The Limits and Impossibilities of Multiculturalism

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  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I am opposed to body modification in all of its forms. If I have to pay for your health care, you people need to stop adding/removing surface area.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    Inactivists

    I think you mean Intactivists. Inactivists would just have said “Whatever.”Report

  3. Avatar Stillwater
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    says:

    Saul,

    I’d ask this: does 5000 years of tradition matter in the slightest to a four day old infant? Does cutting off body parts matter to an infant?

    The problem is that people see this as being a moral compromise and as I get older I am discovering that a lot of people are still really uncomfortable with the idea of moral compromise and detente.

    Seems to me this is a confusion, since there isn’t anything to morally compromise about in the circumcision debate. It’s just morally wrong (if anything is). What you really want is a cultural compromise. That’s a different issue, tho, yes? You think that cultural tradition ought to trump morality for the folks identified with (and by) that tradition. Good luck figuring that one out!Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater
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      says:

      I’m circumcised, and being part of that tradition is well worth the loss of a bit of skin to me, as I expect it is to Saul, and as it is to a vast majority of Jews. (I know there are people who are unhappy about it, but only because they get written about, not because I know any personally.) People with a moral objection to religious circumcision are saying that not only do they know better than the parents, they know better than the people they’re trying to “save”.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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      To what extent do we, as a society, have an obligation to force another society to change when they’re doing something obviously and self-evidently wrong?

      To what extent do we, as a society, have an obligation to not change in the face of obviously and self-evidently wrong societies attempting to change us?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Jaybird,

        I dunno. I just can’t think of a more clear case of immorality than cutting of the body parts of someone who is incapable of consenting to it. Nothing directly follows from recognizing that moral fact.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        I admit, I am a huge fan of putting the interests of the individual well above the interests of any lien that society claims on the part of the individual, but I find myself really conflicted when it comes to using anything but really good arguments to do that.

        As someone who might be confused for a member of the tribe, if you know what I mean, I find myself curious about what I might be missing out on but not to the point where I feel that I have been wronged. Now, I’m not unmoved by arguments from others that they feel that they have been… but that’s pretty much balanced out by the arguments I’ve seen from others that they haven’t been.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Ugh, that came out wrong.

        If you reach the point where you’re having to use force instead of making an argument, you’ve pretty much already lost.

        That said, what about using force against people who are using force? That’s when the discussion really starts to get weird.

        We really need to weigh the wrong being done against the wrong that would be used in the service of preventing the wrong being done.

        And I don’t know that the wrong being done is *THAT* bad, all things considered.Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        @jaybird
        “obviously and self-evidently wrong”

        There’s your problem right there, mister.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Stillwater
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      says:

      It seems more about how much latitude do parents get to raise their children as they see fit. Parents can do all sorts of weirdo things to their kids but society/gov/those people have set lines regarding certain forms of abuse/punishment/neglect where the State aims to protect the child and their rights. The question seems to be is circumcision abuse?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to greginak
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        I don’t think so in the case of male circumcision. The CDC believes it has health benefits and there is no evidence that it diminishes male sexual pleasure:

        http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20141202/cdc-endorses-circumcision-for-health-reasons

        But there are many people for whom the big issue is that this is non-consent.

        Now the real question is how deeply are they thinking or not thinking about why circumcision is important to Jewish culture. My general view is that people who think this is an issue of consent also tend to be of the Dawkins level of atheism and the fact that it is important to Jewish and Muslims is of non-concern. They might even enjoy fucking with what they see as religious belief.

        Now the interesting issue would be if someone could defend the Hispanic practice of piercing a girl’s ears when she is an infant but damn circumcision.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak
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        says:

        Now the real question is how deeply are they thinking or not thinking about why circumcision is important to Jewish culture.

        No, Saul, that’s not the real question. That’s a separate question – an interesting one – but distinct. And it’s only an interesting question given one type of answer to greg’s question.

        I think greg got it right, FWTW.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to greginak
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        says:

        But there are many people for whom the big issue is that this is non-consent. … My general view is that people who think this is an issue of consent also tend to be of the Dawkins level of atheism

        Sigh. Each time you respond to someone you think is thoughtlessly dissing your culture/ethnicity/fave-behaviors you do so by thoughtlessly dissing them.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to greginak
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        The Dawkins swipe was probably uncalled for. I recant.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater
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      says:

      Yes multiculturalism does involve cultural compromise for the reasons that Mike and Jaybird expressed.

      I’m circumcised and don’t understand why people think I am supposed to be in great morning for my foreskin and like something horrible was done to me. My circumcision marks me as being part of 5000 years of tradition and culture. I’m proud to have a Jewish body.Report

  4. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    I am not Jewish, but I am circumcised. I think this is the area where it is really questionable. Why did that happen? I think it still happens, parents still make that decision. I’d guess that fewer Christian (even if only in a cultural sense) parents make this decision than did in the 50’s, but there’s still a fair few that do it.

    In some sense, I think arguing about it is how one defines what one’s group is, and makes a person seem more trustworthy. Multiculturism is indeed hard. I think it’s one of the hardest things humans can do.Report

    • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Doctor Jay
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      I’m not Jewish, either, and I was circumcised, too. Although I knew only a few Jewish males up through adolescence, and never saw them naked, I was an adult before I saw a live, uncircumcised penis. Fifty-odd years ago, lots of goyim were circumcised for what were believed then to be sensible medical or sanitary reasons, and may still be for all I know. I never missed having a foreskin and can’t imagine that the young slob I used to be would have done what I would have had to do to keep things clean.
      But all that is just an excuse to tell an embarrassing story. As a young man, I saw some Jews wearing tfillen (sp?), the little black box tied onto the forehead during prayer. I asked a Jewish friend (as I then thought he was) what was in the box. He asked if I knew about circumcision, and I told him what I knew about Abraham’s covenant with God, proud of my wide-ranging, ecumenical knowledge. My friend asked if I had ever wondered what happened to the foreskins. I told him I had never given the matter any thought and he told me that the foreskins were kept on the little box to remind Jews of the covenant with God when they prayed. Made sense to me. And one day, as my erstwhile friend knew would eventually happen, I trotted out this bit of information in mixed company to predictable effect.
      Some day, I will hunt this man down and kill him.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    OMG before I made the mistake of doing an image search for “foreskin is a human right” I had no idea there was a comic book called Foreskin Man about a superhero who protects innocent infants from genital mutilation. I’m sure this couldn’t possibly get ridiculously anti-Semitic at all!Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
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      Does no one click on hyperlinks! 🙂

      I linked to a story about Foreskin Man. That comic made an appearance in 2011 when there was an attempt to get a ballot referendum banning circumcision in San Francisco. The campaign quickly collapsed after the release of the comic.

      Interestingly the guy behind the movement was named Hess and he styles himself a provocateur.

      One of the most curious things about the circumcision movement (both sides) is how quickly sexual it gets. I recall reading an essay by one woman who was going back and forth about whether her soon to be born son should be circumcised or not. She had a female doctor friend say something like “Don’t you want your son ever to receive blowjobs?” Which I admit is pretty shocking.

      I’ve heard similar sexual things on the anti-circumcision crowd about how once you have had uncircumcised dick, you can’t never go back to the other side.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko
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      “You made this bargain when I spun you that roomful of straw into gold. I will take your firstborn son and mutilate him horribly. Now, stop your weeping, Majesty, and I will grant you this boon. The prince will remain intact if you can guess my name.”

      “Hmmm. Is it Rumpleforeskin?”Report

  6. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    When can bodily modification of infants be justified?

    What makes Jewish-style circumcision different than locally-practiced Muslim female circumcisions?

    Surely not just the cultural aspect? In part culture is being used as justification here, but is anyone going to defend infant female circumcision on cultural grounds? If not, culture doesn’t go very far does it?*

    Plausibly that infant male circumcision is not harmful like, or at least as harmful as, female circumcision. But then are there any limits on what non-harmful modifications we can make to infants? Facial tatoos? Facial implants?

    Is “it didn’t bother me” really a plausible defense of doing something to someone else? How well does that generalize?

    “It’s beneficial to health” is perhaps the strongest justification. After all, we stick the fresh-dropped critters full of needles, making them cry, right after birth, and continue to force our children to get stuck with needles through adolescence–because the benefit to them outweighs the harm. Is the evidence for the benefits of male circumcision at that level? That’s both an empirical and a subjective question, unfortunately, and I’m not going to claim, or even attempt, an answer to it. But I think this is really the only decent grounds on which we can justify it.

    _________________
    *I’m not impressed much by the longevity of a cultural practice, either. Slavery has been banned in Europeanized North America for less time than it was practiced (and everyone reading this will be dead before those time frames become equal), but I don’t think that counts as a point in favor of slavery; not even a tiny little point that’s overwhelmed by other considerations. Just not a point in it’s favor at all. Period.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
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      How much force would be appropriate to prevent circumcision? Police raids on illegal brisses? (Brissen?)

      Should we jail the parents who hire a Mohel or just the mothers (who, presumably, is responsible for making the kid Jewish in the first place)? Should we only arrest Mohels?

      Is “it didn’t bother me” really a plausible defense of doing something to someone else?

      It is somewhat relevant to the issue of “are we willing to kill people for doing this?” when it comes to issues of law enforcement.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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        “Britot”. It is kind of amusing that “bris” is a feminine noun.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird
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        How much force would be appropriate to prevent circumcision?

        How much harm/benefit does it cause/produce?

        How much force would be appropriate to prevent parents from giving their kids vaccinations? How much would be appropriate to prevent them from giving their toddler a tiny sip of wine? How much to prevent them from giving their kid meth?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        How much harm/benefit does it cause/produce?

        Would this be an appropriate time to bring up “it didn’t bother me” or should I keep my examples to the anecdotes of other people?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Saul,

        Here’s an answer to Jaybird I was just about to delete, but since you think he “got it right” I’ll post it.

        I find this pragmatic approach to rights enforcement surprising for a natural rights guy. Either the infant’s rights are being violated or they aren’t, yes? If they are, then what follows for natural rights theory if those rights can be so easily rejected in favor of consequentialist pragmatics? If not, then there isn’t anything to talk about anyway (except that the anti-circumcision folks are wrong) since enforcement of an unjust law isn’t justified.

        I’m OK with the pragmatics part, I should add. But pragmatics doesn’t resolve the rights/morality issue in play here except insofar as it balances out rights violations.
        “Better to have infants rights violated than a bunch of adults rights (potentially!) violated” isn’t a very compelling argument except consequentially.

        I’d also note that Jaybird’s argument is inconsistent with everything you said in the OP as well as in comments, which attempted to justify circumcision on cultural tradition grounds as well as anti-circumcision being an expression of anti-semitism (so therefore easily dismissed). His argument is that the cost of enforcing a ban on circumcision which (potentially) incarcerates parents is higher than the benefits (in particular since he thinks getting circumcised is ‘no big deal’). So his argument has nothing directly to do with multi-culturalism or cultural traditions or the morality of circumcision. It’s a straight ahead pragmatic utilitarian justification of the trade offs between enforcing a ban and permitting an immoral action.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Ooops. Misthreaded. Should be down one subthread.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird
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        Would this be an appropriate time to bring up “it didn’t bother me”

        Sure, it’s relevant. I just don’t think it’s dispositive, certainly not as a single anecdote, anyway.

        FWIW, it didn’t bother me, either. Well, maybe it did at the time, but it doesn’t particularly bother me now. Then again, neither of us know what we’re missing, so I’m not sure we’re qualified to judge our own degree of loss.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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        Well, one thing that I have to point out is that, implicitly, the argument is “Jaybird’s Rights were violated!”

        From here, I don’t know that they were. It doesn’t necessarily feel like they were. I mean, there are other times that my Rights have been violated and those times didn’t feel like this time.

        But let’s assume that you’re right and these Rights are being violated on a regular basis.

        We’re now stuck discussing what we ought to do. At this point, I’m pretty sure that anything more than relying on the strength of really, really good arguments would be inappropriate. If we’re down with saying “we’re not talking about doing anything but using moral suasion”, I’d be happy to soften my stance and put a lot more emphasis on the importance of letting kids make this decision on their own, the way that Babtists wait until you’re the age of majority before babtizing you, rather than the way that Presbyterians baptize babies (by using, snicker, *sprinkling* rather than full immersion).Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley
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      @james-hanley

      Does every practice by every group need to be defended on empirical grounds? Can every practice by every group be defended on empirical grounds?

      I think the issue is that if you press every human or almost every human hard enough they will have a ritual or practice that has been part of their group for 1000s of years and is incomprehensible to outsiders and said practice is important for religious grounds.

      Circumcision is important to Jews because it marks us a Jews. It is a tribal identification and I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. Why should Jews be required to have a Aryanized bodies?

      Does civil liberty and religious freedom require a practice to be defended on health grounds?

      Jaybird is getting it right here. How willing are people willing to go to enforce a circumcision ban?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        “Female circumcisions marks us as West African Sunnis and has for centuries. Why should we be forced to have Aryanized bodies?”

        Is that sufficient, or does the argument require something more?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        The difference of course being that we know that female circumcision destroys a woman’s ability to get pleasure from sex and the entire purpose of the ceremony was to do so.

        We also know that male circumcision does not diminish a man’s ability to orgasm or enjoy sex and the purpose is not to destroy a man’s ability to have sex.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        So you’re distinguishing male circumcision on empirical grounds?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        I should add another aspect of where your cultural background conflicts with my cultural background, and surely shapes my perspective.

        My mother was Mennonite. Mennonites are anabaptists, originally a condemning term meaning “re-baptizer,” because they don’t believe in infant baptism, ala the Catholic approach. They believe that baptism marks one’s entrance into the community of believers, and so it has to be done as a conscious, knowledgeable, and willing act, which can only be the case when one is adult (without pinning a precise age on adulthood). It’s rather like having a minimum age of consent for sex, below which we assume that a “yes” can’t truly be a knowledgeable “yes.” Or a minimum age for signing a legally binding contract.

        I have no qualms about people wanting to have Jewish, rather than Aryan bodies. I do have qualms about people forcing their kids to be marked for life as part of any particular community. It smacks too much of preservation of community by physical coercion of those too young to have any idea of what they’ll actually want as adults. When kids reach adulthood, I’ll support their right to modify their body in any way they want, to signify anything they want.

        Because I’m not aware of any significant harm that comes from male circumcision, it’s not an issue I’d go to battle over, or one I even think about much. But when the justification is “it’s our culture,” my anabaptist side kicks in and says, “that’s all well and good for adults.”Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @james-hanley, the Torah is unambiguous on the subject of when circumcision is supposed to occur though. It explicitly states that its supposed to happen on the eighth day, the Talmud allows it to happen latter for health reasons.

        Moving circumcision until a person is old enough to consent not only contradicts the Torah but imposes a Christian understanding on what it means to be Jewish. The Jewish interpretation has always been that Jewishness is non-optional. If your born Jewish than you are already a member of the community.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        The Jewish interpretation has always been that Jewishness is non-optional.

        Yes, and Jews aren’t alone in having that view. But that’s one aspect of culture I simply can’t respect. Despite my own sectarian influence,* though, my critique isn’t really a Christian perspective, since some Christian sects come real close to doing the same (Catholics do infant baptism, etc.) And it’s certainly not trying to make Jews act like Christians, which I think is a really inaccurate perspective. Instead, it’s more of a universalizing perspective, one that critiques any religion or culture, peering in at all of them, and saying, “let people make their own choices when they’re capable, because you don’t have true ownership over any individual merely because they were born into your society.”

        It’s really just a variant of the argument I make to LWA on a regular basis, and as such is as much a critique of a certain American style of patriotism/nationalism as anything else.

        ________________
        *How much that sectarian approach influenced me is hard to say. I wasn’t raised Mennonite, but Free Methodist. The FMs allow infant baptism, although they don’t encourage it, but my mother the Mennonite wouldn’t go for any such thing, a fact I didn’t find out until I was an adult and asked why I hadn’t been baptized. So it wasn’t much of a discussion point in our household. When I began to learn about anabaptism, I found it conducive to the voluntarist beliefs I had come to hold. So whether I just happily found out that my ancestral sect was conducive to my beliefs, or whether my mom had a deeper, but subtle, influence on my beliefs is hard to say. (Although it’s undeniable that I share precious few of my mothers’ beliefs anymore.)Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Saul Degraw
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        It explicitly states that its supposed to happen on the eighth day, the Talmud allows it to happen latter for health reasons.

        @leeesq

        Google informs me that the relevant passage appears in Leviticus Chapter 12: “2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be unclean for seven days; as [in] the days of her menstrual flow, she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 And for thirty three days, she shall remain in the blood of purity; she shall not touch anything holy, nor may she enter the Sanctuary, until the days of her purification have been completed. 5 And if she gives birth to a female, she shall be unclean for two weeks, like her menstruation [period]. And for sixty six days, she shall remain in the blood of purity.”

        Given that I’m a proud gay man, you can probably guess that I have a problem with some of the rules laid down by Leviticus. If a practice is to be justified by adherence to religious tradition, then there needs to be some kind of operating principle that separates the traditions that forbid the eating of bacon and the traditions that call for me to be put to death. Every culture has some traditions that are uncontroversial, some that are benign but seem strange or repugnant to outsiders, and some that are unquestionably, unequivocally wrong.

        And the gut reaction for a growing number of people is to categorize any practice that involves cutting the intimate parts of young children as not just strange, but wrong. The condemnation of female genital cutting is the most widespread and uncontroversial example, but consider also that it’s no longer considered medically appropriate to perform sex-corrective surgery on intersex infants. Given that the continued acceptance of infant male circumcision is an obvious exception to the trend, it’s not surprising that people have begun to criticize the practice.

        @saul-degraw , you defend the exceptionality of the practice, saying that unlike female genital cutting, male circumcision is not designed to destroy sexual pleasure and isn’t rooted in traditions of sexism. But the majority of circumcisions in the US are performed on gentiles in a tradition that owes it existence to Victorian prudishness. Worldwide, the bulk of circumcisions are Islamic countries, where the tradition of Khitan is explicitly linked to sexual purity and sexual restraint. It’s true that the Jewish tradition of circumcision has religious roots that aren’t explicitly connected to sexual purity, but one of the major references to circumcision in the Torah is buried in passages that describe the ways in which female sexuality is unclean. You’ve not presented a very convincing argument.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @alan-scott, the reasons for circumcising boys at the age of eight days come from Genesis not Leviticus.

        “God further said to Abraham ‘As for you, you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall keep My covenant.’ Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of the foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at eight days.” Genesis 17:9-12.

        “The Lord took note of Sarah as He had promised and the Lord did for Sarah has He had spoken. Sarah conceived and bore a son Abraham in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken. Abraham gave his newborn son, whom Sarah had borne him, the name of Isaac. And when his son was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded him.” Genesis 21:1-5.

        Circumcision has nothing to do with the laws of Leviticus even though that it is mentioned there. Its basically seen as a sign of the contract between God and the Jews and a way to establish a historical link with Abraham and Isaac.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
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      When I was a kid, it was a big deal for girls to reach the age where they could get their ears pierced. I think my sister was 9 when she was finally allowed to get her ears pierced and I know that she expressed nothing but envious scorn at her classmates who were allowed to get their ears pierced at an earlier age.

      Around this time, I remember seeing an olive-skinned family at the mall pushing a stroller and the little girl being pushed had pierced ears. It was pointed out to me, disdainfully, that the family was from another culture.

      Dunno how to feel about that, now. Apparently, one view is that I should share the scorn that my parents communicated. At the time, however, I felt, vaguely, like judging them was something akin to racism.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird
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        I don’t like piercing infants’ ears, and we didn’t do it with any of our daughters. But I’ve known any number of people who’ve done it, and I’ve seen no evidence of harm, so, *shrug.* (FWIW, it’s also less intrusive and more reversible than a lot of other things we can do to infants.)Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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        Hispanic families are known for piercing their daughters ears at very young ages sometimes.

        On the other hand, my maternal grandmother never had her ears pierced because she was told that “gypsies had their ears pierced” by her old-world foster parents.

        A few years ago I read an essay by a doctor who moved down to Miami and was originally uncertain about piercing the ears on infant girls. She eventually decided to do the piercings because the patients would have it done somewhere else and she would rather be sure it was done in a sterile and safe manner.Report

  7. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    @saul-degraw:

    Read this bit…

    “The problem is that a lot of people are not very good at letting things be if they consider them questionable or icky. I think the proper response for the anti-circumcision movement is not to seek outright bans or change 5000 years of culture but to speak their mind and try and work things on a case by case basis. ”

    And then consider these slight changes…

    “The problem is that a lot of people are not very good at letting things be if they consider them questionable or icky. I think the proper response for the SSM movement is not to seek outright legalization or change 5000 years of culture but to speak their mind and try and work things on a case by case basis.”

    Also, FTR I do not believe the case against circumcision is that opponents find it “icky,” any more than it is for people who are against female genital mutilation. (Which has the obvious disadvantage of not being practiced primarily by white, middle class, Judeo-Christian folk.)Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly
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      Note at no point in the essay did I say that multiculturalism was easy.

      In fact, I said it might be almost impossible to draw a line between what we can dislike about allow and what we feel compelled to change.

      That being said, a lot of strife does come from everyone feeling compelled to change the culture of another (and also a lot of good). But no one is going to get everything that they want and it seems like a lot of people get shocked, shocked when a culture defends it practices in an “OMG can’t you guys see how wrong you are” kind of way.

      If anything the poaching issue is more difficult because you are dealing with independent nations/governments on different continents.

      I personally don’t think Rhino Horn does anything to improve virility but the environmentalists might want to ask themselves what is more important.

      1. Saving the African Rhino by creating a legal market for Rhino Horn; or

      2. Not giving into a cultural practice that they think is wrong, silly, and disagreeable.

      Right now #2 seems to be winning by a long shot and that will probably mean the end of the African Rhino.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw
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        I agree that you said that multiculturalism is thorny. It doesn’t help underscore that assertion, however, when you claim that people who are against circumcising new borns do so because they think it is “icky” and the best moral parallel you can find being against using rhino horns for aphrodisiacs.

        Your piece suggests that you took an actual, thorny bit of a multiculturalist argument that affects your tribe and, rather than take that issue seriously, casually reduced people who disagree with you to silly busybodies.

        Having read the other comments since I made my own post, I see that @james-hanley has also pointed out the far more obvious moral comparison of FGM, and @stillwater was rightly pointed out that you’re casually dismissing people objecting you mutilating the body of a child who does not yet have comprehend the act, let alone the capacity to approve or object.

        It seems to me that your post would have been stronger if you took the castrated bull by the horns, rather than pretend its a lamb.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        How about #3: encouraging the customers of rhino horn extract to use Viagra, Cialis, and other scientifically-proven-to-be-effective boner pills? Because it turns out that ground-up rhino horn will give you a stiffie exactly as often as a placebo, but if Viagra doesn’t “pump you up” then it’s going to be physically inevitable* that the rhino horn won’t, either.

        Science, by which I mean in this context medical pharmacology, is not “just another mythology” or “an equivalent cultural practice.” We can appropriately privilege science above folklore for the very reason that it is replicable in any cultural context. And save some rhinos, elephants, and tigers from extinction while we’re at it.

        * Perhaps I ought to say “vanishingly improbable.”Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko

        Never underestimate the power of psychology.

        The Chinese don’t consider themselves to be very religious yet they are often the biggest consumers of products made of animals from the environmental species list.

        How long do you think it will take to convince them to get rid of traditional medicine in favor of western alternatives?Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          That is a matter within the control of the autocrats who govern them, and the extent to which those autocrats perceive a need to make their nation politically appealing to their Western trading partners. It took American doctors considerable time to abandon pride in the “stink of the surgical theater” in favor of wearing clean aprons and using washed hands and sterilized medical tools to operate on patients that they wanted to survive. (Time, and the humiliation of their practices very publicly resulting in the death of a very popular President.) People in the United States of today still believe that prayer alone will cure their sick children and others believe that vaccination will cause them to become autistic. They are, of course, provably wrong and dangerously so, sometimes with tragic results. I can understand that parents who withhold medical care from their sick but curable children in favor of prayer do so motivated by compassion, faith, and love for their children — but that doesn’t make them any less wrong for doing it.

          I write in favor of science as I do not because it will necessarily be easy to convince people embedded in ancient cultural systems to embrace science even when confronted with its amazingly effective results. I write in favor of science here because I believe it can be exempted from the discussion of multiculturalism. Penicillin works whether you’re an American Christian, a Saudi Muslim, a Swiss atheist, or a Chinese Taoist. Consequently, it’s not like bowing towards Mecca and praying five times a day. We can say “multiculturalism is hard,” and I’d stipulate that in some cases, it can be difficult to distinguish the promulgation of science from the evangelism of one culture over another. But promulgating science is not cultural imperialism.

          If the intactivists had solid science that circumcision caused affirmative harm to its subjects, I’d join them in declaring those subjects victims instead. The rhino horn eaters are causing affirmative harm: they are driving the needless extinction of a remarkable species of animal and will deprive future generations of the ability to enjoy and appreciate them. I’d agree that rhino horn ranches are less bad than the status quo, but I think there is a much better, much cheaper, and much more effective way to drive down the trade in rhino horn: persuade the PRC to distribute (actual, not fake) Viagra to its citizens and over time they will see for themselves that it is effective. Hopefully that happens before the rhinos go extinct. Maybe not, to the detriment of us all, including the people who think the rhino horn is what gives them boners.

          Elephant ivory is a less solvable problem, I think, because there is neither an effective way to harvest ivory without killing the elephant nor a way to tell a connoisseur that carved ivory is not beautiful. It is beautiful, and plastics don’t look or feel the same and don’t acquire the same kind of patina with time. But again, if the PRC government really wanted to do something about that instead of just making a show of it, it has the power to do so.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @tod-kelly

        I do not consider infant male circumcision to be mutilation. I consider that to be an incendiary and hyperbolic charge by the opposition and I will not refer to it as such.

        Does it remove a portion of the human body? Yes but this does not necessarily make it mutilation.

        Would you refer to removing an extra finger or toe as mutilation? How about when babies are born with a coccyx (a tail like structure)?

        Mutiliation is define as “the infliction of serious damage on something” and I do not consider infant male circumcision to be serious damage. We have discussed that it is different from female circumcision because it does not diminish male sexual pleasure There are also health benefits according to the CDC and some hygiene benefits when it comes to dealing with things like Smegma. Do you think circumcised men are uglier than uncircumcised men? Does it destroy male physicality in a way that we should be repulsed by?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        What you are lacking here, Saul, is empathy.

        You see a foreskin as an optional disposable piece of the body, like sixth toe, that can be removed for noble purposes. You presumably do not see a clitoris as the same thing, and no doubt see removing that off of another person’s body barbaric. And I for one have no interest in arguing this point.

        But, as I say, your lack of empathy has resulted in your writing about a subject in which you are unwilling to take seriously your chosen example.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        Saul,

        After reading your response response to Tod I’d remind you to “Never underestimate the power of psychology.”Report

      • Avatar kenB in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        What you are lacking here, Saul, is empathy.

        I don’t understand this — empathy for whom? AFAIK most circumcised males don’t see themselves as having been harmed by it.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @kenb

        I’ve known a small group of men (maybe three or four tops personally) who said that they wished they were not circumcised.

        That being said, I agree with your point. Empathy for whom because most men who were circumcised do not seem to be psychologically traumatized by the action.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko

        Those are all fair points but if African Rhino ranches are necessary in the short term, that is better than letting the African Rhino go extinct.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @kenb I said empathy, not sympathy.

        I say Saul lacks empathy here because he is unable to step back and understand his opposition’s point of view.Report

      • Avatar kenB in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        Oh — well, empathy is about emotions, not opinions, thus my confusion.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @tod-kelly

        That is a pretty strong accusation.

        Would you say Stillwater is understanding the point of view of where Jewish people are coming from? Jaybird is showing the best empathy for both sides of the debate on this issue.

        Mutilation is a very strong word and implies permanent damage and disfigurement. There is no way for me or any Jewish person to use the word mutilation to describe the Jewish and Muslim practice of male circumcision without completely throwing in the towel, is there?

        Mutilation brings to mind something like slashing someone across the face with a knife or burning them seriously or throwing acid in their face.

        I am not saying that circumcision should be the default. I do think it should be a parental decision (and one of those things parents should discuss before hand and agree on so no unpleasant things come up later). But this does not mean that I will call the practice mutilation if I don’t believe it to be mutilation.

        How do you think I can defend the practice of Jewish circumcision and what it means for Jewish identity and culture while also showing “empathy” for the arguments of people who would ban the practice entirely? Do you think if I were empathetic to Stillwater’s point of view that I would switch mine completely?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Would you say Stillwater is understanding the point of view of where Jewish people are coming from?

        On what evidence do you think I don’t understand where Jewish people are coming from? You wrote a post about the inability of people to get along and cited the anti-circumcision crowd’s disregard of 5000 years of tradition (and what you took to be the implied anti-semitism contained therein) as decisive evidence of intractable cultural differences. I responded by asking you whether a four day old infant gives a shit about that tradition as an argument worth considering.

        It seems to me that your inflexibility in even admitting that the anti-circumcision folks have a legitimate argument is an example of precisely what your accusing those folks of doing – being intractable – with the added bullshit of accusing anyone that disagrees with the Jewish view of this as anti-semitic. If that second part is true, Saul, then why did you even write this post? To “expose” all the anti-semites roaming the wilds who hide their anti-semitism behind obviously ridiculous anti-circumcision arguments?

        Or did you want to have a real discussion about the topic?

        Good god, dude, either argue your point or concede that you can’t, but stop with all the accusations of other people’s motives just because you disagree with them but can’t effectively respond to their views and arguments.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Mutilation is a very strong word and implies permanent damage and disfigurement.

        Well, damage may be debatable, but it’s certainly permanent, and it certainly is a dramatic re-figuring of the penis, so I’m not sure “disfigurement” is totally out of bounds here.

        If I may, it sounds more like you’re fighting against the term “mutilation” not so much because it’s clearly linguistically inapplicable, but because you recognize how emotionally powerful the term is in shaping the debate.

        But if we avoid the term “mutilation” out of recognition that it’s argumentative power may be more in the emotions it evokes than in its logical force, how do you respond if we use the phrase “permanent disfigurement”?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        I would agree that it is a permanent change but not that it is permanently disfigured.

        Disfigurement strongly implies if not outright states ugliness. And I don’t find my circumcised penis to be ugly or disfigured either.

        So I reject disfigure for the same reason that I reject mutilation.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Do you think if I were empathetic to Stillwater’s point of view that I would switch mine completely?

        What’s my pov, Saul? I think circumcision is immoral. That is, the act of carving off another person’s body parts without there consent is immoral. I can’t believe you’d think it wasn’t, to be honest. But you tell me, since you seem to know all about it: what’s my view of the Jewish practice of circumcision? What’s my view of circumcision more generally?

        Read the thread all you like, you won’t see it addressed anywhere, except when I responded to Jaybird with an “I dunno” followed by a “nothing follows directly from recognizing this moral fact”.

        The criticisms I’ve expressed have nothing to do with accepting or rejecting the Jewish practice of circumcision, but rather are about your arguments. They’re really bad arguments. The claims, too. Circular, insular, question-begging, shallow, disregarding, self-serving…Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        That is a pretty strong accusation.

        Yes, probably.

        Would you say Stillwater is understanding the point of view of where Jewish people are coming from?

        Yes; or at the very least, I would say he hasn’t said anything to make me believe otherwise.

        Jaybird is showing the best empathy for both sides of the debate on this issue.

        Agreed.

        Mutilation is a very strong word and implies permanent damage and disfigurement. There is no way for me or any Jewish person to use the word mutilation to describe the Jewish and Muslim practice of male circumcision without completely throwing in the towel, is there?

        Yes, but there is a difference in agreeing with someone’s point of view and understanding it. I don’t agree with Tim’s views on abortion, but I certainly see why he has them.

        How do you think I can defend the practice of Jewish circumcision and what it means for Jewish identity and culture while also showing “empathy” for the arguments of people who would ban the practice entirely?

        Depending upon the person, I would say either easily or with some difficulty. But how can you engage in a meaningful discussion with anyone who doesn’t already agree with you if you don’t?

        Do you think if I were empathetic to Stillwater’s point of view that I would switch mine completely?

        No, I don’t. I think it’s entirely possible to accurately understand where someone is coming from, why they come from there, and do so in a non-dismissive way and still disagree with them.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        And I don’t find my circumcised penis to be ugly or disfigured either

        You know, a whole lot of this seems to be about defending not just your Jewish identity, but your Jewish body. But a whole lot of gentiles here–including me–are circumcised, too. So if I say it’s a disfigurement, I’m not saying “ooh, Jewish penises are yucky!” I’m saying that a whole lot of people’s penises, including my own, have had a large piece cut off, permanently changing how they look.

        I really do hope you’re not taking that as me recoiling at Jewish bodies. If that’s the perspective, then I’d best just walk away with my hoodless dick in my hand.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @james-hanley and also @tod-kelly

        I think we need to split this into several issues.

        1. The Jewish and Muslim cultural practice of circumcising infant males especially the Jewish practice because it is supposed to mark the covenant between the Jews and G-d; and

        2. The widespread American medical practice of circumcising all infant males which seems to be unique in the world or at least the Western world.

        I have no idea why #2 started and it seems to be specifically American. Jaybird seems to think it was part of a silly and erroneous Victorian practice to prevent boys from masturbating.

        The Default role of the American medical profession to circumcise all newborn males should probably stop and it should be up to the parents and both parents should need to consent in writing.

        This is distinct and separate argument from whether there should be a categorical ban on circumcising infants especially when it is done for religious/cultural/traditional beliefs.

        The problem as I see it is that the debate is not happening on these separate grounds but everything is getting mushed together and this is what causes heightened emotions and defensive positions from some Jewish people like me. There is a long history of declaring that the Jewish body type is icky and unaesthetic and falls far flat of a Grecian-Aryan-Celtic ideal/norm.

        https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2014/12/29/the-limits-and-impossibilities-of-multiculturalism#comment-969935

        So using terms like mutilation and disfigurement to discuss mutilation might not be intentionally anti-Semitic but they can off as being inadvertently anti-Semitic. The use of comics like Foreskin Man as propaganda do not help. Nor does a declaration of “Foreskin is a Human right.”

        So I think if we can separate these two debates, it would solve a lot of animosity and grief.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Saul,

        It doesn’t appear that we can actually have a discussion of #1. You and Lee have both identified any critics of your position as trucking in anti-semitism, so there’s really nowhere to go.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        We aren’t having a discussion on #1 because of how the Intactivists are presenting the debate. At least how I see it. Trying to get a blanket ban on circumcision is not differentiating between #1 and #2. Publishing a comic book like Foreskin Man is not differentiating between #1 and #2.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Dude, you are seriously not getting my point. I seriously, honestly, totally do not care if your are circumcised or you have your kids circumcised. Like most American gentiles my age I am circumcised; like half of American gentiles my kids age they are not, and I am thoroughly agnostic on the matter.

        But you can’t say that a large and rapidly growing* number of people who disagree with you have to dismiss the very reason why they find something morally reprehensible just because you don’t your side being viewed as morally reprehensible. It would be like a conservative coming here in on abortion thread and declaring that all we can talk about is dead unborn babies and no one is allowed to mention women’s bodies because that just makes things get tense.

        I love your writing Saul, but if you really believe the reason people are against circumcision is for the reasons you keep listing here then you need to start getting out of whatever bubble you’ve put yourself in. It’s like when Tim explains to me that liberals are OK with parents killing one year olds.

        *Seriously, it really is. When I was in high school, it was a non-issue. When I had my first son, it was something everyone was talking about. Now here in PDX it’s something that about 1 out of every 3 Jews I know who are having kids are opting not to do.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        We aren’t having a discussion on #1 because of how the Intactivists are presenting the debate

        Really? We aren’t discussing #1 here on this blog, because people not on this blog aren’t arguing the right way?

        And I’m just really damned curious, what do you think would be an acceptable way to present the critique of Jewish circumcision? Your comment suggests that there is one, some way other than how the intactivists are presenting it. But your other comments here seem to suggest that there is not acceptable critique. From my perspective, that’s why we–we here–are not having that debate.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @saul-degraw

        If circumcision is okay and right for Jews, why “should” it end as a widespread practice for the rest of America? Why doesn’t the same multiculturalism that applies to religious and tribal culture apply to whole countries’ medical culture?

        There can be answers to this question, but it’s not clear to me it’s as simple as “multiculturalism doesn’t/shouldn’t exist at the national level,” where broad trends in one country (secular ones that transcend many if not all religious or other sub-national cultural groupings) that are different from in another country are acceopted simply on the basis of the two being different countries. At least, within some bound of, as James puts “empirical distinction,” i.e. below some level of what some would see (though it’s still likely a cultural judgement) as harm.

        On what basis would American medical culture, in other words, overturn the widespread practice of circumcision that would be not compelling enough for Jews to feel the need to reconsider, but that is powerful enough that it ought to govern all the rest of medical practice? If it’s neutral enough for Jews not to be concerned about the medical implications of the cultural practice, nor for any gentile doctors they may have to be concerned, then why isn’t it neutral enough for the rest of the medical establishment to keep on doing what they’re doing, since it happens to be largely the same thing, rather than find themselves under an obligation to reform?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Michael, I’m kindof dubious that the issue merits anything approaching a legal ban but I think anti-circumcision advocates are on pretty solid ground when they assert that the mass medical position should be a neutral one rather than a pro-circumcision stance. Those who affirmatively seek circumcision should be permitted to get it but those indifferent or opposed to it would not be directed to get one by default.

        That strikes me as a pretty reasonable position to take considering how extremely slight the medical benefits of circumcision are currently states to be (IIRC a very slightly reduced chance of contracting HIV in the event of unprotected sex).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @north

        If people are broadly being “directed” to have their sons circumcised, we can say that issuing of orders in that way should end without saying that circumcision should end as a widespread practice in the U.S. I.e., if the current dominant practice is to tell parents it’s best to do circumcision (something I’m not clear is the case), we can say that that should change to asking parents if they’d like their son to be circumcised and then offering all relevant information in support of a decision, and the result will be that it will remain a widespread practice (I would guess likely very insignificantly curtailed), one whose widespreadedness we need not call on to end even though we’ve changed the doctor-patient conversation from mostly the issuance of a recommendation to mostly a conversation about benefits and costs.

        And no moral presumption one way or the other needs to attach to the decision for anyone else’s kids. If it were still thought to be the case that circumcising my son reduced his chance of contracting HIV and there were not costs to speak of to offset that, certainly I’d scoff at a moral presumption against my decision to do so.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @Michael Drew I am not an expert or a particular partisan on the subject though I admit that coming from Canada where the practice is not as prevelant or pushed I got the vibe that at one time circumcision was “pushed” and encouraged by doctors in America and I very much think that opponents are on solid footing when they state that such a posture by the medical community is problematic.

        As I said, I don’t have a dog in the fight myself being pretty unengaged. Still, if I were an Alien descending into a doctors office with no prior knowledge and I observed the professionals lopping the tip off the little tots member I would be alarmed. I would likewise be alarmed by seeing them inserting small metal needles into the howling kids body. On the latter matter if the doctors/parents then explained that the injections were part of an immunization regime that protected the child and indeed all children from a nightmarish calvacade of horrow show diseases my alarm over the practice would be quite logically dissipated. The childs discomfort at a momentary poke is entirely justified to any objective observer by the massive benefits the child will enjoy. The removal of a section of the kids genetalia, I think, would present a significantly more difficult challenge to explain.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        The removal of a section of the kids genetalia, I think, would present a significantly more difficult challenge to explain.

        Would, “Because then he’ll be permanently marked as one of us” meet the challenge?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @north

        In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently increased the extent to which their policy emphasizes the benefits of circumcision (in response to research suggesting it’s greater and more clear than it had been), but even with that increase in emphasis, their policy does not arrive at a place of recommending universal circumcision. It says, “Although health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns, the benefits of circumcision are sufficient to justify access to this procedure for families choosing it and to warrant third-party payment for circumcision of male newborns. It is important that clinicians routinely inform parents of the health benefits and risks of male newborn circumcision in an unbiased and accurate manner.

        Parents ultimately should decide whether circumcision is in the best interests of their male child.”

        http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/585.fullReport

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Prof: I don’t know but I’m doubtful.

        Michael: Always useful to know. Fortunately I’ll never have to make such a call myself. Kids are on the list of things I want to get right between a Republican Party Membership and Cholera.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Some of the dynamics that make me less than comfortable:

    Waving away the whole Judaism thing strikes me as akin to saying “well, just forget about being black” in a discussion with black people about race or asking women to forget about being women in a discussion about gender. I mean, sure, Judaism is a construct much like race or gender but being a Gentile and saying “well, this part of the argument isn’t relevant” feels like stealing a base.

    I can’t help but hear echoes in the argument to the arguments given in the past that Jews needed to be converted. Now, of course, I know that we, enlightened as we are, are not trying to save the souls of the Jews or anything like that. I mean, Jesus Christ, we’re trying to help them for real! And yet there are still echoes of bad acts in the past that said, effectively, “stop being so much like Jews and start being more like Gentiles”.

    Also, comparisons to other cultures ring a little bit hollow… female circumcision, for example, can range from nicking the clitoral hood to amputation of the clitoris, labia majora and minora, and even parts of the vulva. I’m pretty sure that you’d get everybody on board with saying that the latter is completely and totally wrong (and, yes, even worth invading a country over) but once you get around to the other end of the spectrum, I get a lot squishier. On top of that, the fact that the male members of the group (no pun intended) are in charge of seeing that this happens to future male members feels differently than if the male members mandated that the female members start doing this.

    Now, with all that stuff out of the way, I totally agree that the individual should be put up to this at a certain age of majority rather than having it imposed upon him eight days after his birth. On top of that, I know that circumcision was recommended in the 19th and 20th centuries for Gentiles in order to keep boys from masturbating (if personal anecdotes are worth anything, this practice does not work). That evolved into the American tendency to do it to the son because, hey, the dad had it done. Now, to the extent that intentions matter, I reckon the Jewish folks are doing it for better reasons than the Gentiles did. To the extent that intentions don’t matter, we’re stuck just discussing the procedure itself.

    Which is probably something that ought to be left up to the individual.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      IIRC, in a lot of places where female circumcision (even the horrible mutilating kind) takes place, it is adult women, not men, who enforce the norms on pubescent girls. It is unclear how much we can attribute this to patriarchy, but at the very least, the kind of patriarchal coercion in those places is a lot more indirect. But sometimes social norms are upheld by the very people it disadvantages just because we are rule followers by disposition.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I think @Jaybird gets it right here. You can’t waive away the culture arguments for male or even female circumcision with a flick of the hand. Saying that circumcision shouldn’t happen or should only be done if a person is capable of giving consent is basically telling Jews and Muslims that we don’t care about your identities and think you should be more like us “normal” people who don’t circumcise. Getting rid of circumcision represents an outside, majority culture imposing their will on a minority culture.

      The anti-circumcision movement has a significant portion of people in it who have unclean hands. As the link to Foreskin Man shows, they see this as a way to get rid of groups that they don’t like. They seem to believe that if you ban circumcision than Jews and Muslims would assimilate into the majority, secular culture. A similar sort of logic is at work with the anti-kosher/halal bans in some European countries. The justification for these bans is animal rights. Just behind the surface, you get the idea that many secular Europeans are ill at ease with the idea of religious eating habits and want to use the bans as ways to get Jews and Muslims to be more secular.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I think we all just got collectively guilted.

        I’m out.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
        Ignored
        says:

        Saying that circumcision shouldn’t happen or should only be done if a person is capable of giving consent is basically telling Jews and Muslims that we don’t care about your identities and think you should be more like us “normal” people who don’t circumcise.

        No. It’s not saying any of that. At least, not on this thread. I find the lack of nuance on this topic absolutely astounding, to be honest.

        The issue is this: if we neutrally define circumcision as cutting off foreskin from the penis, we can ask questions about the morality of that practice. For example, is cutting off an infant’s foreskin moral? I’d say the answer to that is a clear and decisive “no”. That isn’t the end of the discussion, tho, since there are all kinds of defeaters of moral claims. So what that answer does (for those who agree with it) is require anyone who thinks the practice is justified to present a defeater. Saul initially proposed that cultural tradition was just such a defeater. (One which Tod demolished, it seems to me.) Jaybird offered another: while the practice may be wrong preventing it from taking place leads to even greater harms. Someone else – can’t remember who, Hanley I think – suggested physical health as a defeater.

        There are others!

        One thing that doesn’t count as a defeater, tho, is accusing folks who think the practice is immoral of being anti-semitic. Or – as you’ve done here – of being second-hand anti-semitic by advancing the interests of self-identified anti-semites. I don’t know how it could, actually. Either the practice is moral, or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then it requires a defeater. No matter who advances the argument.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conry in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        @stillwater

        That’s an excellent comment.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Thanks GC! Every once in a while a blind nut finds the correct time.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Yes, well said.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I imagine another defeater, for those who believe in God and all, might be the whole “we have a book that says that God told us to do this.”

        That sounds so 70’s, though.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          @jaybird that sort of thing doesn’t sound 70’s at all. Apologetics today are still very big on invoking “divine command theory” in response to claims that (for instance) it’s not morally okay to literally threaten your own child with death because you hear voices in your head and then slaughter an animal right in front of him (Genesis 22:2-13) or commit genocide (Numbers 21:2-3, 21:34-35; 31:1-54; Joshua 6:16-26), as long as God told you to do it, because by definition, whatever God says must be true and morally correct and Euthypro’s dilemma doesn’t apply to God because he’s God. Dress it up with all the fancy philosophy you want (Aquinas! Leibniz! Wittgenstein!) it’s still special pleading and I ain’t buying it. If I did to my son what Abraham did to his, you’d call me a lunatic and lock me up as a danger to myself and others. And if I said wait, it’s okay because God told me to do it, you’d up the dosage on my antipsychotic meds.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I don’t acknowledge the rightness of the moral default against circumcision in the first place. This seems to be a question that is broadly governed precisely by cultural trends and traditions, where there is no clear medical reason or popular preference that is being defeated by that governance. We hear from a few loud folks who wish they had not been circucised; I’m glad I was (I don’t knopw why, but I am). I’m imagining a squeaky wheel/silent majority dynamic going on out there as the larger prevailing balance of opinion on the topic, tbh. Broadly, I think we can say that among males, % cut plus % uncut comes out to something quite close to 100% of the population, and yet the number complaining one way or the other struggles to rise to a level that gains notice. It’s not clear we have a problem here that requires a broad (even if not strong) societal moral presumption requiring “defeaters” to vindicate parental prerogative on the question. My preference would be that the presumption be in favor of parental prerogative. There is so much else in medical care of children that we do begin to weight down with moral presumption, and which is rather clearly of graver consequence (which is not to say that in those areas parental choice when push comes to shove isn’t preserved: defeatable moral presumptions and parental choice are separate questions that can and do exist side by side in many circumstances) that circumcision seems like a good candidate for a place to try to give back some presumption in favor of parents’ simple preference, (almost) wherever it might come from.

        The basis for the moral default against seems to me to come down to “that’s how you came out so that’s how you should be left.” That’s a naturalistic presumption that it’s not clear to me there’s any reason to impose on others where there isn’t compelling particular reason (i.e. medical science could have a much stronger view of the advisability of or against circumcision one way or another and then the calculation might be different, but it just doesn’t at this time). But meanwhile we entrust basically every single other aspect of medical care of infants and children to legal guardians. I just don’t see any reason for any strong prior default here one way or another. If the medical community develops stronger reasons than they have to date to recommend against, then they’ll start doing that. But right now, there doesn’t seem to be much imperative one way or the other. Broadly, the docs’ advice to parents on this is, ‘do what you like.’ I don’t see any compelling reason for them not to so do; from current experience, there’s no way to know whether your son will be glad about what you did or wish you had done differently.

        And it ain’t the same thing to tell him he can go in and get it cut on his own dime, when he’s more active and busy, less cared for, and more aware of the pain. It may not be worth all that to him, but he may still wish you’d just done it when all the unpleasant “birth” business was happening and he didn’t really understand it. Moreover, as Will points out, apparently the procedures aren’t really comparable. In some senses, infant circumcision could be seen as an opportunity with a short time window to take advantage of. Parents have to decide whether to do it; some have cultural tradition to help guide them, but broadly I don’t see any reason to burden them with a contrived moral default against. It’s not a mutilation or a disfigurement. It’s an optional refigurement that I see little obvious reason to aggressively legitimize or delegitimize with a moral presumption about other people’s children.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Whether adults are OK or even happy with their having been circumcised strikes me as wholly irrelevant to the question of whether male circumcision of infants is, considered by itself, irrelevant. That is, it is an act done to infants, not adults, and while it is something that any infant to whom it is done will have to live with for life, the question of whether he will come to accept, and perhaps even celebrate it at some future date is only relevant as one of Stillwater’s potential defeaters.

        I admit I find it to be a rather weak one by itself, as I do cultural tradition. That’s not to say that in combination with other things (e.g., health benefits, or at least pretty strong evidence that it doesn’t have long-term negative consequences) later-life acceptance or cultural tradition can’t work to override the fact that we’re physically harming an infant, but by themselves they’re insufficient. Cultural tradition, in particular, strikes me as precisely the sort of justification we should be skeptical of, given the history of its use to justify rather bad things, without additional justification doing most of the work (in arguing for the ethical permissibility of something by saying “it’s harmless, and group X has been doing it for thousands of years,” the first clause is doing the bulk of the work).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        If we’re willing to say that we, as enlightened folks, know that God isn’t even close to sufficient justification for actions that we, as enlightened folks, know are full of crap, I’m down with that.

        I do think that that makes the Dawkins swipe premature rather than inappropriate, though.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        For example, is cutting off an infant’s foreskin moral? I’d say the answer to that is a clear and decisive “no”. That isn’t the end of the discussion, tho, since there are all kinds of defeaters of moral claims. So what that answer does (for those who agree with it) is require anyone who thinks the practice is justified to present a defeater.

        I’m partially in agreement with @stillwater. Where I’d differ is in saying that cutting off the foreskin is presumptively immoral, not clearly and decisively so. He notes that I suggest physical health is a defeater of that moral position, but I’m actually inclined to say that if there is a significant enough physical health benefit–a clear and substantial prevention of harm–then cutting off the foreskin is not an immoral act at all, but a moral one.

        Of course I’m a lousy moral theorist, so maybe it doesn’t really work that way. And that’s not meant as a real critique of Stillwater’s position–other than the physical health/prevention of harm position, I think he’s right. I even accept that culture can be a defeater if there is no harm in removing the foreskin, or perhaps even if there is harm but it’s minimal.

        What I can’t accept is that culture is itself a claim that can’t be defeated, or even challenged. As Chris notes, there’s just too many examples of bad things that could be justified that way, and as he said and I tried to show above, additional justification is required.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Utility, deontology, and virtue. Questioned act must be justifiable under all three approaches: it must produce more good than harm, it must be reciprocal to the point of universalizability, and it must be consistent with the habits of one acting in fulfillment of its existential purpose.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        “You must be good!” is a much more irritating standard than “You must not be bad!”Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        It is harmless – unless we’re accusing American physicians of violating their oaths in mass numbers in this regard. And we’re not. Circumcising an infant is not harming him.

        I don’t see the basis for a moral presumption against circumcision. It’s the parents’ call.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Circumcising an infant is definitely harm: it permanently scars a child by removing some of the most nerve-filled tissue on his body. It’s undoubtedly extremely painful, even if only for a short time. What reason could we possibly have to argue that’s not harm?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Many medical procedures are painful, remove tissue, and leave scars. It doesn’t follow that they’re harmful. I’d argue that we can argue against the harm of circumcision by saying that the question of what it is to cause harm in the context of medical treatments is never as clear as you’re making it out to be. I’d further argue that this is a question that is appropriate for showing deference to experts, where in the modern American medical profession, large numbers of doctors recommend the procedure because of disease-prevention benefits that are increasingly showing up in research, while many doctors who don’t recommend the procedure nevertheless don’t advise against it on the basis that it harms the child.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        James,

        I’m actually inclined to say that if there is a significant enough physical health benefit–a clear and substantial prevention of harm–then cutting off the foreskin is not an immoral act at all, but a moral one.

        I may be a lousy moral theorist as well, but what you wrote up there strikes me as consistent with what I was saying upthread. Consider a more extreme example: an infant’s finger is gangrenous. In that case, I think we’d all agree (let’s suppose we do anyway) that cutting off the rotting finger is morally justified. The reason we believe that is because we believe that (all things equal) that the rotting arm will end that infant’s life. Without that condition in place the action of cutting off the finger would be morally wrong. So “to save its life” constitutes a defeater. Likewise, health benefits may constitute a defeater of an otherwise immoral action in the circumcision debate. Whether or not that’s the case will rely on empirical data and such. At least for utilitarians. Deontologists are in a slightly tighter spot since empirically based consequential considerations aren’t as obviously morally relevant within deontology. To save a life probably suffices, but prevent STDs may not. (I don’t know, I’m not a deontologist.)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        It is harmless – unless we’re accusing American physicians of violating their oaths in mass numbers in this regard. And we’re not.

        That’s an underwhelming argument.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        I’d argue that we can argue against the harm of circumcision by saying that the question of what it is to cause harm in the context of medical treatments is never as clear as you’re making it out to be.

        Three things.

        1. Things have definitely gone off the rails when we can’t even agree that infant circumcision constitutes a harm.
        2. In the above comment, it appears that you actually doagree that circumcision is prima facie harmful, otherwise why is an argument against that view necessary?
        3. Are you saying that circumcision were performed outside the western medical establishment constitutes a harm, but that when “we do it” it doesn’t? WTF?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Things have definitely gone off the rails when we can’t even agree that infant circumcision constitutes a harm.

        Part of the problem is the number of people who have had this happen to them who say that they have not been harmed. Now, James points out that they may be too close to the situation and, thus, aren’t good judges of whether they have been harmed and, for the sake of argument, I’m willing to run with that… but then I’m wondering about the whole “other people are better judges of whether you’ve been harmed” thing and where *THAT* takes us (false consciousness, manufactured consent, so on).

        All that to say, the harm in the equation isn’t self-evident, manifest, or any of those other words that say that we shouldn’t even have to be arguing this.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Jaybird,

        If cutting the body parts of someone without their consent doesn’t constitute harm, then what does?

        The fact that adults don’t view their own experiences as traumatic, or painful, or experience a sense of loss is irrelevant. I know lot of folks who were beaten as kids who claim, in all sincerity, that they weren’t harmed by those events.

        But look at it this way: if you want to use first person psychological-based reports as evidence, ask an infant whether they think having part of their dick cut off is traumatic. I bet they’d all say it is, yes?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Are we?

        That’s not even relevant. Are you seriously going to argue that failure to condemn an act is the standard for determining that the act is morally legitimate?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Is cutting off the gangrenous finger a harm? No, because it address a situation where the risks of not doing it outweigh the costs of doing it. According to some research, the same is the case for circumcision.

        I’m not saying it is or isn’t a harm elsewhere. I’m not sure. But it might be the case that expert opinion about medical benefits differs elsewhere. And in the specific context of evaluating the “harm” of a medical procedure, where I believe the benefits as well as the costs of the procedure go into a correct assessment of whether it is “harmful” in the first instance, it’s possible that in places where prevailing opinion about the statistical benefits of the procedure are different, it might be the case that this means that the procedure itself should be seen in the first instance as less or more harmful. Further, even apart from belief about benefits and harms, the background health environment might be different in different places, meaning that the disease-prevention benefits of the procedure may be of greater or lesser value in some places than others.

        The need for an argument that it is not harmful comes from the argument above that there should be a defeasible moral presumption against it because it is harmful.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        If we’re switching from “harm” to “traumatic”, then I would agree wholeheartedly that the experience is traumatic.

        I’m not sure that “traumatic” inspires the same moral obligations that “harm” does, though.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Is cutting off the gangrenous finger a harm? No, because it address a situation where the risks of not doing it outweigh the costs of doing it. According to some research, the same is the case for circumcision.

        So, even in the clear case – the gangrenous finger case – there is a cost. Since we’re talking about moral theory and not economics, the cost is a harm, yes? If so, then cutting of an infants finger constitutes a harm that can be defeated, for example, if doing so saves the infant’s life.

        Likewise with circumcision. The presumption is that cutting off the foreskin constitutes a harm that can be defeated by XYorZ. Without that defeater, the actual practice of cutting of the foreskin is immoral.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        It doesn’t matter whether we explicitly say they violated their oaths, but it doesn’t matter that that doesn’t matter.

        The fact is, if we’re saying it’s a harm, then we’re saying that thousands of American pediatricians violate their oaths every day as a matter of their regular practice, and we’re saying that their professional association, while not recommending that they do so, has found that the benefits outweigh the costs, has made a recent high-profile statement to that effect, and makes no statement to the effect that a harm is done to the child when the procedure is done successfully. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/585.full

        All of that matters.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        No, the cost is not a harm. Harm is a very important word in medical ethics, and, AFAIK, the cost associated with the operation of removing a gangrenous limb is not understood as a harm.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        That’s a completely different argument, Drew, a completely different line of logic about the harm or non-harm. A reasonable, defensible one.

        The comment I critiqued was different. It treated our non-condemnation as a reason for concluding there was no harm. That’s not a reasonable, defensible, line of thought.

        Now want to say that our condemnation or non-condemnation doesn’t matter. But you wrote the original line indicating that it did. Either agree that it doesn’t and you wrote badly or buck up and make a defense of it. But don’t try to pretend that the line you started your comment with doesn’t matter at all.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Jaybird,

        I didn’t switch. “traumatic” (or etc) is my best guess as to what you mean when you say that first person reports from circumcised men are morally relevant. I just don’t see how the memories of adults justify the morality of our behavior towards infants.

        I don’t even know what we’re arguing about here. Upthread you agreed infant circumcision was a harm, you just argued it wasn’t a big enough harm to justify banning the practice. So as far as I can see, we agree on this.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        “traumatic” (or etc) is my best guess as to what you mean when you say that first person reports from circumcised men are morally relevant.

        It’s not a good guess.

        Upthread you agreed infant circumcision was a harm, you just argued it wasn’t a big enough harm to justify banning the practice.

        It’s more that I think that making an irreversible decision on the part of someone else is the harm.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        It was an indication of what people were actually saying by saying it was a harm. Do we believe doctors are routinely violating their oaths? No? Then we don’t really believe it’s a harm. But people were saying it was a harm. So if that’s true, then people were accusing them of violating their oaths. And I didn’t think people were really dong that. So if even the most critical people weren’t really accusing them of doing a harm, then to me that’s a strong indication that the procedure is likely not a harm. Not an absolute logical deduction, but a valid indication to point out IMO. So it was an argument that they were making an argument they don’t really believe, because my sense was that the logical conclusion was not one people would affirm. Whether they were doing or not doing the actual condemnation that follows (they violate their oath) in explicit terms doesn’t matter, and I agreed with you on that point.

        If I agreed with your point that it doesn’t matter whether people actually condemn doctors for violating their oaths and then moved on to a more explicit argument about why it’s not a harm, I don’t really see what the problem is.

        Why are you pursuing this? What’s so important about my phrasing in that one particular comment?

        Also, I want you to call me Michael or Mike or nothing at all, thanks.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Ah, now you’re doing that old Jaybird thing again.

        It was good while it lasted, and it lasted longer than I expected! So thanks for that.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Circumcising an infant is definitely harm: it permanently scars a child by removing some of the most nerve-filled tissue on his body. It’s undoubtedly extremely painful, even if only for a short time. What reason could we possibly have to argue that’s not harm?

        If cutting the body parts of someone without their consent doesn’t constitute harm, then what does?

        OK, I don’t disagree with either of these statements, but…

        About the time that I was 11, my mother took me to an office where a man in a white coat and a mask shoved a needle in my arm and put another mask on my face, the result of which made me drowsy enough to facilitate the removal of two of my teeth. The purpose of that operation was so that I could go to another man in a white coat and mask, this one learned in the medieval art of gluing bits of metal to the teeth and fastening them together with wires and rubber bands. Over the next five years, I returned to that same man who mercilessly tightened those wires and bands, causing me a fair bit of pain. All of this was done for purely cosmetic reasons.

        I was also circumcised shortly after my birth. I can tell you which of these two procedures caused me more harm, but I’m not sure how that gets us any closer to coming to an agreement on the ethics of circumcising babies.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Burt,
        Just to note, there is a strong strain of Jewish thought that says that Abraham was Really Wrong to not argue with god about sacrificing his son, and that G-d was kinda ticked at him.

        … no word on the genocide, though. (that’s less ethically problematic, at any rate, because that was how war Was, back then).Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        MD,

        Do we believe doctors are routinely violating their oaths? No? Then we don’t really believe it’s a harm. But people were saying it was a harm. So if that’s true, then people were accusing them of violating their oaths.

        THis is a bizarre form of reasoning, to me anyway. No, it doesn’t follow that people are accusing doctors of violating their oaths. The only thing that follows (maybe, I’m not even sure about this) is that the oaths doctor’s take require them to cause harm (assuming that circumcision of newborns is required by a doctors oath, which it isn’t, as far as I know). I can elaborate on that a bit if it was too quick.

        But to get back to another thread we’ve been discussing, it seems to me you’re saying one of two things regarding circumcision. Either a) that the act of circumcising infants can only be morally judged by considering all the variables which justify that practice, or b) that the bare act of cutting off the foreskin of infants is morally neutral and folks who argue that it isn’t are mistaken.

        Regarding the first, what I’ve been arguing is that even taking an action as a gestalty wholemessareasons moral/pragmatic thing entails that there are, in fact, multiple moral variables in play, one of which is that (and I’ll say really clearly this time cuz I think folks are misunderstanding me) in the absence of an overriding moral justification, the act of cutting off an infants foreskin is immoral. So even on a “lets add it all up” view of the practice, one of the variables (and necessarily so) is that cutting body parts off people without their consent is wrong.

        Re: b): I suppose that it’s possible to argue that the act of cutting off those body parts is neither moral nor immoral, that is, that its a morally act. Like moving a coffee cup from the counter to the sink, or something. I’m not sure anyone’s arguing this view explicitly, but I get the feeling that the argument (or view, anyway) sits in the ackground of some of these subthreads given that there seems to be some dispute about whether the bare act of circumcising an infant admits of a negative judgment. I’m not sure what to say about such an argument, if it were advanced. As a way of highlighting why I think the argument is wrong, I’d ask whether cutting the foreskin off a 15 year old without their consent is morally wrong. I think there are reasons to think that it is, and if so, then the only relevant variable in play (as I see it, could be wrong, haven’t thought about it all that much) is that the infant isn’t old enough to consent or deny consent. That is, that the infant isn’t a moral agent. So the difference in our moral judgments regarding a 15 year old circumcision and infant circumcision is based on the moral agency of the beings under the knife.

        A lack of moral agency certainly justifies all sorts of actions and behaviors towards young people. But why think that a lack of agency, taken all on its own, without any help from additional moral considerations, justifies cutting off the body parts of those without agency? The question strikes me as requiring a substantive answer. (For folks who are inclined to think or argue this way, anyway.)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        as an indication of what people were actually saying by saying it was a harm.

        No, that’s your uncharitable interpretation. Critiquing the profession’s current understandings is not the same as critiquing doctors individually. If a doctor is following practices the profession’s current understanding, but that understanding causes harm, then the aspirational aspect of the oath may not be fulfilled, but no doctor is violating the conduct part of the oath. You’re accusing people of a claim they’re not making.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Well, then, let’s try again.

        A few years back, I had some skin tags removed. It was an in-office procedure that involved each skin tag being injected with a mild anaesthetic, the skin tag being held with tweezers, and then the doctor used some specialized scissors to cut the tags off. Was it traumatic? Indeed it was. Maribou was in the room and I squoze her hand very tightly during the procedure. Would I say that I was harmed by the procedure? Erm…there are definitions that we could use to say that I was harmed (e.g., “it was traumatic”). There are definitions that we could use to say that I was not. The definitions game begs the question.

        Now, if you go to any given music store, you will see a ton of people who have engaged in some body mods that strike me as downright unpleasant… yet they paid money to do this. Which brings me to:

        The problem isn’t with the procedure. The procedure is in itself not necessarily harm. If there is harm, the harm is in the fact that it’s done to someone without their express consent.

        Which brings us back to the whole issue of “what decisions are parents entitled to make on behalf of their children, what decisions are we, as a society, allowed to override parents making on behalf of their children, and what could possibly go wrong?”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        The problem isn’t with the procedure. The procedure is in itself not necessarily harm. If there is harm, the harm is in the fact that it’s done to someone without their express consent.

        Aye, well said. Particularly the squoze part.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        If I broke my arm when I was a kid because someone was negligent, but it healed fine and there are no lasting effects, can I say that I wasn’t harmed? If not, then what you think now is equally irrelevant to the question of the harmfulness of circumcision in infancy, considered in itself (we’re not considering future benefits, because that’s a separate part of the equation).

        Surgery is actually a good example: surgery causes harm, in some cases a great deal of harm , pretty much by deifnition. That is, what surgery means is, in essence, to cause harm in order to acheive some greater health benefit: I cut open this tissue or that to remove a blockage or a foreign object or infected tissue, say. The reason almost any invasive medical procedure is justified is because in a sufficiently large proportion of the cases, the benefits outweight the harm done. That does not, however, mean that no harm was done.

        Consider another analogy: branding. As I’m sure you are aware, there are some college fraternities that brand new members (with their consent, of course; it is not mandatory). This practice is not uncontroversial: it leaves a scar, often very large, raised scars, and it is incredibly painful*, with no future benefits except marking one as a member of a group. People have argued that this procedure should be outlawed by universities for consenting adults. I think it’s safe to say that we would be horrified if there was a group that branded children this way, and we would not even think to question whether it caused harm to the child, even if the vast majority of adults who’d been branded didn’t mind or even came to like it, wouldn’t we?

        Considering circumcision in itself (that is, absent the historical context and any future health benefits to adults), it’s pretty much exactly like branding: it is a painful procedure that leaves the child scarred for life in a very visible way. Yet there are people here questioning whether it’s harmful.

        *A good friend of mine is a Sigma, and was branded in college. The way he described it, it hurt for a second, then it went numb, and he thought, “That wasn’t so bad.” The next morning he woke up in so much pain he cried.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        If there is harm, the harm is in the fact that it’s done to someone without their express consent.

        Well, we do all sorts of things to infants without their express consent, so I think the “it” part matters a great deal. I also don’t understand the reluctance to commit yourself when you include an “if” in there. But this seems like as close we’re gonna get on the issue so it’s a good place to stop.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        If the point of circumcision were to brand someone as a member of the group, Jews would be pleased that fewer non-Jews are masquerading as Jews these days. If that’s the case, I’ve not heard about it.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Circumcision is important to Jews because it marks us a Jews.

        From above. Obviously that’s incomplete, but I think it’s enough to make the analogy at least apt enough to get my point across.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Mike Schilling,

        The “masquerade” bit makes it sound intentional, like folks are putting on blackface and trying to fool people. I can assure you, despite my lack of foreskin, I don’t go around flashing my willie to try to pass as Jewish.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        James, can you talk to me more about these aspirational and conduct parts of the oath, and how the guidance of professional associations play into that? I’m not schooled in them. From where I sit, it looks to me like doctors take an oath to do no harm, so that if we accuse them of doing harm – individually, as the contention I’m looking at is that any individual circumcision is a harm – thn we are accusing them of violating their oaths. I’m not aware that that oath contains a wide loophole that says it’s okay if their professional association issues bad guidance suggesting something that causes a harm does not, but perhaps that’s so. But it would still require us to hold that physicians’ professional associations are issuing guidance assaying it’s okay to do harm, and I’m inclined not to make that charge against groups of experts that large and authoritative in this area.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        MD, your argument boils down to “this is how it appears to me, so that has to be what others mean.” I don’t think such a narcissistic perspective is amenable to actually listening to an explanation. And nothing in our past discussion history makes me think you’d actually make an effort to understand another’s perspective, but would remain latched onto looking for some reason to argue against it–relentlessly insisting that what’s said can’t actually be what the person means.

        I’ve been those rounds with you before, and I’m not at all surprised to see you going that path again. The only thing that ought to be surprising is my deep stupidity in even responding to your comment and so initiating a discussion chain I knew I’d regret.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Michael,

        Here’s an example which I think makes your point. Where I live (and I assume the numbers are similar at the national level) 32% of all women who go to a hospital to have their baby end up delivering by caesarean. I’d say that’s an example of doctors rejecting the Oath to a) cover their ass and b) make more money. Seems unconscionable to me.

        So, yes: I just said that doctors, wrt this procedure, routinely violate their oaths by inflicting unnecessary harm on the mother.

        Now I’ll wait for Will to give me a fact based smack down. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        @stillwater You forgot (c) they want to make their golf game!

        32% is almost exactly the national average. The reasons are multifaceted. After (c) you get to (d) a bias towards intervention, (e) intervention begetting intervention, (f) patient request, (g) scheduling, and more that I don’t remember off the top of my head. Some of these are interrelated (hard to tell where one ends and the next begins.

        My wife is actually strongly anti-interventionist. She butts heads with the OB culture regularly and actually wanted a midwife (as it turned out, she needed an obstetrician and a c-section). She’s also butted heads with patients. Not so much in the sense of wanting to plan a delivery date a month in advance, but wanting their pregnancy to end as soon as possible (errr, with a delivery) or wanting something else that makes a c-section more likely.

        Which leads us to “intervention begets intervention” which, combined with a bias towards intervention, is responsible for a lot of it. The bias I refer to is largely along the lines of “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”… when you’re trained to do all of these things, sitting around and waiting is particularly difficult for some (for reasons both understandable and not). Intervention begetting intervention is along the lines of induced labor increasing the odds of other interventions increasing the odds of needing a c-section in the end. Intervention begets intervention begets intervention. Which is one of the reasons why Clancy so inclined to let nature run its course whenever possible (which, as said, is not always popular with patients).

        There… are financial incentives involved, of course. But it’s definitely more complicated than “They do it because insurers/gov pay more” which is what a lot of people try to reduce it to. I’m not really comfortable elaborating publicly, though as time permits might be willing to do so privately to anyone interested. But the whole thing, from interventionalism to financial incentives to mentalities, do not lend themselves to simple explanations.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        Stillwater,

        Not to argue against your examples, But also–going out on a limb here based on what our doctor told us–for a long time it was believed that it was safest for a woman who’d had a Ceasarean to have one for subsequent deliveries, but apparently it turns out to not be so. Meantime, thousands of doctors urged unneeded C-sections. But they did so in good, albeit misguided, faith. I think in that case–not your cases, but this one,which is more in line with the traditional reason for urging circumcision–it wouldn’t make sense to accuse the doctors of violating their oath. In fact I’d go so far as to say it would be deeply stupid to do so, and no less stupid to claim that someone arguing for a change in the profession was in fact accusing them of violating their oath.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        The anti-circumcision movement has a significant portion of people in it who have unclean hands.

        Or at least who need to wash them a bit more thoroughly.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Another dynamic that I notice is that, unlike Christianity and Islam, there isn’t a “We do this *AND YOU SHOULD DO IT TOO!*” thing going on here. There’s merely a “this is what our people do”.

      If their argument was that everybody should cut off part of their dongs, that would seriously change things. They, instead, argue that they should be left to their own devices. The intactivists who ignore Judaism and spend all of their time arguing against the whole post-Victorian tradition that America adopted seem to me to have it right and I’m pretty sure that I don’t have any arguments that feel truly compelling when it comes to Gentiles still doing the post-Victorian thing. If there’s some low-hanging fruit in the argument, it seems to me, then it’d be there.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        That, more than anything else, is why I tentatively agree with Saul about the actions of Bay Area intactivists. I think circumcision is not okay, I think everything that Saul and Lee cite about traditions and cultural identity is not a valid defense of a practice that involves performing surgery on the genitals of infants. But I also think that a movement against a practice that is so connected to the Jewish faith can be a vehicle for antisemitism, and I’m suspicious that this particular movement has sprung up so strongly in a metropolitan area with a high Jewish population but not really anywhere else, not even other liberal bastions.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        In Europe, the anti-circumcision movement tends to be more of a vehicle for anti-Muslim bias. Whats interesting is that its the Jewish communities in Europe that respond when the anti-circumcision factions make head way. The Muslims just seem to ignore them and go on circumcising. I’m not sure what the better reaction is.Report

  9. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    So I wonder if young men, in the face of banning this as a vanity and unnecessary surgery for infants, would rush to have their own foreskins circumcised?

    There are, so far as I know, no bans in place, either.

    I’d argue that people who do believe it unnecessary surgery that a person ought be given a choice over have every right to say that without being compared to people who committed genocide.

    Individual’s bodily integrity matters to me; and something so personal morally, it seems to me, requires permission. So I do wonder about the decisions of young men, if denied this tradition at birth, I wonder if the covenant and mark would so matter 18? If you had to make this decision for yourself?

    That, to me, is the real question.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to zic
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      says:

      The nature of the procedure between infant and adult is quite different and not comparable, from what I understand.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Will Truman
        Ignored
        says:

        If a not especially athletic, possibly elderly, religious functionary tried to hold down an adult man and take a knife to his penis, without asking consent or anesthetizing the putative recipient of the covenant, there’s a very real chance the mohel would be the one bleeding by the end of it.

        So there’s that distinction.

        I’m only half joking – the extent to which the pain of pre-verbal children is minimized or dismissid is kind of mind-boggling. It wasn’t until the 1980s that infants got anesthetic for open heart surgery in America. Open. Heart. Surgery.

        Because the nature of the procedure was understood to be quite different: infants were widely believed by the medical establishment, to be immune to pain.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        df,
        anesthesia is one of the most dangerous things in a hospital. Using anesthesia on a baby, particularly one with heart issues, is undoubtedly MORE dangerous than normal.

        It’s not a clear-cut case of “oh, shit, we really should do that”, because the kid’s life is at stake.

        Are you willing to add on a 1% death rate (pulling numbers out of my ass, it’s a tenth of that for normal adults) in order to have the kid be comfortable?Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Will Truman
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        says:

        The question is kind of moot on at least two fronts I can think of

        1) I’m not an anesthesiologist or a pediatrician, I really don’t know the risks. Out of curiosity, I googled around a bit, and it seems topical anesthetic is not actually that oncommon (e.g. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/453637_4)

        2) The only circumstance where I’d conceivably be making such a decision is for my own (currently hypothetical) son – and as I don’t consider possession of a penis to be medically sufficient grounds for such surgery, I’m unlikely ever to have that decision to make.Report

  10. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    Moving the topic away from circumcision and on to multi-culturalalism; when a lot of people talk about multiculturalism and how great it is, they are really referring to what can be called food and festival multiculturalism. This is a form of multiculturalism where you do have a lot of different cultures in one society but the cultural identities are expressed in the most digestible way to non-members of the culture like food and entertainment.

    A deeper multiculturalism, where you not only have a multiplicity of cultures, but those cultures are expressed and lived in all their complexity, is more difficult to achieve. This is because what seems good and true to one culture can be deeply disturbing to members of the majority culture. A lot of the problems that European countries are having with their Muslim populations is because the average European is from a more libertine and atheistic prospective than the average Muslim in Europe. Many European Muslims believe in a more, for lack of a better word, stricter approach to life in away that is shocking to an average White European. Its causing conflict.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conry in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      I imagine another cause is simple Islamophobia. Okay, maybe not “simple,” but still, it’s not just that Muslims are more “strict,” although I imagine that plays a role.

      My main question is how much do these values really come into conflict in such an irreconciliable way. I imagine it happens, and maybe in some cases the conflict makes things really bad. (And truth be told, I really don’t know much about Europe.)

      Even the circumcision thing probably doesn’t count most of the time as a pressing issue for either side, at least in the US. As Saul notes in the OP, the “anti” rally was quite small. And although I agree with Stillwater and James Hanley and Tod above in believing the lack of consent makes male infant circumcision presumptively wrong (and with Stillwater, I’d say it’s a presumption that can theoretically be “defeated”), I wouldn’t ban the practice.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        Muslim, and other conservative religious views conflict in a lot of ways with European norms. A few examples off the top of my head:
        -Strict muslims vehemently object to women who are scantily clad and in these cases the definition of scantily clad can run all the way from having one’s hair uncovered to one’s ankles visible to not being covered in a complete sack.
        -Strict muslims vehemently object to homosexual affection being displayed publicly. They also object to homosexual relationships occurring at all but they haven’t reached a level of political power to take that on.
        -Strict muslims object to being forced to ride in vehicles with dogs- this is especially salient when it comes to cab and public transit drivers.

        Which isn’t to say that all Muslims embrace such attitudes but that’s just the surface of the clashes where liberal areligious society says “do as you’d like” and religious conservatism says “don’t let us see you doing what you’d like”.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @north, right. One of the premises behind liberalism is that there is no such thing as a one, true good life. Liberalism argues that there are multiple forms of the good life and that everybody should generally be allowed to live their life as they see fit and quietly discuss these matters with his or her neighbors. Living a life of strict discipline or hedonism are both valid in liberalism.

        Its a nice theory but it runs into some problems when you try to implement it in the real world. One of those problems is that a lot of people think that their way of living is good for everybody and is the one true way. Cognitive egocentrism is a very human trait. You see this most frequently with religious conservative types but a lot of secular, areligious types seem genuinely confused on why the strict discipline types keep to their lifestyles. Issues like feminism, is it right for strict discipline type to raise his or her daughters in the tradition, etc., make matters even more complicated.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        Well yes Lee, especially as strict disciplinarian cultures find it extremely hard to keep their girls locked into strict disciplinarian behavior (and convince that girl to do the same to her daughter) when a liberal society offers a visible alternative.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @north, I don’t know about that. If that were true, Orthodox Jewish girls and others from strict disciplinary cultures would be abandoning them in droves. This doesn’t seem to be happening. Strict disciplinary cultures fear this but reality suggests that if left alone, like what happens in the United States and Canada, strict disciplinary cultures can survive or even thrive in a liberal society and don’t end up bothering other people that much, especially if they have a tradition of just keeping to themselves. The conflicts in Europe are because the various countries are trying to mold Muslim immigrants into a European model citizen more than the American government does with its immigrants.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        That may be Lee. Certainly the orthodox Jewish and Amish are both clearly succeeding within liberal societies so clearly some models can work.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        Lee,
        actually, strict orthodox girls do abandon their faith in droves. You’re seeing a rather dramatic descent in the IQ score of the Orthodox, due to inbreeding and other factors. The more strict parents are, the more kids tend to abandon their faith (note: may still be Jewish, but not cloudcuckoolander orthodox).Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @kimmi, numbers please. There have been defections from both genders but there is no indication that it is a mass phenomenon. Most Orthodox Jews seem to remain Orthodox Jews.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        Lee,

        This report from Pew is interesting.

        Fewer than half of Jews raised in Orthodox homes have remained Orthodox, with more than 20 percent leaving the religion altogether, according to a survey released today by the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project.

        … Roughly half of the survey respondents who were raised as Orthodox Jews say they are no longer Orthodox.” But this finding requires a caveat, the authors are quick to add: those who left Orthodoxy in droves came of age in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The 1980s and 1990s have been a lot kinder to the Orthodox denomination; fully 83 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 who were raised Orthodox are still Orthodox. It seems we have an alterna-millenial group on our hands. That, or they simply haven’t yet had a chance yet to leave the fold.

        Kimmi’s perspective may be right for her age cohort (depending on how old she is, of which I have no idea), but your perspective seems to be right for the younger generation of the Orthodox.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @james-hanley @leeesq @kimmi

        Orthodox especially ultra-Orthodox Judaism has the paradox of being the most rapidly growing branch of Judaism and also having a lot of people leave as the Pew survey points out. I attribute this mainly to the fact that they have a lot of kids. Not quite quiver-full but their more modern counterparts in the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements tend to have one to three kids like many modern American families.

        There were many years when the Reform and Conservative communities suffered in decline because of intermarriage and deciding to raise their children Christian. This trend appears to be reversing with more interfaith children being raised Jewish.

        One thing that I found interesting upon coming out to California is the appearance of semi-secular Jewish day schools. By semi-secular, I mean the schools are run by Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism. In NYC, all of the Jewish private schools I knew of were Yeshivas or run by the Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox.

        I think the difference is that in NYC and certain other parts of the East Coast you can have schools that end up being half Jewish or more by default. The Bay Area has a long and proud Jewish history but the numbers aren’t there to do this here.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @leeesq

        Liberalism argues that there are multiple forms of the good life and that everybody should generally be allowed to live their life as they see fit and quietly discuss these matters with his or her neighbors.

        This does not describe many liberals I have talked to. Did you mean to say Libertarianism?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        Scarlet: Libertarians and Liberals are both small l liberals.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @scarletnumbers, I meant the broader philosophical liberalism from the Enlightenment that sprawled both modern liberalism and libertarianism.Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        “Liberalism argues that there are multiple forms of the good life and that everybody should generally be allowed to live their life as they see fit …”
        Which is where I step in.

        This very thread is a pretty good example of the limits of liberalism, the small “l” kind.
        Consider that the participants on this thread are overwhelmingly male, white, American, educated small-“l” liberals. Outside of a Republican gathering, it would be hard to find a more homogenous gathering of people.
        Yet there is no agreement at all on whether even an “obvious and self evident” harm being committed. The science on circumcision is decidedly ambiguous. Even the seemingly objective concept of self-ownership contains within it a rejection of religious faith beliefs and can be accused of a form of intellectual hegemony.

        Without even taking a position on circumcision (I don’t have any skin in the game*), as we move beyond Leeesq’s terrific phrase of “food and festival” multiculturalism, there are painful compromises and dilemmas that don’t have easy answers, even when we are willing to compromise.

        Like abortion, one side or the other is going to end up having their moral norms enforced at gunpoint, and the other side will feel victimized and oppressed.

        This isn’t to suggest that we throw up our hands and abandon the notion of peaceful multiculturalism; Its more a suggestion to avoid the easy crutch of assuming that freedom and self-actualization can be maximized, instead of optimized.

        This is why I usually invoke community consensus. It doesn’t at all guarantee a just outcome, but by minimizing the number of dissenters we can at least minimize the harm.

        *C’mon, someone had to say it!Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        This does not describe many liberals I have talked to

        I’d say it describes the overwhelming majority of liberals I talk to, even if they don’t it as far as I do. It’s predominantly economic liberties that liberals are nervous about, after all, while they tend to be very supportive of social liberties. Even the more PC types are, as often as not, PC about telling conservatives to stop talking smack about how other people live.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        The philiosophy of “freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences” and “everybody should generally be allowed to live their life as they see fit and quietly discuss these matters with his or her neighbors” are diametrically opposed to each other.

        Sadly, too many modern Liberals believe in the first, not the second.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        I’m afraid I don’t follow you.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Gabriel Conry
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        Someone who believes in the philiosophy of “freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences” thinks that it is ok if people suffer great harm and punishment from expression an unpopular opinion, as long as that harm and punishment doesn’t come from the government. This is what many modern Liberals feel.

        Someone who believes in the philosophy of “everybody should generally be allowed to live their life as they see fit and quietly discuss these matters with his or her neighbors” thinks that people should be allowed to their own opinions, but shouldn’t have to suffer sanctions for having those opinions. According to @leeesq this is the view of a broader philosophical liberalism from the Enlightenment.

        I feel that these viewpoints are diametrically opposed to one another. Personally, I fall in line with the second viewpoint, rather than the first.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @scarletnumbers I guess it depends on what you mean as “consequences” of free speech. I’ve heard plenty of people complain after someone criticizes what they have said or argues they are wrong. Tough tubas, people telling you they think you are wrong is free speech and perfectly reasonable example of free speech. Threats of violence, which are sadly deployed by people all over the spectrum, are wrong. Of course there are some free speech activists who are actually defending the use of threats of violence, which as a free speech advocate myself, pisses me off.

        Boycotts, like for the duck dudes, sharply divide liberal types. I don’t like them myself and plenty of other liberals agree with me. Of course conservatives have used boycotts also so that isn’t’ really a partisan thing. What other consequences are you thinking about?Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @greginak

        One recent one that comes to mind is Brendan Eich, formerly of Mozilla.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Gabriel Conry
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        says:

        @scarletnumbers Ummm yeah….did i mention liberals are pretty divided about that kind of thing. We had a humdinger of a debate it here without, as i remember, most of the liberals being cool with it.Report

  11. Avatar Will Truman
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    says:

    A few thoughts on circumcision:

    1. Circumcision may be more common among the Jewish, but the great majority of circumcised individuals are not Jewish. To take anti-circumcision sentiment as anti-Jewish doesn’t really hold up past the vaguest “disparate impact” argument.

    2. I am circumcised, and hold no regret or shame over it. If we have a son, though, he will not be.

    3. That’s actually not an easy decision. The AAP does recommend it. There are medical arguments for it. The degree of “damage” done does not seem to be comparable to other-mentioned procedures such as female genital mutilation and the potential for harm may be outweighed by the benefits.

    4. Saying “They can wait until they’re older and make the decision themselves” doesn’t particularly sway me. What I have read about adult circumcision is that it is a different beast, in terms of medical procedure, than infant circumcision.

    5. The nature of my decision may be quite shallow. Mostly, circumcision is an act of commission, and a significant and permanent one. Therefore, it requires justification above and beyond “the benefits may outweigh the harms.” But the calculus would likely change if I was myself Jewish, or from a culture where it was absolutely expected. In that case, not doing it would become closer to actually doing something, if that makes sense. The cultural context here is important to me.

    6. Despite my lack of intention when it comes to any future son of ours, I am very strongly opposed to any sort of ban. Bans require government action, and none of which that I think of are justified by a reduction in the number of circumcisions. I want circumcisions, when they’re performed, to be so performed in sterile environments. By medical professionals, or practiced clergy. I don’t want it performed by people who have to hide what they are doing.

    7. But mostly, I think of those who will continue to break the law. I don’t want to send clergy to prison, and don’t believe that it would be warranted. I don’t want to send parents to prison. I don’t want to separate families. The harms of the hammer of the law far outweigh the benefits of the law passed, in my view. I view it similarly to how I view corporal punishment, in this regard.

    8. But that doesn’t mean that the virtues and harms of the procedure shouldn’t be a topic of discussion. Because, absent law, that’s the main way that minds (or actions) are changed.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman
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      says:

      +1 to all of that.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Will Truman
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      says:

      4. Saying “They can wait until they’re older and make the decision themselves” doesn’t particularly sway me. What I have read about adult circumcision is that it is a different beast, in terms of medical procedure, than infant circumcision.

      A different beast is reason?

      So this brings into question my own family. Had I known when my eldest was a child what I know now, I’d have begun HRT at puberty; before secondary sexual characteristics set in. Yet even the most liberal of friends I’ve discussed this with were aghast; something about choice and changing minds and all that jazz. Yet the burden of those secondary sexual characteristics is pretty profound for someone who’s transgender. But this is the same logic as you’re using here; so I wonder if you’d also be on board with HRT for children with gender dysphoria?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic
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        says:

        This decision (HRT), more than most involving children, is something that a parent can, I hope, feel confident making. “This is what you choose now, in your limited capacity to give informed consent, and my observations of you — for years — make it my best educated guess that you will continue to want this in the future.”

        I’d agree with making the choice as early as is necessary… at least for the transgender folks who knew they were trans since the age of 4 or so. Eight years is enough to establish a track record of consistency.

        Now, if your 12 year old said “Mom, I think I’m trans…” — and you didn’t have a lot of background “yeah, you probably are” knowledge… Then I’d probably be all for either waiting on HRT, or getting some thorough psych evals first.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic
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        says:

        And right after I posted this, my daughter called, in tears. The fourth conversation we’ve had like this in the last year. Another trans girl killed herself. In this case, her Christian family would not accept her. People in her high school did. So they transferred her to a Christian school. The obituary, of course, was about their son.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to zic
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        says:

        Zic, after you talked about your experiences, I pondered what I would do in such a circumstance. I determined that I wouldn’t have 20/20 hindsight and in the unknown would probably err on the side of non-action rather than err on the side of action. Hard to say for sure without knowing the relative certainty or lack thereof regarding the gender. I think the stakes, the harms of action or inaction, are considerably greater if you get it wrong in either direction.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic
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        says:

        Will,
        yeah, if you aren’t sure, you aren’t sure. And no kid can /really truly/ fault you for taking the “safe” way out. But I’ve heard stories about kids discovering they were trans, and it doesn’t happen always at age 12 or so… (If a kid just figured something like that out, one would be right to judge against prior behavior…) If the kid’s been saying he wants to be a mommy when he grows up, since he was 5, then I figure you’re going to know that he probably means it. [as always, giving more information will allow better informed consent.]Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to zic
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        says:

        Zic, I don’t know how old your child is, or what medical options existed when you would have made that choice, but today, hormone blockers that prevent the development of secondary sex characteristics can be taken by children with gender dysphoria, a treatment that is reversible, unlike hormone replacement.

        Most standards for treatment I have seen suggest that transgender children use hormone blockers and only start hormone replacement treatments later–so that “wait until they’re older and can make the choice for themselves” seems to be the operating principle.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to zic
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        says:

        @zic

        Aren’t there testosterone blockers that delay the onset of secondary sexual characteristics? So, if your 12 year old comes to you and tells you that he or she may be trans, hormone blockers seem like something to go on, and a psych eval just in case its not something else.Report

  12. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    > The Protestors were holding up signs that declared foreskin is a human right.

    I’m a bit worried about how this is going to intersect with feminism.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      @brandon-berg

      ???

      Interestingly many of the protestors were women. This is an issue that has come up on Mommy blogs recently according to my friends who are moms. Since I am 34, I know a lot of new moms.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        What are the major Mommy-bloggy strains of thought on the topic? Pretty much just the same debates we see in the larger debate, or are there interesting insights that might help us tease out the issues?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @michael-drew

        I think it is pretty much the same strain of invective seen where the topic is debated elsewhere but possibly with more hyperbole because moms especially new moms love to judge each other and fret out about parenting decisions made by other moms.

        My non-Jewish friend (she married a Jewish man though) decided to circumcise her son and she said that about half of her mommy message board cohort went frantic against the decision.

        There are all sorts of things which are bringing up a lot of heat in parenting from co-sleeping, to something where the mom and child are supposed to be close to each other 24/7, breast feeding v. non-breast feeding (including how long), at-home birth (because giving birth in a hospital is also apparently very evil now), vaccination of course…Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Half of them freaked out, huh?

        I just read that it’s about 80% of American newborn boys, with higher rates along whites, that are circumcised. A 2012 AAP policy statement found (obviously with dissent) that “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks and that the procedure’s benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it. Specific benefits identified included prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.” Though it also found that, “the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision,” and that, “the final decision should still be left to parents to make in the context of their religious, ethical and cultural beliefs.”

        I sometimes wonder if these debates have any real understanding of what is actually going on medically out there.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw Given feminists’ zeal for redistribution, I’d hate to think what might happen if they decide that foreskins are a human right.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @michael-drew

        I do think that I am in a weird demographic crossroads where I know greater than normal sampling sizes of various minority communities and thoughts. I know more self-described atheists and agnostics than are present in the population* and I suspect that I know more women who are likely to participate in mommy blogs and message boards than mothers in the general population do. These debates do seem to have a large ring of upper-middle class and college educated to them especially when you get into trends like co-sleeping or ultra-dependency or whatever it is called.

        *This does not include people who are like me and largely secular but still would describe themselves as being Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, etc. I know very few people who attend religious services on a semi-regular basis unless they are doing it on the down low.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        something where the mom and child are supposed to be close to each other 24/7

        “Attachment parenting.”Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        As opposed to the main subject here, detachment parenting,Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        The percentage of the portion that is passionate to debate these topics on the Internet or protest them in public is exceedingly small. Most American mothers probably do not care about the debates on hospital or at home birth, breastfeeding, or attachment parenting. These debates seem tailored to a very well-educated, upper middle class audience and even than, only a small segment of that population cares enough to discus them. There are millions of mothers in the United States, defined in this case as having minor children, and most likely only a few thousand or tens of thousands at most are engaged in these sorts of battles.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        As opposed to the main subject here, detachment parenting,

        Awezum.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        Damn you, Schilling! I actually thought of that one, but of course you beat me to it. And wrote it better than I would have.

        You may not be able to write a setup for a punch line like Dave Barry, but he’s got nothing on you in responding to inadvertent setups. I think I only know one other person who might match you in that ability (and he’s a tech guy, too; hmmm). OK, you don’t always knock it out of the park, but you could fail spectacularly for a long time before Sturgeon’s law caught up with you.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      Are feminists known for not grasping different levels of abstraction, or is that just their critics?Report

  13. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    The problem is that many who believe in multiculturalism believe that THEIR believes are the right ones and should win out and are willing to agitate to get their own views enforced via state violence. These people are unwilling to shut up after they’ve made their case and been rebuffed.Report

  14. Avatar j r
    Ignored
    says:

    The problem is that a lot of people just like to talk about how multiculturalism is great without really thinking about the serious issues behind it.

    Who exactly are these “a lot of people?”Report

  15. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    @burt-likko

    Out of legal curiosity:

    Do you think a full ban on circumcision will fall under Smith (“a neutral law of general applicability?”) or CHURCH OF THE LUKUMI BABALU AYE v. HIALEAH?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      Neither. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al. 573 U.S. ___ (2014) would provide the applicable legal guidance, because Federal statutory grounds of 42 U. S. C. §§2000bb–1 (RFRA of 1993 as amended by RLUIPA of 2000) are sufficient to resolve the issue without reaching the Constitution. The test mirrors the older Sherbert test that Smith overruled:

      A challenger to a circumcision ban must demonstrate that a) she has a sincere religious belief that she is compelled to circumcise her boy-baby, which she will meet by stating that she is Jewish, and b) the ban on circumcision substantially interferes with the exercise of that belief, which a ban will do on its face because it flatly bans the religious practice.

      The burden then shifts to the governmental unit that seeks to enforce the circumcision ban to prove that c) the ban furthers a compelling governmental interest and d) the ban is the least restrictive means available to fulfill that interest. Especially after seeing how badly Obamacare failed prong d) of the RFRA test in Hobby Lobby, I have very little doubt that both of prongs c) and d) would be insurmountable for the governmental unit in question. First of all, what “compelling interest” is advanced by a circumcision ban? Health and safety? Of whom? There is functionally no difference between the health and safety of a circumcised man and an uncircumcised man. The prevention of cruelty and pain on infants? Especially with the use of a topical anesthetic, the procedure itself is not particularly painful. I certainly don’t remember any pain from when I was circumcised. And even if we conceded the existence of some sort of compelling interest, we see in Hobby Lobby that the courts are guided to engage in a thorough analysis of other, less-religiously-intrusive means of realizing that interest.

      Then, if the government could somehow survive the RFRA challenge, there would be a thoroughly different Constitutional issue it would have to contend with, one that has been sort of slumbering on the books for nearly a century but remains good law and is a cherished aspiration of a section of the right-leaning Constitutional advocacy bar: the substantive due process right of parents to raise their children in the manner that they see fit. Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923) and Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925) indicate with significant clarity that there is a sphere of autonomy regarding the education and socialization of a child into which no level of government may interfere; if that right includes the ability to have your child taught how to speak the German language, it surely includes enrolling that child within the parents’ ethnic, cultural, and religious traditions; Pierce is almost directly on point there as it involved the right of parents to enroll their child in a Catholic rather than a public school.

      I see functionally zero chance for a circumcision ban to survive a Constitutional or quasi-Constitutional challenge in the present legal environment. Please bear in mind that my previous comments in the various threads responding to the OP address the intersection of culture and morality, not the intersection of culture and law. Sometimes, the law requires official tolerance of things which certain groups within the population as a whole find immoral.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Maybe we could stop having insurance cover circumcision? Would everybody be happier then?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Gaaaaah! Governmental interference with insurance! You’re a fascist!Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko

        I certainly don’t remember any pain from when I was circumcised

        How old were you?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        You’d have to ask my parents, and they don’t remember with precision, either. Within days of having been born, for sure. So of course I don’t remember it.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        “I see functionally zero chance for a circumcision ban to survive a Constitutional or quasi-Constitutional challenge in the present legal environment. Please bear in mind that my previous comments in the various threads responding to the OP address the intersection of culture and morality, not the intersection of culture and law. Sometimes, the law requires official tolerance of things which certain groups within the population as a whole find immoral.”

        I think this is what I was trying to explore in this essay but failed to do so because of the example I picked. Though based on Drew’s answer, I wonder how many people really do find circumcision immoral. Perhaps it is just a vocal minority that knows how to dominate the Internet.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Saul and Burt,
        I think the law is pretty much good on this limited subject. But I have to ask about the use of folk medicine treatments (some of which can be quite brutal), in light of what we know about placebo effects…

        Or footbinding, or dozens of other practices done for “cosmetic” reasons.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        I Cosmetic footbinding and folk medicine don’t sound like religious activities, at least as @kimmi describes them in her comment, so we’d out of the realm of the kind of analysis I gave with respect to infant circumcision. If so, all of those elaborate constitutional protections for the individual’s decision trumping a legal prohibition would be out the window.

        But do bear in mind that the threshold for calling something “religious” is pretty low.

        If we’re out of the realm of religious practices, it’s a murkier issue; the Meyer-Pierce right might come in to play but my gut tells me that a court would be rather less deferential to a claim of a fundamental right being exercised. I suspect that the standard in such a claim would be based on a case called Washington v. Glucksberg 521 U.S. 702 (1997), which says that in order for a specific sort of activity to be protected by the substantive due process right, the party claiming the right has the burden to prove that a) the liberty interest in question is both “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” such that “neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed,” and b) that the liberty interest at stake is susceptible of careful and exact description such that a court can readily ascertain “guideposts for responsible decisionmaking.” If the plaintiff could do that, then the burden shifts to the government to prove that the restriction on the liberty interest is both necessary to fulfill a compelling governmental interest and that the restriction in question is the least restrictive means available to do it, similar to the second half of the RFRA standard underlined in the Hobby Lobby case.

        If that were the case, would footbinding survive that analysis? Probably not — there is no deep and enduring tradition of footbinding in American culture. Folk medicine? That’s a closer call.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Burt,
        folk medicine definitely falls under religious practice. Offerings to spirits, methods of vanquishing possession, exorcisms (Oh the Christians like that one!).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        certainly don’t remember any pain from when I was circumcised

        Law school Socratic Method time!

        Does a non-remembered pain obviate a claim of harm? If, while I was in a coma, doctors removed my appendix in the absence of any indication of appendicitis, would I have a claim against them?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley, the answer to your question is no. The doctors would probably be at least be liable for battery if they removed your appendix without your consent. Battery is defined as an intentional harmful or offensive touch. The touch does not need to be painful at all or even be direct, it could just be deeply embarrassing like if your in cafeteria with a tray filled with food and somebody yanks the tray and gets the food all over you. This was actually a case involving an African-American NASA scientist during the 1960s in Texas, which is actually taught more for the procedural issues than the tort law.

        Religious circumcision is a different because the First Amendment is involved. Medical circumcision for male children is also unlikely to result in a successful tort action, for the reasons Burt outlined above. An adult man suing for circumcision that occurred during infancy would have a heavy burden of proof and persuasion to overcome in most cases unless the doctors really messed up.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        So, Lee, my circumcision wasn’t for religious reasons. Is there a bar to me suing my mom? If there is such a bar, what makes the case different from my mom having the doctors do an unnecessary vasectomy on me while I’m in a coma?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley well, there’s statutes of limitations and repose that would time-bar such a suit. There’s also the difficulty of establishing that a circumcision was unreasonable under the circumstances, as parents are authorized by law and therefore likely privileged from tort claims for making medical decisions reasonably calculated (even if erroneous) in the best interest of the child. And if you get around that, maybe there’s a damage claim there of some sort, but the quantum of damages is going to be really low for pain that you cannot testify to having experienced. So if you can get around all of those legal hoops (and perhaps others I haven’t thought of yet) your award will be a judgment against your mom for one big, fat, nominal dollar. Congratulations.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @kimmi you and I are apparently thinking of different things with regard to the term “folk medicine.” Snake handling and exorcisms are one thing and they’re pretty clearly religious.

        But I mean something like old Jethro telling you that you can cure your acne by facing north down in the holler at sunset and holding a live toad on top of your head while pinching on the toad’s belly until he pees.

        Basically, the equivalent of the Chinese rhino-horn boner pill.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @burt-likko , hobby lobby would only apply to federal laws, though, right? The ban proposed in 2011 was a municipal ban, and Calfornia has no RFRA. Would that bring Smith and or Lukumi back into it?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Very short answer, @alan-scott: I don’t know, because the state’s Supreme Court has yet to dispense useful guidance on that issue.

        Much more detailed, law-wonky answer: California’s Constitution is phrased a bit differently than the Federal Constitution. The relevant portion of Article I, Section 4 reads:

        Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State.

        Now, as I read it, that’s a much more strongly worded text than the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution in that it appears to me to require the entire government of the State of California to serve as an affirmative guarantor of individual free exercise.

        The leading case interpreting the state Free Exercise clause in a manner relevant to our discussion here is Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v. Superior Court (Department of Managed Health Care) (2004) 32 Cal.4th 527. The facts of the case are surprisingly similar to the facts of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: the state passed a law requiring employers who provided healthcare insurance as a benefit to include coverage for certain kinds of contraception. Employers weren’t required to provide coverage, but if they did, it had to include the contraception coverage. Bona fide religious employers were exempted from compliance, and the state stipulated that the various Diosceses of the Roman Catholic Church were exempted. But the state successfully argued that Catholic Charities was just an ordinary not-for-profit corporation and neither part of a religious institution nor a discrete religious institution unto itself. So it was an ordinary employer for purposes of the contraception law. The California Supreme Court then found that under both the post-Smith “law of general applicability” standard and the pre-Smith Sherbert test, the state-level contraception mandate would survive a strict scrutiny test, so it was not necessary to interpret the state Constitution further and determine if the more difficult-to-pass Sherbert test really was the standard or the more governmentally-deferential Smith standard did:

        [A]pplying the strict scrutiny test of Sherbert, supra, 374 U.S. 398, to Catholic Charities’ claim against the WCEA under the free exercise clause of the state Constitution, we find the WCEA meets that test. We do not hold that the state free exercise clause requires courts to apply the Sherbert test to neutral, generally applicable laws that incidentally burden religious practice. Instead, as explained above, we leave that question for another day.

        So, to date the California Supreme Court has managed to successfully avoid being pinned down on this issue as equal to or, as I think the text suggests, providing greater individual free exercise rights than the Federal Constitution. Now, we know the Federal Constitution is interpreted under the Smith standard, so without a state level RFRA, it remains unclear as a matter of law whether the Sherbert test continues to have validity.

        Looking back over Catholic Charities to write this comment, I note that Hobby Lobby appears to directly contradict the reasoning of the California Supremes: in Catholic Charities the Court looked at the identity of the corporate party and did not give any substantial weight to the religious beliefs of the individual officers and directors of that corporation that might be burdened by complying with the law — which is exactly opposite what the U.S. Supremes did last Term in Hobby Lobby. There is also an underlying difference in the statute, in that the California law provided an easy “out” for the employer who did not wish to provide contraception coverage by not providing any coverage at all. Hobby Lobby presented a rather convincing case that as a practical matter, PPACA does require providing coverage; it had no “easy way out” like the California law did.

        Now, I’m a big one for looking at the plain text first and if that solves the problem, you’re done with your analysis. And the plain text of Article I, Section 4 says that “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed.” Exceptions are licentious acts, or violations of peace and safety. Circumcision is not licentious; is it violent? Is it dangerous, harmful to the peace and safety of the state? Given that it’s been going on in California literally since the state was created in 1850, I don’t think we can in good faith say that it is.

        What’s interesting is that a circumcision ban might be the sort of case where the Supremes would get pinned down on the difference between a governmentally-deferential Smith standard — a circumcision ban could be written to avoid the obviously-poaching-on-a-specific-religion problem you see in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah (1993) 508 U.S. 520, at least in theory — and thus likely survive a Smith analysis but fail an RFRA-like, Sherbert-like strict scrutiny analysis. Which would force them to interpret Article I, Section 4.

        But I doubt we’ll ever know. First, the ban would have to command sufficient popular support to pass into law in some jurisdiction. I rather doubt that is possible for the foreseeable future. Second, if it does, we don’t get to just ignore RFRA because of the Fourteenth Amendment — a state law that burdens a Federal statutory right is null under the Supremacy Clause, at least to the extent that they contradict one another. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 211, 6 L.Ed. 23 (1824); see generally Capital Cities Cable, Inc. v. Crisp, 467 U.S. 691 (1984). So just because it’s a state law doesn’t let us ignore the Federal RFRA.

        Damn. Now I remember that I did a ton of reading and research into Gibbons v. Ogden for a Great Cases post that I’ve never yet completed. I wonder where I left it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        hobby lobby would only apply to federal laws, though, right?

        I think that’s right. IIRC, RFRA’s application to the states was struck down in Boerne v. Flores.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Now is the time when, chagrined, I get to admit that I forgot about City of Boerne v. Flores in all my excitement about being able to cite to Gibbons, one of the coolest cases ever, and in my pessimism that religious rights are eventually going to trump everything.

        The good professor is right about the legal effect of that case: SCOTUS, not Congress, gets to interpret what substantive rights are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, if I end up teaching Con Law again, at least I know one case.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        City of Boerne v. Flores

        The guy won two Super Bowls, what the hell else did they want from him?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Unpaid parking tickets?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      CHURCH OF THE LUKUMI BABALU AYE

      They got a lotta ‘splainin’ to do.Report

  16. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    When I was in college, there was a large movement among the student body seeking the administration of our Jesuit college to amend the non-discrimination policy to fully protect sexual orientation (at the time, I think it only stated that they would comply with all state and federal laws, which were not particularly robust — even for Massachusetts — in the early 2000s). The movement — which I fully supported — chose a rather odd slogan: Intolerance will not be tolerated. All attempts to discuss the… oddness… of the slogan were like slamming your head against a wall.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      @kazzy

      Isn’t this like saying that we will only use fire to fight fire, or coercion will be opposed with coercion?

      In other words, isn’t the insight that a negative can be used to battle a negative, and thus eliminating the desire to commit the negative and thus making the world a better place?

      Plus it fits on a bumper sticker or tweet.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger
        Ignored
        says:

        @roger

        First off, I was in college, so pointing out irony was kind of my thing.

        However, saying, “We will fight fire with fire,” doesn’t contain within it an inherent objection to the use of fire. The quoted statement is saying, “Intolerance is unacceptable. As such, we will be intolerant of it.” And an argument can be made that can square that circle, but I don’t think the bumper stick sloganeering did so. And given that they were discussing the rights of homosexuals on a Jesuit college campus, I think it was woefully insufficient to dismiss their ideological opponents simply as “intolerant”. Again, I agreed fully with their goals; I just found their branding and methods to be questionable.

        But, like I said, it was college so what the F did we know?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger
        Ignored
        says:

        The only intolerance we will tolerate is intolerance of intolerance?Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Roger
        Ignored
        says:

        I have found that the most intolerant people I know are liberals.

        They get very annoyed when I point this out. I guess it is because when conservatives are intolerant they are EVELZ while when liberals are intolerant, they are intolerant because they are fighting for some greater good.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger
        Ignored
        says:

        I have found that the most intolerant people I know are liberals.

        They get very annoyed when I point this out.

        Really? They get annoyed when you insult them? Hypocritical bastards.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Roger
        Ignored
        says:

        @scarletnumbers have you ever pointed out to conservatives that they were intolerant? Maybe of liberals? Or the media? Immigrants? People on welfare? Teachers?

        When your conservative friends act intolerantly, what do you do? Or are you only critical of intolerance when it’s pointed in your direction?Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Roger
        Ignored
        says:

        @zic

        It is worth mentioning that I am active within Democratic circles in my county in New Jersey.

        Most of my friends are liberals of varying degrees. However, I am more of an ACLU liberal rather than a pander-to-minorities-don’t-hurt-my-feelings liberal.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Roger
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy

        Alan Colmes used to be Sean Hannity’s co-host on FNC.

        When people used to ask him why he didn’t fight “fire with fire”, he would reply, “You fight fire with water, not fire.”

        FunFact: Alan Colmes was the last voice heard on WNBC 66 before it became WFAN in 1988. This is the same WNBC immortalized by Paul Giamatti in Private Parts.Report

  17. Avatar Murali
    Ignored
    says:

    I think the following link is interesting and on topic. Everyone should read it even if they don’t end up agreeing to all of it.

    http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/pboettke/workshop/fall04/theoretical_foundations.pdfReport

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