The Daily Cannibal is distressed to learn that genital mutilation, which we had thought was largely confined to tribal groups in sub-Saharan Africa, is commonly — even routinely — practiced in the heart of San Francisco, generally celebrated as the world’s most enlightened metropolis. This procedure, clinically described as “circumcision,” involves chopping off the flap of skin at the top of the penis — or “foreskin,” most frequently shortly after birth, and often accompanied by a religious ritual.
This hardly seems fair. After all, the kid doesn’t seem to have much to say about the matter, even though he is by far the one most directly affected by the procedure. There oughta be a law — or so says Lloyd Schofield, who is gathering signatures for a petition to make it illegal, punishable by a $1000 fine or a year in jail, to “circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.”
“This is a human-rights issue,’” Schofield said.
Okay, it’s not exactly in a league with guerrillas hacking the arms off of children in Sierra Leone, but the voters of San Francisco don’t hold much sway in Africa, whereas they have shown a heartwarming enthusiasm for legislation of this nature in their own backyard, including the banning of plastic water bottles in city parks, and the feeding of wild parrots (yes, they did). Not too long ago, a Board of Supervisors member achieved some measure of national attention when she proposed closing all the city’s pet stores, asserting that “we intend to take a very proactive stance on animal cruelty in the Bay Area.” Finally, there was the bizarre saga of Ed Jew, another Board of Supervisors member, who, according to the New York Times, was guilty of feeding the selfsame parrots, as well as “extorting $80,000 from San Francisco tapioca-drink store owners.”
What kind of infernal beast singles out tapioca-drink store owners for extortion? But we bring up Mr. Jew for a reason — guess what group of Bay area residents is more than a little put out by Mr. Schofield’s initiative? You guessed it. (Oh, by the way, just to confuse things in the already-jumbled SFO region, Mr. Jew isn’t a Jew. He’s Chinese. Still with me?)
But Mr. Schofield, in a remarkably adept demonstration of dismissive prolixity, rejects the religious aspect of the discussion thus:
“We come at this from the point of view of the child, whether Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, the child is certainly not experiencing any spiritual uplifting. If you’re doing it in the hospital there are no religious implications. If someone feels this is something they want to do for spiritual reasons, or otherwise, they should be able to choose for themselves. Their body, their decision. The basis of Judaism is the ability to talk about everything, yet this topic is avoided.”
Wow. Five thousand years of Mosaic law voided by one incomprehensible paragraph.
Okay, so Mr. Schofield begins to look more like another demagogue desperate for an issue — eager for anything that affords him some measure of attention and a firmer claim to the moral superiority he so clearly and so nakedly aspires to. “Their body, their decision?” Does this apply to tetanus shots? I don’t remember anything about circumcision, but that damned needle scared me witless and hurt like the dickens. And where does it say that “The basis of Judaism is the ability to talk about everything?” News to me. I thought that was the basis for being an insufferable blowhard.
Still, Mr. Schofield has a point. Circumcision seems to have no medical justification, and for Jews who have already decided that everyday wearing of yarmulkes and tefilin can be safely disregarded, chopping off the end of your male issue’s love clubs ought to be a shoe-in for the dustbin. But it’s probably not something that should be put up for vote. Mr. Schofield, you’re our latest stupe du jour. Find something else to meddle with. Parrots, perhaps.