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Circumcision: let's get to the point

Circumcision is back in the news. San Francisco and a couple more cities in California want to ban it. To me, it seems a topic loaded with reasons that say it should be left alone. Circumcision is like the tip of an iceberg; there's so much more going on out of sight that you cannot tell what side to be on.

Circumcision discussions don't work well at parties. Don't get me wrong. I like a good taboo subject, one that assures me that my writing and I won't be brought up in normal conversation, for either better or worse. That keeps me under the radar. No one is going to say, "Did you see what that fruitcake wrote about this week?"

Then you'd have to tell. Real men don't tell. Women have their own problems. I'm under the radar.

The lawyer that took on the circumcision case against MeritCare some years back, as his litigation ship sailed through the iceberg field of civil justice, must have wondered if he maybe shouldn't have been looking for something other than the tip, so to speak.

He, and the son's mother, were contesting the legality of the circumcision procedure, even though her signature was on the consent form back the day her son was born in March 1997.

One has to wonder when and by whom the subject of the missing foreskin became so urgent that a lawsuit seemed in order. Do lawyers ever get together, do you think? If they do, do they look at each other and envy such grandstand cases? "Say, Bob," one lawyer might say to another, "have you been watching that circumcision trial?" Do both of them think to themselves: Man, I wish I had a case like that.

Or do they think to themselves: I wonder how much could be made in a class action lawsuit filed by every male in the U.S. who's been circumcised. Of course, that is assuming that the lawsuit would be successful.

Or do they just enjoy themselves, and say things like: "I've been watching that circumcision trial. I wonder if the judge is ever going to cut off jury selection." Or, "He probably won't get paid very well for taking that case, but maybe he'll get a tip."

"We are the hotbed for genital mutilation of baby boys," was a quote from the lawyer, halfway through the legal proceedings. He was referring to the U.S. Other statistics point the way. According to one, 60 percent of male infants in the U.S. are circumcised, while 90 percent of North Dakotans have the procedure, and more than 80 percent of male babies in the world are uncircumcised. Ouch! I guess we are the hotbed for genital mutilation. We're the hotbed for lawyerly sound bites about circumcision too, I'll bet.

Apparently the lawyer who took on this case lost a similar case back in 1996, when he sued in U.S. District Court to overturn a state ruling against him and his alteration then. One has to wonder what he's missing. (Oh, quit it. Be nice.) What's his problem? Certainly, it must be bothering him that at the age of one day, he didn't get to have a say in what was done to him. They say we all carry a lot of baggage around with us from our childhood, stuff that was said to us, done to us, not said to us, not done to us. He's not carrying that around.

In 1968, standing naked in a line of naked military inductees come to Fort Des Moines to take our draft physical, I noticed one healthy looking and strong individual pulled from the line, after we were inspected front and rear. "What happened to him," I whispered to the naked guy standing beside me, making sure to avoid eye contact. I'd heard horror stories about them pulling you out of the line and sending you Someplace Nasty. "There was something wrong with his circumcision," the guy whispered back to me.

Oh. You couldn't have proven that by me, I want you to know. I made it a point-and still do-not to inspect other mens' circumcisions in showers and places like that. I also want you to know that I'd have given a lot right then to have had a botched circumcision myself, had it been sufficient to keep me out of Vietnam.

I'm sure that the doctor who performed the procedure on me was glad to hear that I did indeed go to Vietnam, thanks to a perfect, um, thing. Maybe all those other physical tests were meaningless. Maybe only good circumcisions were all that was required to be drafted.

The courts decided that informed circumcision is legal.

As must think most men everywhere, I feel like I've lost something.

I'm waiting for the class action lawsuit.