Editor’s Note: I opened the newspaper to see a group of guys so indignant about circumcision that would be willing to drive around the Northeast, and, more seriously, ruin perfectly good pairs of white pants. Hard to figure why they’d consider this worth the trouble, but there’s no way to explain human nature.
plenty to worry about in 2018 — rising sea levels, rampant wildfires and
nuclear proliferation, as well as the recent resurgence of American fascism and
racism, and trillion-dollar deficit spending. Yet, instead, we fret endlessly
about the trivial — from kneeling football players and who should be allowed
to use which bathroom to the Omarosa tapes and who should be forced to bake
wedding cakes for whom.
recently experienced its own frivolity attack when the group Bloodstained Men
passed through town on one leg of its three-week tour to publicize opposition to
circumcision. Dressed in white outfits and cowboy hats, with red splotches
strategically adorning their crotches, the protesters presented a striking
visual. As part of a larger group that calls itself “Intactivists,” they
oppose clipping babies without their consent.
infants’ rights aspect of this debate is, at best, silly. Parents routinely
make medical decisions for their children, as well as subject them to religious
rituals from baptism to bris. The latter may be painful for babies, but none of
us remembers it, so how traumatic is it? It’s like a Jewish variation of a
Zen-like question: “If a foreskin falls in the synagogue, and no one recalls
it, does it cause any pain?” (Philosophical debates involving a mohel may be
too arcane for the op-ed page.)
to arguments often proffered by the Intactivists, this practice has nothing in
common with the misnamed “female circumcisions” performed on African/Muslim
girls. That cruel form of genital mutilation is mandated by religious fanatics
and other misogynists to prevent women from enjoying sex. Based on my own,
admittedly unscientific research, male circumcision slightly increases a
woman’s enjoyment of sex, by making male genitalia marginally less
Intactivists concede that eliminating a 5,000-year-old tradition may be a hard
sell. Circumcision was practiced in ancient Egypt, and the patriarch Abraham was
reputedly trimmed at 99 years old. In addition to its mandate from Yahweh, it
played a role in one of the Hebrews’ earliest military triumphs. In Genesis
34:24, they manipulated the men of Shechem into being circumcised. Then, while
the men were still “sore,” the Hebrews attacked, killing all the males,
plundering the city, and enslaving its women and children.
and Muslims consider circumcision a required rite, as do many Bible-believing
Christians. In the New Testament, St. Paul expends large amounts of papyrus
discussing whether circumcision is a prerequisite for salvation. Although Paul
came down on the side of foreskin retention, 71% of American males have
undergone the procedure.
YouGov poll reports that 86% of circumcised American adults are happy they were
snipped, and only 10% wish that they hadn’t been. According to the American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the benefits of the procedure outweigh the
downside; however, the AAP does not recommend the practice for all infants,
preferring to leave that choice to the parents — precisely the option the
Bloodstained Men want to end.
cite as disadvantages reduced sensitivity during sex, the risk of post-operative
infection and its painfulness (as well as the fact they consider it
unnecessary). However, the upside is significant: decreased rates of urinary
tract infections, reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and protection
against penile cancer, along with reduced risk of cervical cancer in female
the whole circumcision “controversy” seems like much ado about nothing, and
groups like the Bloodstained Men may be just having fun with it. However, I also
thought that about the Flat Earthers, until I discovered how seriously those
conspiracy nuts take themselves and the anti-scientific nonsense they spout.
Meanwhile, “9/11 Truthers” still insist the Bush family destroyed the Twin
Towers, and there are celebrity medical “experts” who believe doctors give
vaccinations despite knowing they cause autism. And don’t even get me started
on the Scientologists.
in the Trump Era swamp, whatever the Right doesn’t like is “fake news,”
put out by enemies of the people (i.e., a free press). Modern science (e.g.,
climate change, the Big Bang and evolution) is considered a plot foisted on
decent Americans by atheists in lab coats. At the same time, rabid Trump
cultists continue to rant about the Deep State, a fictitious entity invented by
our fabulist-in-chief and taken as gospel by his sheep.
America circles the drain, many of us may be going out of our way to distract
ourselves, looking for frivolous things to get upset about. For example, I’m
annoyed about being fined roughly $100 for driving without fastening my seat
belt. I realize not wearing it is dumb, but it’s none of the state’s
business, and they shouldn’t look to profit from my carelessness. Still, I
don’t quite feel strongly enough about it to protest this injustice by driving
around New England in a faux-blood-spattered seat belt.
I enjoy distractions as much as the next guy, I can’t get too worked up about
circumcision as a cause. In truth, I’m actually in favor of it, for no other
reason than, having spent time in men’s locker rooms, I consider the result to
be aesthetically somewhat less unsightly than the alternative.
we could all use a good laugh these days, and this procedure is at the heart of
one of my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live one-liners. To paraphrase SNL
alum and former senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, “The mohel at the bris
doesn’t charge for his services … he just takes tips.”
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