Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Member of the Opposition: San Francisco's Circumcision Ban

The male member is a highly comic figure, even (especially) when not the subject of graphic portraiture. It has always had its mockers and detractors, always gone about with a bit of raffish tarnish, always been the chap who draws the easy laugh, the cheap snigger and the staged trip-up. It begs disadvantageous analogy with the smaller rodents and fungi, its character always in question - too often in the way, or simply not there when needed.

Now the City of San Francisco has done its worst by the wee lad (I really wanted to write "wurst" there but I am not going to add puns to the manifold tribulations of Le Petit Prince).  A proposal to ban the circumcision of children will be on the November ballot in San Francisco - the nation's first public vote on whether to dismantle or not to dismantle. This sort of public attention does not contribute anything to the gravitas of the minor citizen in question, nor to the body civil (if that's the right word here) that would even bring it up for a vote. ("Put it to a vote" might be a happier phrase, but let it pass - as I said, a highly comic figure.)

"Yo, careful!"

Supporters of the ban say male circumcision is a form of genital mutilation - akin to the illegal mutilation of females - unnecessary, extremely painful, possibly dangerous; and that parents should not be able to force the decision on a child.  

"Parents are really guardians, and guardians have to do what's in the best interest of the child. It's his body, it's his choice," said San Francisco resident hand-wringer Lloyd Schofield, the measure's lead proponent.  Cutting away the foreskin, he insists, is a more invasive medical procedure than many new parents or childless people realize.

"Couldn't we make it less . . . wrinkly?"

In a 1999 article in The Humanist, the authors argue that circumcision violates both the Fourteenth Amendment and international law, specifically the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Be that as it may, circumcision seems to be the default procedure on little boys born in the U.S. The worldwide average, according to a Huffington Post article, is 30 percent, though the U.S. average is close to 80 percent. Proponents of circumcision generally cite its hygienic advantages - a suitably coiffed pecker is presumably less likely to catch in ski lifts, Tommy-lifts, elevator doors, car doors, trouser mangles, tailgates, zippers, CD players, malfunctioning prostheses and so on.

For my part (if you'll permit that expression), I had no say in the matter, nor do I remember the procedure as being either traumatic, degrading or particularly uncomfortable. I do have childhood memories of the doctor who performed it - "Dunn Me Wrong" Dunn, who made reparations for his violation of my human rights by handing me a little corked vial of sugar "pills" every time he examined me in his office, with the earnest injunction to take them regularly until they were gone. It never occured to me that I had been "docked," in common with the sorts of dogs - Dobermans, Great Danes, schnauzers, boxers - that regularly had their ears and tails ideally reconfigured for the Westminster Trials.

Would you do it to your dog? 

The national Jewish and Muslim communities are promising legal remedy should the measure pass a vote, as such a proscription violates immemorially old religious practices. In that respect, it seems as though the San Francisco City Council is a) trivializing its legislative mandate, and b) engaging in the sort of moral fascism that would also conceivably criminalize, as a violation of their rights and inherent dignity, the sale and transport of goldfish in plastic bags.

Goldfish in Gitmo

As is so often the case in instances of preposterous legislation, there is a fundamental deficiency in any leavening sense of history. The schmekel has been the object of rabbinical jurisdiction for milennia, instructions for its proper care and feeding institutionalized in sacred writings from ancient days. It brings peace and makes war . . . 

Rape of the Sabine Women (Jacopo Ligozzi) 

Its names are legion. It is a literary character, a biblical character, a figure of myth and legend. The Greeks and Romans deified it as Priapos, a rustic fertility god, protector of livestock, crops and male genitalia.The classical Mediterranean countryside was awash in goat-legged satyrs on the lookout for the easy tumble (the goat's horns were the symbol of the cuckolded husband).

"Beat it, kid."

The Hindustani countryside is littered with lingams, the stumpy, becomingly modest stone monuments to Shiva's procreative travels, invariably watched over by a canopy of five cobras (which might plausibly represent the San Francisco municipal overlords).

  "Is he 'Big Boy,' is he 'Little Boy'?" 

The final irony is that San Francisco of all places, a city known for a broader than usual tolerance of "lifestyle choices," should unaccountably choose to put its collective hand in the civic pants to the extent of removing the question from the realm of personal choice. Whether to go smooth or wrinkled into the world should not be left to the same people who set the zoning regulations. 

As I said, a highly comic figure. Quod erat demonstrandum.

1 comment:

  1. Great comment (in your usual erudite, iconoclastic manner) on an absolutely absurd proposal. Especially the last para.