The range of causes and issues to which people devote their time and passion is, quite simply, breathtaking. For every cause there is an organization -- or two or ten -- with their own website, mailing list and legion of supporters. There is, as an example, a sizable subculture of folks actively engaged in the ethical treatment of animals. Through groups like PETA ( P eople for the E thical T reatment of A nimals) ALDF ( A nimal L egal D efense F und) and GAP (The G reat A pe P roject) millions of people contribute tens -- even hundreds -- of millions of dollars for the purpose of saving seals, elephants and great apes from extinction to raising consciousness about the evils of dog fighting, mink coats and vivisection.
Santa Monica, California, is the headquarters of The PAW Project, an organization whose mission it is " . . . to educate the public about the painful and crippling effects of feline declawing, to promote animal welfare through the abolition of the practice of declaw surgery, and to rehabilitate cats that have been declawed." As a result of PAW's advocacy, anti declawing (Onychectomy) ordinances have been enacted in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica and Burbank. An absolute ban passed both houses of the California state Legislature (vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) and was recently introduced in the New York state Legislature. (It should be noted that declawing has long been illegal in Australia, Brazil, much of Europe and the United Kingdom. The ban applies to both domestic and exotic felines.)
While one can argue that making the declawing of tabby illegal is not the most pressing issue facing humanity, it is, nonetheless, worthy of attention. Who but a heartless brute would want to subject the family pet to a procedure that may cause pain and suffering? Then again, there are those who would argue that cats are cats and that we, their masters and mistresses, have the God-given right to declaw them in order to save our own skin -- not to mention our chairs, couches and draperies. Whichever side one takes in this minor debate, hopefully it is agreed that this is neither a matter of political correctness nor an abridgement of constitutional safeguards.
Unlike the pet issue of San Diego-based mgmbill.org: making the circumcision of any male under the age of 18 illegal.
This past week, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on MGM Bill's successful campaign to get their proposed ordinance placed on the ballot in San Francisco in November. The article, written by the Times' Martha Groves, detailed MGM Bill's new campaign to place a similar ordinance on the ballot in Santa Monica. Their measure would make it a misdemeanor to circumcise a boy in Santa Monica (or San Francisco) before he turned 18. The maximum penalty would be a year in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. According to terms of their proposal, circumcisions would be permitted "only for medical reasons, with no religious exemptions."
What's going on here?
According to Matthew Hess MGM Bill's founder and president:
"Currently, girls are protected from genital mutilation by U.S. federal law, but boys are not. Although legal protection of only girls from circumcision would seem to violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the fact remains that it is still widely considered to be legal in this country to mutilate a boy's genitals in the name of social custom, hygiene, religion, or any other reason. This is true despite the well documented lifelong damage that male circumcision causes each of its victims. It's a practice we need to end now."
Hess' contention that there is "well documented" proof about the "lifelong damage that male circumcision causes each of its victims" is, to say the least, medically challengeable. In his 1891 treatise, "The History of Circumcision," Dr. Peter Charles Remondino (who, ironically, was city physician in San Diego -- Matthew Hess' hometown) urged his medical colleagues to use his text to ram the "four-and-a-half-foot gauge fact" of circumcision through a hesitant parent's "two-foot-gated understanding." He went so far as to argue that "The Jewish race lives better because its members ritually remove the tissue from baby boys." Dr. Remondino's ideas about circumcision lived on for several generations. According to federal statistics, circumcision among newborn males grew from around 30% in 1932 to approximately 70% in 1971. Starting in the 1970s however, the medical community began to question the medical benefits of circumcision. By 2011, infant circumcision rates dropped to about 50%. California is now among the states with the lowest: 21% of baby boys are circumcised in the Golden State.
Matthew Hess and his followers contend that circumcision is barbaric; that someone must stand up for the rights of the newborn and against parents who would willingly subject their sons to what they term "mutilation" ("MGM" stands for "Male Genital Mutilation"). They go so far as to claim that "Many men who are circumcised suffer the same psychological effects found in rape victims. A sense of great loss and feelings of anger, distrust and grief . . ." There are literally dozens and dozens of groups pushing for legislation outlawing infant circumcision in the United States. Already, MGM Bill has proposed federal legislation and drafted bill for 46 state legislatures. (The 4 states they have somehow missed are Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.)
Jews Against Circumcision, one of the groups supporting MGM Bill's legislation, tells its members and acolytes they "need not be afraid of divine punishment," because "In the original version of the Torah, the book of J, circumcision is not even mentioned. Fallible men devised circumcision as a means to curb masturbation." (The reference to "the book of J" comes from the "Documentary Hypothesis," a 19th century theory which holds that the Torah was derived independently from 4 originally independent, parallel and complete narratives which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of editors or redactors. This hypothesis, which is attributed to the German scholar Julius Welhausen, is today considered far more a scholastic novelty than a serious theory.) Regardless of what "Jews Against Circumcision" claim, Genesis 17:10-12 is a clearly enunciated apodictic law . . .
I for one find it utterly fascinating that San Francisco and Santa Monica -- two of my native state's most liberal and progressive communities -- would be in the forefront of the movement to disallow circumcision. As progressives, the people of these two cities are, for the most part, strongly pro-choice; they rebel at the thought of government telling a woman what she may or may not do with her body. In this case, however, there may well be a groundswell of support for giving government a say what may be done to that body. To be certain, female circumcision should be outlawed; it has neither a religious nor a hygienic basis. Rather, it is done in the name of female chastity. In the case of males, there is both a 4,000 year religious history plus strong anecdotal evidence of medical advantage.
I have to believe that should either San Francisco or Santa Monica pass MGM Bill's proposed ordinance, it will be struck down by the California State Supreme Court.
I just hope they get to it before the next rapture . . .
-2011 Kurt F. Stone