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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cut or uncut?

The Alito hearings are making me sick, so I'm looking for news that's closer to home, and have suddenly found that circumcision is the other big issue this month. Those of you who don't hang out with liberal chick bloggers may not know of the blogfight a few weeks ago between flea and frog over the issue of infant circumcision. Flea took her sons to a bris and blogged about it, frog is against any kind of child harm and considers circumcision to be such, frog de-linked flea and made a lot of noise about it, flea then removed her post (in contrition? spite? who knows?) and sadly ended a real-life friendship. I didn't think anyone paid attention to those blogrolls anyway.

My middle schoolers have various opinions when I explain circumcision, ranging from scorn for the procedure to fear of foreskin infection to total and noisy indifference. Dan Savage did the debate in his book "The Kid". Conversations with any male foolish enough to engage me in discussion about sex have not produced any strong opinions for or against the procedure. And despite Charlotte's shock in Sex and the City, the females I've spoken to seem pretty tolerant of either, um, model. That's why I was a little surprised to see frog and flea fall out so heavily. Now, I read that even Mayor Bloomberg is caught up in the fray.

The NY Health Department is trying to decide whether--or how--to restrict the metzitzah b'peh among Hasidic Jews. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is claiming that the mayor let the issue die down before the election, then raised the issue again afterwards. The Health Department has solid reasons to restrict the practice--at least three infants have contracted herpes, one fatally, another suffering brain damage. However: "The mayor and his health commissioner said they would continue to study the matter but that they would not ban the practice, with Mr. Frieden saying that such a ban could be seen as interfering with religious freedom, and that a ban would be unenforceable anyway." The publicity these stories have generated seem to embarrass the Hasidic community, who heard phrases like "constitutional separation of church and state" to imply more support for--or less scrutiny of--the practice than what they actually received after the election. Lots of Gentiles are suddenly weighing in, with Christopher Hitchens from Slate saying, "I'll trade him his stupid prohibitionist ban if he states clearly that it is the government's business to protect children from religious fanatics." Eh, we're bartering laws now? He must be from Chicago.

Among my breeding friends, opinions are mixed; some have, some haven't circumcised their boys. (Please keep in mind that the risks of circumcision in a hospital setting are minimal, and since none of my friends are Orthodox Jews, rabbis did not hold any sharp instruments near their sons.) I'm wondering whether this debate has always simmered, or whether my generation has just got a little too much time on its hands presently.

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