Description of Documentary

This documentary is about Mennonites. But it is more than just about an immigrant group coming to terms with America.

It is about America itself. How it deals with immigrants that do not willingly jump into the melting pot. It is about how America deals with recalcitrant newcomers who insist on living outside the mainstream. Who don't put loyalty to state first, but rather pledge their first allegiances to God, church and family, and see allegiance to the state as a distant runner up.

There lives a people in the Valley of Virginia, that are not hard to bring to the army. While there they are obedient to their officers. Nor is it difficult to have them take aim, but it is impossible to get them to take correct aim. I, therefore, think it better to leave them at their homes that they may produce supplies for the army.

George Washington and Ben Franklin had a problem with Mennonites. All hands were needed as the colonies wrested their independence from Britain. Mennonites couldn't kill their fellow countrymen; they also could not bring themselves to kill the British. Later during the Civil War, Stonewall Jackson couldn't get the young Mennonite men whom he forced into his militia to shoot the enemy. He finally gave up, leaving them to farm rather than fight.

The Mennonite experience in America is full of paradoxes. For some Mennonites, religious identity is deeply intertwined with the cultural identity of the lands from where they've come. After hundreds of years in America, they continue to cling to arcane German dialects. For some, retention of old dress styles and horse powered transportation has become part of their religious identity. How a Mennonite speaks and dresses and what he/she drives to church tells much about who they are.

Those who do not retain distinct cultural markers may still enter the mainstream with some caveats. While you can not identify them by distinctive dress or language they often continue to exhibit values and beliefs carried forward from earlier times. This may find expression in a heightened interest in care for the environment or in a strongly held opposition to the death penalty. In living below their means and sharing a significant portion of their income with charitable causes. In insisting that their homes be relatively free from the influence of television, most films and other forms of popular culture. In living in close community with each other so that each feels a sense of support in good times and in bad. In volunteering to be part of both domestic and international attempts to bring thoughtful and peaceful resolution to social and economic failures. Or maybe not.

This documentary will explore the worlds of both those who have chosen to remain true to their cultural identities as well as those who have more fully embraced American society and how they have navigated the inconsistencies they've faced. It will provide a mirror into which newer immigrants may reflect their own cultural difficulties as they navigate assimilation into the world's most pervasive and influential culture.