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Debate on circumcision

The Academy Award-winning actor and father of two sons came under fire last week for a rambling series of tweets that kicked off with a declaration that "Circumcision is barbaric and stupid. Who are you to correct nature? Is it real that GOD requires a donation of foreskin? Babies are perfect."

Predictably, he was deluged with rebuttals from followers, and Crowe, never one to back down from a fight, seemed happy to take them all on. When a user responded that circumcision is "more hygienic and nobody remembers it," he lobbed back, "Hygienic? Why don't you sew up your ass then?" Regarding circumcision's place in the Jewish tradition, Crowe told his followers that "... The Mayans had ceremonial acts too." And with a direct nod to a famous pal he added, "I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats but stop cutting yr babies @eliroth" -- a comment that prompted actor/director Eli Roth to jokingly reply, "You didn't seem to be complaining when I was recutting you this afternoon."

[. . .]

Yet in the harsh light of hindsight, a whole heap of backlash, and who knows, maybe a little more clarity of thought than when he'd originally been posting, Crowe deleted the offending tweets and issued an apologetic message. "I have a deep and abiding love for all people of all nationalities," he wrote Friday. " I'm very sorry that I have said things on here that have caused distress. My personal beliefs aside I realize that some will interpret this debate as me mocking the rituals and traditions of others. I am very sorry."

[. . .]

"This is a great forum for communication," he graciously wrote this weekend. "I, like any human have my opinions and you all have yours, thank you for trusting me with them." Whether you agree with his views or not, you've got to give the guy credit for being able to know when to apologize, and how to listen. In the morass of Twitter wars and flames that can make the Net feel like a cesspool, Crowe, it turns out, is anything but barbaric. (Mary Elizabeth Williams, “Russell Crowe’s anti-circumcision rant blows up,” Salon, 13 June 2011)

Breach

Does anyone else get a sense that with Tracy Morgan and Russell Crowe, some shells have hit the sides of a vast and thought-impenetrable battleship, and for the first time made some significant dent? Yes! This here ... this is the way!

The story ostensibly here is that if you attack Hollywood, no matter your inner bulldog, you'll find yourself backing down and apologizing while still finding a way to pretend you've stuck to your principles.

But it isn't.

Rather, as with Tracy Morgan, the story here is that the establishment's ability to ostensibly back you down, is beginning to seem cover for the fact that some means has been found to effectively make a strike. After the fact with both of these two men, is that neither really is going to take a lasting hit for their tirades. They have been ostensibly put in a place by an empowered friend, not-at-all associated with their mindset (a follow-up we hesitantly obliged for Whoopi [with Gibson], but eagerly here with Roth). But with their breaches, they are both are serving to successfully nest in the public that there IS something intrinsically immoral and manipulative about Jews and Gays. Mel Gibson was not permissible! Tracy Morgan and Russell Crowe, are coming closer to just right.

Also, I am against circumcision. It's child hate. (Not much one for God, though, either.) Can't agree with Crowe, because I think there is intent in him to demonize people. It's not just saying what has too long been obfuscated, and so must come out of you in a way to blast through layers of bulk. Could be narrated this way; will be narrated this way; but it's not mostly true. The soothing here, for some, is not from seeing a more genteel way to handle differences, but from a successful breach, without retraction.

@Patrick McEvoy-Halston

But with their breaches, they are both are serving to successfully nest in the public that there IS something intrinsically immoral and manipulative about Jews and Gays.

If you really believe that, then I pity you. (Beans&Greens)

@Beans&Greens

RE: But with their breaches, they are both are serving to successfully nest in the public that there IS something intrinsically immoral and manipulative about Jews and Gays.

If you really believe that, then I pity you.

I have no idea how from this you would assume I'm anti-Semetic / anti-Gay. I am TRYING to help people understand that from how these two men are being handled, we should see that anti-Semistism and homophobia is becoming more acceptible, even amongst liberals: that is, I'm at their (i.e., Jews' / Gays') genuine service.

How are you helping, in your just saying how correct Crowe is? He's making a dangerous breach, and you assume him as if he's making a humane point. Anti-circumcision talk gets air in A kind of climate, and its about progress. If it gets air in the wrong kind -- IT IS anti-Semitism: demonization, and regress. We're in the latter kind of climate. His God part tips us off. As does, somewhat, his never backing down to a fight -- his disposition. There's some Mel in that -- it's not just heroism.

@ —Patrick McEvoy-Halston

Being anti-circumcision is not the same as being anti-Semitic. I personally know (and you can find in this thread) many proud Jews who don't feel the need to have their sons mutilated for an imaginary bloodthirsty sky-demon. There are anti-circumcision groups in Israel. Circumcision among Jews in western Europe and Latin America has dropped precipitously - not out of fear, but out of recognition that hacking off part of a helpless baby for "G_d" is a sick unnecessary barbaric way of welcoming a child into the world and into a religion. If anything, Crowe is given a pass here on the crudity of his statements due to the fact that he has always been publicly rude, crude, abrasive and insulting. I rather think he would make similar comments about any group, not just Jews, with which he disagreed. That said, he is still insulting and boorish... (eschu21)

@eshu21

re: “Being anti-circumcision is not the same as being anti-Semitic.”

I know this. That's why I said that in some contexts anti-circumcision is about progress -- which would never entail hatred toward another group, because progess is always about increase in empathy and love; about helping the child, not demonizing then hunting the perpetrator. However, it CAN mostly be anti-semitism. I've read through your letters, and you're one of the beautiful reaching out to help stop abuse of children, without yourself being hateful to those emotionally-disturbed enough (cultural heritage can't move you to long appreciate what-you-at-some-profound-level know to be abuse) to be driven to do the tormenting. I know that circumcision has been too long protected in America, and it is agonizing to be amongst those whose efforts to do good are readily made to seem -- however absurdly -- evil. But please take care when taking advantage of the avenues opening up now to finally make your argument more fully heard, as I believe that many of the openings now owe to a public interest in withdrawing the protections against select groups, in empowering righteous demonization, and not to evolution in consciousness. There is some of that too, though. My sense, not so much here with Crowe.

respectfully,

patrick

- - - - -

Barbaric science

I think we will find that increasingly the "science" protecting circumcision is going to be loudly questioned, that despite whatever eras long surely protecting it, it's about to lapse and crumble very quickly. But again, the reason will owe mostly to it being linked to an effective means to legitimize anti-Semitism -- though every article will take care to point out how this is NOT "their" aim, and how "they" especially would be amongst the first to stomp-down those who would use their research for such an end (so with it, also, a culture-wide absolute non-tolerance amongst the civilized for blunt, loud anti-Semites -- old models -- of the kind we get here at Salon). (True) Progressives, largely unable to control themselves, will celebrate the ostensible emergence of sanity over barbarism, of true clear-sighted science over science in defiance of evidence -- false science. And with this, they'll have spent some of their life and energy growing a worse enemy they do not want to fight. I hope they're attentive to tone.

- - - - -

My god, what a pack of pathetic whingers

@unmutual

You moron, I'm Jewish. You say I've NEVER SEEN A CIRCUMCISION? are you bleepin' nuts? I've seen at least 2 dozen in my lifetime, including my own son, my two nephews and a bunch of cousins, etc. Do you think I'd allow a procedure on my own flesh and blood if I thought it was crazy, barbaric or painful? If the FATHERS and GRANDFATHERS did not all have the SAME EXACT thing (and they were fine, obviously able to have sex and reproduce)?

If it was painful and awful, the ceremonial bris at 8 days would be a horrorshow instead of a wonderful loving warm family get-together. A mohel is extremely well trained to do this surgery quickly and painlessly; the baby is sedated with a little bit of wine. I've seen babies who literally slept through the WHOLE THING, not a whimper. Most of them cry a little but are quickly soothed. In my EXPERIENCE, which is considerable, it is similar to the fuss a baby makes when they get a pin prick or small injury. You must not have kids, because INFANTS wail over literally everything -- a wet diaper, a loud noise, milk that isn't warm enough.

Let me emphasize for several woman-hating doofuses here: this is a MALE ritual performed by a MALE mohel and with a MALE rabbi attending (in most congregations) and the FATHER of the baby presents him and stands by. Women are on the sidelines. If this was a "vagina conspiracy", why are men at the heart and center of choosing this FOR THEMSELVES? (Laurie1962)

@DannyOS: you are missing the point here

I don't think even the strongest proponent of circumcision for disease prevention wants to FORCE anybody to have their baby circumcised.

We are addressing various levels of posters -- from controlling left social engineers like GreenBeans to pure Jew haters -- who basically want to LEGALLY PROHIBIT Jewish/Muslim circumcision and force it underground, ideally JAILING parents for following their RELIGIOUS FAITH, as they have openly for HUNDREDS OF YEARS just here in the US.

That is the goal of the recent ballot initiative in California -- not to discourage gentiles from having an elective procedure, but to FORBID AND BAN circumcision for the religious.

That's against everything I believe about religious freedom and I have not heard one reasonable argument or example that shows properly done circumcision is brutal or inhumane, nor that it causes damage (but rather, SOMETIMES it is beneficial). Adult men who are circumcised are a majority of the US population; if they had serious sexual problems, we'd have know it for many decades now.

Frankly, I think everyone knows this and is just doing a polite lefty dance around the main subject -- how to FORBID Jews from practicing a religion YOU DON'T LIKE ANYWAYS...and of course, lack of religious freedom (you hope! you hope!) might drive them out of the US, thus depleting their horrible "Jew influence" on Congress, hence reducing the power you imagine that Israel has.

Come on; nobody seriously believes this is all "penis concern trolling". (Laurie1962)

@Durian Joe: hey! you changed your name, Mr. Troll!

Also: as a Jew, you should be ashamed of promoting the criminalization of an honored Jewish tradition, one that was likely done to you by LOVING PARENTS and which has caused you no harm or torture or mutilation. (Laurie1962)

@robspost: I think I get your point just fine

Your think your ideas about "what's unnecessary" should dovetail precisely with "everybody else", but I assure it does not. Even with reduced rates of circumcision, MILLIONS of families (non-Jewish) make this choice for their babies.

It makes me wonder what you think about abortion, especially later term abortion; do you think it causes pain and is "torture" and violates the fetus's rights? Because, robspost, there are MILLIONS of Americans -- every one as "sure" as you are that THEY are right -- who believe that a woman's right to her own body is NOT AS GREAT as keeping that fetus from potential pain. Some of them were willing to murder Dr. George Tiller in order to enforce their viewpoints on other people.

Obviously people DO think circumcision has great value as a cultural and religious rite of passage. Are you willing to make a LAW to prevent them from practicing a millennia's old religious faith? Put them in jail?

Often anti-abortionists list their objections to abortion and desire to make it illegal again, but clam up when asked about their real agendas -- putting ordinary women and doctors IN JAIL or even the death penalty for what they see as "murder and torture" just as you see circumcision as " a violation of human rights".

I imagine you don't give a damn, but if you are SERIOUS about making this illegal in the US, you are going to face these arguments over and over, so I suggest you give them some more articulate formulation than "I, robspost, do not give a damn what anybody else thinks or feels". Because frankly, my dear, you are not that important. (Laurie1962)

@Mr. GreenBeans (nee: Durian Joe)

Obviously circumcision is NOT THE SAME as chopping off a nose on an adult human being. lt's not "chopping off" anything; it's removing a small bit of skin from around the penis in a humane manner -- usually using wine as a sedative (a little wine for a 6 lb baby is a good sedative) OR in a hospital under anesthesia.

Whether it is "mutilation" is obviously in the eye of the beholder -- a great many women vastly prefer the look of a circumcised penis. Is it "mutilation" to pin back the ears of a kid who has Dumbo ears? Mutilation to make straight teeth out of crooked teeth using braces (assuming no serious bite problems are involved, just cosmetic work)? Straightening a crossed eye (does not improve vision, just cosmetic)?

If you seriously think babies are being tortured by their parents during a religious bris ceremony, then A. you don't know many babies (and here I mean: 8 day old infants) and B. you have not attended many brises.

I wonder if you would share your DIRECT observation of any bris ceremonies you have attended -- as you state you are a practicing Jew -- and how often you have babysat for a NEWBORN INFANT. I'm guessing "neither". (Laurie1962)

I see analogies to abortion here. People who object to abortion don't just think it's a sort of poor idea -- they think it is literally murder. So they don't just want to regulate the worst excesses, they want to ban it outright because it offends their morality so deeply. When they say this, liberals typically respond "you cannot legislate morality!" Yet here, they clearly think YOU CAN legislate morality (about little boy penises, but not about late term abortion).

When right-wingers want to ban abortion, I frequently ask them if they have thought the whole thing through LOGICALLY: putting ordinary people in jail for the "crime" of ending a pregnancy. They usually get all waffly at that point. They don't quite think about what it would mean to put one million women and hundreds of doctors IN JAIL and ON TRIAL each and every year -- they just imagine that abortion would magically "disappear" and women would reluctantly (but ultimately happily) have their cute little babies.

In the same vein, the anti-circ group here just imagines that everyone would stop circumcising automatically and accept it without a protest. In fact, observant Jews and others would just take it underground. So if you truly consider it "barbaric torture", you'd have to vet baby boys by medical authorities to see if they were "cut", then punish the parents for doing so. Right? Is that something you see as workable? Making male children drop trousers (so to speak), then prosecuting their parents for following their religious faith? (Laurie1962)

@laurie1962

I personally see circumcision as child abuse, though I know of many salutory liberal Jews, people who are heads above the level of sanity and beneficence of most Americans, who practice it. (Their children, who hopefully will be a notch better than they are, will hopefully disfavor it.) But I think your fear about what an enlarging argument against it means for Jews has real merit -- EVEN in liberal / progressive communities, like those arguing against it in California. For me, it's a matter of the time discrimination comes about. There are times when a legal outlawing of such things as spanking or (for me) circumcision would simply be a sign that humanity is becoming more loving -- both ARE things we need as quickly as possible to see an end to. But particularly right now, where I feel there is much more about a desire to start oppressing than to urgently finally start helping, it is in our cultural context with liberal-seeming causes that this dark ID impulse (let's call it) gets the SUPER-EGO, guilt-free pass. In my judgment, so many things are on the cusp of just being banned, new ways forced on people, all under an amazingly impenetrable veil of enlightenment -- for it seeming an extension of liberalism, of good things like empowerment and freedom (I'm thinking just now of the incandescent lightbulb ban, which may be coming to where I live, which would seem to be just about being Earth-friendly but which is actually intended to let everyone know, to powerfuly feel and without-a-doubt understand, how nothing in their everyday assumed life is safe from being instantly unokayed and withdrawn if it falls short of our new basic starting-off point).

I think voices like yours that are raising alarm, however, will be rendered inert BECAUSE your argument is based, not just on the REALLY problematic intentions of the “enlightened” oppressors, but on the validness of the practices they mean to stamp out. That is, I think circumcision will readily be revealed as harmful, the scientists favoring it readily shown to have owed their being attended to to some reason other than evidence, and the movement against circumcision will likely go without being prompted to reflect on its motives, now that its opposition has set itself up for complete dismissal for their defending the indefensible. "They could not have been more wrong about that -- they are surely wrong in all their concerns," is what they'll without an afterthought think/conclude.

Careful, too, about your argument that whole huge numbers of people couldn't have been harmed or we'd have heard it by now. It's not an effective one just now. It strikes me that we're at a time when people are quite ready to overturn assumed normalities, to believe they've all been living a lie -- things like the huge paleo food movement, which suggests everything we've assumed about food is wrong, and barefoot walking, which assumes the same for how we've let ourselves walk, and anti-pharma, which argues that the doctors turned wholesale to pharmaceuticals for NO actual good, are being grabbed up. You might, that is, be playing into people's hands.

@Partrick McEvoy-Halston

Honestly, I have a hard time reading your letter; I can't even quite tell where you sit on this issue.

I do NOT promote circumcision for gentiles; I think it should be legal if they want it, but I don't think it should be pushed on anyone for health reasons. There ARE health benefits, but in western industrialized nations, the benefits are minimal. It's a personal choice, and as such, there are "trends" and the trend is away from circumcision for GENTILES.

However, don't expect it to just "die out" among Jews and Muslims. Our traditions go back THOUSANDS of years and we are not likely to give this up without a fight. I believe the Constitution guarantees our right to practice our religion(s). This is a harmless procedure that does NOT mutilate or harm babies or adult men, has SOME medical benefit and is a deeply cherished part of our history and faith. You don't like it? Too bad.

I don't think the current California initiative will pass and if it does, it won't survive on appeals. It is a clear cut affront to religious freedom, and when justices get a glimpse of the promoters "comic books" with racist caricatures of Shylock-like mohels...I'm not seeing it upheld.

If it was ever criminalized, you'd obviously see Jews and Muslims go "underground" and do this in secret. So you'd have to empower some kind of squad of nurse practitioners or physicians to do exams to "prove" little boys were not circumcised and then to "turn in" the offenders for jail time for "mutilating" their sons in keeping with their religious faith.

Jews and Muslims together outnumber the gay/lesbian population of the US, so imagine the problem in chasing down and incarcerating EVERY PARENT of a newborn baby boy. Frankly, I wouldn't want to be the legislators who pass THAT piece of B.S. nonsense.

It's sad how these things, which are so extreme and out of the mainstream (curtailing religious freedom) are so popular on Salon, and so rigidly held. It's not enough to say "do whatever you like within your own family"; no, you must be judged and harassed and lectured and lambasted for an ORDINARY minor procedure that has been done to babies for THOUSANDS OF YEARS without ill affects, but suddenly it's "torture and mutilation".

You guys missed great careers with fundie abortion groups, gunning for abortion doctors. You have all the techniques of thought-control and damnation and loaded phrases and fanaticism down pat. (Laurie1962)

Intentions

Re: “I don't have to. I have seen OVER 20 ACTUAL CIRCUMCISIONS including my own child, you moron. I also do not watch anti-abortion films, where they show regretful sobbing women begging the monstrous grinning abortion doctor "not to kill my BABEEEE" but the doctor cuts their baby up into pieces (while the baby screams) in an OCEAN of red blood.

Do you have any idea how similar your tactics and rhetoric is to that of the anti-abortion movement? Are you shortly planning to have radicals execute mohels? The way Dr. Tiller was shot?”(Laurie1962)

Your defense of circumcision reminds me, sadly, of the defenders of such things as sex with children, which was also made to seem of obviously of no long-term consequence to the child ("Why would I ever want to hurt a child, I LOVE children"), and who also complained of opponents' intentions and tactics.

RE: If you REALLY have kids, you'd know that a screaming infant is pretty standard and they cry like that when they get necessary vaccines; they cry when a doctor puts a thermometer up their little butts. They cry when they are wet or lonely or scared.

Here you have some of us hoping more people come to understand the screaming infant as NOT standard, as just normal; that they don't describe children in the manner in which you have here, which seems dismissive of progressive and ostensibly "unreal" understandings of their potential overall childhood experience. With the popularity of such books as "Go the F*ck to Sleep," looks like we're heading elsewhere, though. Even the anti-circumcision movement, if it gets popularized, will, alas, probably be more about setting up Jews and Muslims for righteous discrimination, about inflating and giving righteous avenue to "our" own anger, than it will be about making childhood that much less about surviving (truly) villainous perpetrations: it may well here NOT actually be about the children, however many people posting here belong to the group thinking perhaps-entirely of them. You are actually right to get people to consider how different their motives are from the anti-abortion crowd, but will in your efforts FURTHER their cause with your mean clawing away at them (better to imagine you the preying witch who dines on innocent children), and with your fetishism, your dehumanization, of children (little buts, golden treasures). (You also are too willing to believe mothers in their favorable accountings of how circumcision impacted on their own children's lives: "Wouldn't their children have complained by now?" Please, just how easy do you think, really, it is for a child to accuse his mother of sadistic purpose towards him? Some think the super-ego was put in place primarily to ensure we don't face the psychic carnage from ever daring considering such). You communicate mostly that children, those little treasures, exist to serve the ritual, that they must defer to It, (and so) you do not well persuade that it at all well serves them or does them little harm. If it did real harm, their would be significant challenge to Ritual -- and you can't have that, regardless. Though the opposition may be suspect in the way you imagine, you SHOULD have opposition, a strong counter: you ARE an obstacle in the way of children's proper happiness, even if, in your clearly considerable and very valuable self, you are better than many or most people out there.

Link: Russell Crowe’s anti-circumcision rant (Salon)

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