November 14, 2010 § 4 Comments
The conversation, I mean. San Francisco is considering banning male circumcision, and the odds are that the discussion won’t go much beyond the “Baby Mutilator/Anti-Semite” name calling. New law is only part of creating real, lasting cultural change, but it does seem like it should seal the deal. I can see the appeal of a quick fix. The law, I mean. Not the babies.
I’m Jewish, although I’m very secular, and this is not the most important part of my identity. Yet if I were to have a son I would not want to circumcise him. I can’t square the idea of circumcision with my profound belief that all people have the right to bodily integrity. Parents are entrusted with their children — they don’t own them — and shouldn’t allow surgeries that are not necessary for the life and health of the child. For me that breaks down to heart surgery yes, cleft palate yes, circumcision no.
I understand why people do it, though, and I don’t think they’re bad people for doing it. Not at this point in history. Not until the culture has shifted. I am Jewish, and I always wonder in the back of my mind how much of this is motivated in part by anti-Jewish prejudice.
A friend posted about this on facebook, suggesting that it is Jewish traditions that are responsible for the vast number of U.S. circumcisions. “Your traditions” he said and then corrected himself: “our (shared) traditions.” In fact, the medicalization of circumcision in the U.S. and Great Britain is mostly the product of puritanical, anti-masturbation evangelizers. The Jews — the influence is overestimated here.
My friend is a good person. None of us, I think, are ever fully cognizant of the prejudices that shape our thinking. The left is certainly not immune to prejudice. (No it’s true. Really.) In a political climate of rising xenophobia (anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, anti-immigration–the list goes on) both in the U.S. and internationally, I am concerned about both the motivations of the proposed ban and about its outcomes.