The citizens of San Francisco will be voting on a proposition that seeks to ban circumcision in that city. Though I am strongly opposed to the proposition, if it passes, some good may come of it.
Let me explain. I am a passionate advocate of Jewish ritual known as the brit (often pronounced bris) -- the ritual circumcision of 8-day-old Jewish boys. I am even an advocate of circumcision generally. I was recently in Africa -- in Zimbabwe and Zambia -- where I delivered mosquito nets and seeds to the poorest of Africa's poor. I saw giant billboards there, as well as in neighboring Botswana, exhorting men to get circumcised. The World Health Organization estimates that male circumcision reduces the rate of heterosexually transmitted AIDS by about 60 percent.
As regards Jewish ritual circumcision, I can only say that I cried like a baby at the brit of my two sons. All I could think of was that, like generations of Jews who came before me, I had been given the gift of transmitting an unbroken chain of Judaism that dates back to Abraham, 3,600 years ago.
I find the arguments of those who campaign against the brit either specious or ludicrous. The notion that some terrible, lasting pain is inflicted on the baby is simply over the top. The average time the baby cries is probably well under the time it cries -- and far less frantic -- when tired or desiring milk. I fully understand the conflicted feelings of the mother, and I see no reason for her to be present when the actual cutting of the foreskin takes place.
Does the baby experience pain and discomfort afterward? Yes. But it is temporary, and the baby heals quickly.
The advantages wildly outweigh the momentary pain. The brit uniquely strengthens a Jew's religious identification, and the ceremony instills in the family and the community a profound identification with the nearly four millennia of the Jews' world-changing history.
As for the argument that the foreskin is important, I can only say that in my most self-pitying moments I cannot recall lamenting not having my foreskin. As I have told anti-circumcision activists on my radio show, you have to be pretty bored with life to be preoccupied with not having foreskin.
One might add that the same people who are profoundly upset over the removal of foreskin rarely have a problem with the removal of a living human fetus. San Francisco considers protecting the human fetus religious fanaticism, but it is seriously considering protecting a newborn's foreskin.
So, then, given my profound support for circumcision, what good could possibly come from San Francisco passing a ban on it?
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