Circumcision is all over the news lately, starting with the efforts to ban the procedure in San Francisco and most recently in Russell Crowe's twitter posts against the procedure. Crowe, rightly, calls the procedure "barbaric" and predictably, the politically correct set has pilloried him for supplying the unvarnished truth. More on that later. I have argued, vehemently, against the procedure in an earlier post to this blog, and given the media attention it is getting, it is time for an update.
Firstly, not long ago I ran across an news write-up about a man in Ohio who tatooed the posterior of a toddler, and who was, rightly, arrested and charged with child endangerment, except, I find it very difficult to see how a tattoo, which is basically harmless, endangered the child. To boot, tattoos are reversible. I connected that with male circumcision, and back when I was on facebook, I posted a link to the story and wondered aloud "what's the big deal?"
That post was deluged with comments from my "friends" who were outraged, outraged, that someone would tattoo a child at such a young age that it was impossible for her to consent. But, I said, a tatoo is harmless. I suppose most of you are against circumcision, too, since that procedure is irreversible and no baby can consent to it.
That logic was lost on most of my friends, who then trotted out every possible reason why it was okay to cut off part of a baby's penis, but terrible to tattoo that same baby's ass. They said, circumcision promotes cleanliness, circumcision prevents disease, circumcision looks better, etc. (I debunk those arguments in my earlier post). They dug in, indignant, perplexed, that I would be against circumcision in the first place. For most of them, such had never risen to their concsious consideration, even those who had sons. And, that nonchalance says so much. How could one, a mother or father of a son, never even consider it? You are bringing a baby into this world, and it is the default in American culture to cut off part of his penis. It is just the way of things. It is just what we do.
But what was most striking to me was the outright hostility my anti-circumcision arguments received. I would never have imagined that circumcision would have prompted such bile and anger, but people became outright nasty and indignant, all for my suggesting that it was far better to tattoo an infant than mutilate his penis.
So, all of the media attention that circumcision is getting today is welcome. It sheds light on something that has for so long been the natural way of things. It highlights the absurdity by forcing people to trot out their twisted arguments in favor of genital mutilation.
Oh no! He called it mutilation!
The defenders of circumcision do their best to make anti-circumcision activists look like crackpots, often calling attention to the harsh language of genital mutilation to describe circumcision. Often, they will compare it to female genital mutilation, a particularly disgusting practice, and highlighting that the two are not the same. One is more damaging, more extreme, than the other, and on that point, that FGM is particularly terrible, you will get no argument from me. Nevertheless, if we routinely lobbed off the earlobes of people, say, just a little around the edges, we would not be in the same territory as FGM in terms of damage, but yes, we still mutilated that child. What more should be said about that? Yes, when you remove healthy tissue from an infant, you are mutilating that infant. That is pure definitional logic. I'm sorry the M word rubs you the wrong way, I really am, but that is exactly what circumcision is, mutilation.
Back in 2004, three infant boys contracted herpes when they were circumcized by the same mohel, the Jewish man who slices off foreskins in a religious ceremony.
Recently, a two-year-old died from complications from his circumcision.
It is estimated that circumcision results in 100 deaths per year, deaths that are absolutely preventable.
But, I suppose, in order to mollycoddle the religious sensibilities of the adherents to Semitic religions, Judaism and Islam (and Christianity to a point), we should accept those 100 dead boys as collateral damage.
Crowe was castigated for being insensitive to religious-inspired superstition.
The primary advocate for the circumcision ban in Santa Monica, Jena Troutman, recently abandonned her activism due to religious bullying. According to the New York Times:
Catherine Schneider, senior vice president of community engagement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which had begun efforts to fight the plan, said she was relieved that the issue had been dropped in Santa Monica. But, she said, many leaders expect that similar efforts will crop up in other cities.
“It’s scary to think that we would have had to launch a political campaign to maintain status quo,” she said. “To fight one of these campaigns, you need to raise around $500,000, and in this economy we can all think of better ways to spend that money.