If this week’s column seems a little goofy, I’m blaming “circumstances beyond my control” (which is the only excuse I could think of on such short notice).
It all began a week ago when I glanced at a Daily Press headline about a possible ban against circumcision in Santa Monica for males under the age of 18. (All I can say for over-18 males seeking circumcision, they would be well advised to insist on beaucoup anesthesia.)
My immediate reaction to the headline was, “Is it April 1 again?” (The Daily Press runs a joke issue on April 1, which I’m embarrassed to admit, I’ve fallen for … twice!)
But this story was real. In fact, when I first began to write about it, at that very moment there were well-meaning Santa Monicans gathering signatures to qualify the ban for the 2012 ballot.
The bill, known as “MGM” (Male Genital Mutilation, not the movie studio) only needed 6,000 signatures. Supporters, led by children’s rights advocate and mom of two, Jena Troutman, believed they’d get twice that number.
But just as I got my head wrapped around MGM (meaning I had written some decent jokes) Ms. Troutman withdrew the initiative, making my column as relevant as another photo of Rep. Anthony Weiner in his boxers.
Let’s face it, it’s been a tough week for private parts, especially Democratic ones. (Then again U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) didn’t resign after using prostitutes in two states and was known as “diaper boy,” or rather, Senator Diaper Boy.)
The MGM bill is already on the 2011 San Francisco ballot. And should it pass imagine the plight of mohels (people who perform Jewish circumcisions) forced to go underground, or the horrors of a back alley bris. (The rite of circumcision.) I think the sound I just heard was some readers groaning.
So, on Tuesday, I was sans column with 48 hours until deadline. I decided to find Ms. Troutman to learn why the change of heart. (And if maybe she had an 800-word column under a couch cushion.)
Graciously, Jena explained that her intention from the start was to focus on whether circumcisions are medically beneficial. She also wanted to protest Jamaal Coleson Jr.’s circumcision-related death on May 11 in New York City.
But, with a 24-hour news cycle, Jena was besieged with camera crews and reporters, many of whom sensationalized the story and took her remarks out of context, or so she claims. Giving her unwanted publicity, the NY Times even ran Jena’s photo.
In the meantime, unbeknownst to Jena, some favoring the MGM bill in San Francisco were linked to alleged anti-Semitism — activity Jena strongly condemns.
The group published comic books entitled “The Monster Mohel,” featuring a grotesque character known as “Foreskin Man.” It was created by Matthew Hess, founder and president of MGM (who hasn’t returned my calls and is probably not in line for a B’nai B’rith Man of the Year award).
Given the unanticipated pressures, Jena officially withdrew her proposition. She did so because the proposition had become so divisive, which was the last thing she wanted.
But all’s well that ends well. Jena received praise from various Jewish leaders for removing the proposition. The truth is she didn’t draft the language and would have preferred the bill have an exemption to the millions (primarily Jews and Muslims) for whom circumcision is a centuries-old religious ritual.
By chance during all of this, I ran into Jon Mann. (Jon has run for a Santa Monica City Council seat a record 10 times and 2012 will likely make it 11.) As a child Jon spent time in an orphanage, and at age 7, involuntarily underwent a circumcision. (Ouch!) I cringed just listening to Jon’s description.
At Jon’s request, I did some research into circumcision and discovered that there are certainly two sides to the issue. While I absolutely think it should be a parent’s decision and not the government’s, there is a substantial amount of reputable information questioning the medical need for circumcision. I would think that expectant parents would do well to avail themselves of all the information.
For example, in 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report on circumcision. It didn’t endorse or reject circumcision but it did list the pros and cons, some of which are quite surprising.
Meanwhile, Jon is against circumcision for all the traditional medical reasons and one less-mentioned which you could say is medically related. Jon’s concerned that circumcision, which removes the foreskin, also reduces the amount of skin to become engorged when the penis gets erect. (Clearly, Jon is of the opinion that every little inch counts.)
Now that I think about it, maybe Jon’s unique view may be more information than you wanted to know. Then again, I warned you this column might be a little goofy. OK, a lot goofy.
Jena Troutman’s website is wholebabyrevolution.com. Jack can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.