Circumcision and Common Sense
I'm a Biblical Christian, and Biblically speaking Christians are not supposed to get circumcised, so I'm always surprised when I hear a fellow Christian mention the procedure. It's my understanding, from a historic standpoint, that Jewish circumcision used to be a lot less 'extreme' than it, and secular US circumcision is today. I've never spoken to an Orthodox Jew about it though so I'm not sure on that point.
Recently my friend on Facebook brought up a proposed ban in San Francisco, CA on infant non-medically indicated male circumcision. Many repliers pointed out that female circumcision had been banned for years, why not male? Parental choice verses protection of children went back and forth, and in general most people had a thoughtful comment to leave.
Yet I think many people are looking at this with veiled eyes. On the one hand you have people saying things like, I want him to look like his father/older brother, it's cleaner, it looks nicer, or that's just what you do. On the other side you have people pointing out that you wouldn't amputate a kids leg if his father had only one, the varried and sometimes severe (including deah) side effects, it's no more difficult to care for than female genitals, it looks nicer, it's not the parent's body, and 'just because' isn't a valid reason to do a medical procedure. A few pointed out that we let parents pierce their infants ears so why deny them the option to circumcise?
Yes, society protects children from what society as a whole deems abusive, and that does change generation to generation. But just because it 'mutilates' the body doesn't automatically means it should be protected from. All societies throughout history have given parents/adults broad rights over a child's body in order to bring them into the society properly. Male or female circumcision, head shaping, foot binding, scarification, tattooing, neck/lip/ear/etc stretching, binding of the waist/ankles/wrists/etc have all, for one culture or another been seen as a normal and non-abusive act for a parent to inflict upon an infant/child. To call every child ever born into these societies (which includes out own during certain times) 'abused' stretches the word past any meaning and detracts from what it actually means. Saying that WE 'know' it's 'detrimental' means we get to tell others what is abuse and what isn't is the highest form of egocentric racism/culturalism. There are plenty of things 'we' (Americans) do to our children that would be considered abuse or neglect if viewed through the lens of another culture.
I would be willing to bet the vast amount of those calling out against circumcision because it's mutilization of a non-consenting body put shoes on their kids without mind or thought. Shoes premanently deform the feet, leading to many problems later in life not seen in societies that don't wear hard soled or structured shoes. So if their objection is really to deforming/mutilating the body why are they so cavaler about shoes?
The main difference is that America is a melting pot, and, increasingly so is the industrialized world. We want to embrace the cultures of the world while simultaneously preserving some sense of out own culture. So, as a culture we pick and choose what of other cultures we are willing to adopt and what we are willing to decry. Fortunately or unfortunately that is most likely to follow either the popluace majority or the money. Either way the industrial society has something that preindustrial society did not, a conflicting voice. In tribal cultures even extreme rituals of body modification is acceptable because everyone went/goes through it. It's not abuse, and people don't come out the other side as abuse victims. But in any society that which is unusual is, most often, going to be seen as destructive and unwanted.
The circumcision debate should not be 'to mutilate or not to mutilate' but rather have we, as a society come to a turning point where individual choice has made this particular modification rare enough for it to no longer be normal? I don't think so, in some places circumcision has dropped below 50% in the newborn generation, but not in all places, and even a 50/50 split is still well within the range of normal. It is time for those who don't like circumcision to talk to others and try to convince others, eventually the odds will swing (one way or the other) and perhaps male circumcision will, like the restrictive corset, become one of the 'horrors' of our cultural history. Or maybe it, like tattooing, will be regulated to an 'adults only' decision.