake of Tuttle, OK — who happens to be the current US ambassador to the UK. This person is refusing to pay the regular London car fees. The mayor of London said: “It would actually be quite nice if the American ambassador in Britain could pay the charge like everybody else and not skive out of it like some chiseling little crook.”

And finally, there’s some incredibly funny photoshop work on this one over at (you have to scroll down a ways). Also, this comment:

“A small-town American politician wants a British newspaper to turn off the Internet.

Say that to yourself a few times. Please.”

Tuttle, OK city manager offered choice about being an idiot

I just read a story on The Register entitled Oklahoma city threatens to call FBI over “renegade” Linux maker. Quite hilarious.

Apparently Jerry Taylor, city manager for Tuttle, Oklahoma, noticed that the city’s webpage wasn’t working right. He got the default “test page” for the Apache webserver on CentOS.

Instead of calling the hosting company, he sent a series of vicious emails to CentOS, even threatening to call the FBI. The CentOS folks really went out of their way to help this guy — he was not even their customer. And he repaid them by saying they should have helped him sooner.

Of course, there was the obligatory comment about being computer literate: “I am computer literate! I have 22 years in computer systems engineering and operation. Now, can you tell me how to remove ‘your software’ that you acknowledge you provided free of charge? I consider this ‘hacking.'”

The Register story is hilarious, and the original discussion even more so because it includes a full transcript of the event. Favorite quote (to the city manager):

If you will not let me help you, or at least talk to someone who knows what Linux is, then you will look like an idiot.

Your choice.

Should anyone wish to write to the city manager of Tuttle, OK, to complain about his outrageous behavior, his e-mail address is Assuming they have figured out how to properly configure e-mail.

He’s probably not worth his $63k salary and with a personality like this almost certainly isn’t giving his employees the “feeling that we’re ‘working together'” (see that link).

Sigh. Why do people hire a guy like this in the first place?

Cliff, This Link’s For You

I haven’t had a chance to check this out much yet, but it sounds interesting, and I think Cliff would love it:

The Fray is a site where people tell stories and others comment on those stories, and once a year there are worldwide gatherings to do open-mic storytelling live. (from a post on the Creative Commons blog)

UPDATE: I should have linked directly to the audio archive, which looks like the really interesting part of the site, and the one that CC linked to.

Control Room

Have you ever wondered why so many Arabs hate Americans? Why they view us as occupiers? Why they want to be rid of both Saddam Hussein and us?

We watched Control Room tonight. What a fascinating documentary. There was no narration. Just journalists talking. Arab journalists, American journalists, Pentagon spokesmen. Lots of different viewpoints. Lots of insight.

It was hard to watch at times — they showed footage of how events were covered in different countries, and it was graphic sometimes. They also showed the journalists talking about why they covered things in a certain way.

It was very moving, and thought-provoking.

Sometimes it is useful to have a view from an outsider (to America) or an insider (to the Middle East).

Small Town Festivals

Just over a week ago, Threshing Days took place in my hometown (population: 550). Yes, the event that causes the town’s population to swell to many times its normal levels for a few days.

This year, I had no camera with me. So you will not see a photo of the line of 1930-era tractors at the bank drive-through window, unfortunately.

However, I did have my camera with me previous years, so I’ll be posting some photos here soon.

So what can you do at Threshing Days? Well, here are some of my favorites:

  • Admire the 24-ton flywheel on a large Diesel engine. (Or the engine itself, weighing 25 tons). Yes, they actually fire up this thing every year.
  • Walk through the house that originally stood on my parents’ farm, and was owned by my great-grandfather.
  • Visit the one-room schoolhouse that my uncle attended. Maybe even sit in some of the original chairs.
  • Admire some of the old tractors (some of them steam-powered). These are monstrous machines. Very impressive.
  • Eat some traditional Russian Mennonite food (the best part!). Or settle for some funnel cakes.
  • Watch the parade down Main Street (length of parade route: about 2/3 mile. length of Main St.: 1 mile).
  • See the tractor tug-of-wars, tractor races, or (my favorite) the slow tractor races. Last one over the finish line without stalling wins.
  • Watch a threshing crew in action, using a historic threshing machine and old tractors to power it.
  • See how to bake in a brick oven, then sample the result.
  • See the scale model house my grandfather built.
  • Hear stories of small town life 100 years ago.

24-hour news == crap

Today, CNN turns 25. To that I say: bah. CNN was once useful.

As we were traveling last week, we spent time in different waiting rooms. One had Fox news on; another, CNN. I had never really seen Fox broadcasts, and haven’t watched much CNN in the past 5 years either. The lack of any kind of actual news on Fox was terrible, and CNN was almost as bad too.

Here are the big stories of the time, in the eyes of Fox and CNN:

  • A child managed to climb into a stuffed-toy machine
  • A tree climber rescued a cat
  • What Michael Jackson wore to court

Fox, for some stupid reason, broadcast in front of a live audience. So, on Fox, we also got to hear what the audience thought of stuffed-toy machines, cat rescues, and Michael Jackson. Let me tell you, it was nothing newsworthy. Fox also seemed to try to turn these non-stories into national partisan debates at every opportunity.

Here are some of the stories of the time that we heard nothing about:

  • Changing 200 years of Senate rules (the filibuster issue) (CNN gave this about 30 seconds out of an hour)
  • The upcoming votes on the EU constitution
  • The trouble facing the ruling party in Germany
  • The UK elections
  • Continuing genocide in Sudan

Thank you ever so much, CNN, for inspiring two other 24-hour non-news channels. And it is truly fascinating how you have been doggedly trying to remove any actual news from your channel as well.

Maybe in 25 years, you’ll call it the Cable Tabloid Network. It would be more true.