Fifteen years ago, I was heartened and surprised to get a phone call at the newspaper and told that the Tempe Community Council had selected me as winner of its prestigious Don Carlos Humanitarian Award. One person, or a couple, is chosen each year in Tempe, Ariz., for the honor that exemplifies sustained service and dedication to the service and support of others. Don Carlos is Spanish for “Dear/Mr. Charles,” what the Spanish formally called Tempe’s founder, Charles Trumbull Hayden, in response to his generosity and consideration.
I was 49 at the time of the award in 1995, and am still the youngest to get it at the time of presentation. To date, 36 winners have been announced in the 27 years of the award going back to 1984. A couple from my church, Catherine May and Dan Abbott, will be getting the Don Carlos honors on Oct. 5 at the Arizona Historical Museum. I nominated them for the honor because of their broad work in such areas as founding Tempe Empty Bowls, work in saving the state’s historical archives, programs with the homeless, Tumbleweed youth programs, free-trade coffee, No More Deaths, Humane Borders and a puppet troupe teaching kids not to bully. And so much more. Out of the 36 individuals, 10 winners, including four couples, have, at some time, been members of University Presbyterian Church.
In the years since, I have taken that award seriously and have sought to live up to the honor — not stopping to find ways to be worthy of the term “humanitarian.” Anyone who knows me is aware of my long and fierce work with so many to bring an end to the circumcision of minors. I have written extensively on it since the 1980s and many of my commentaries are on the Internet. I devote so much energy to bringing an end to the cruel and unethical practice of circumcision because it has been so under the radar and so many parents are mindless to what they are authorizing. Seemingly, “they know not what they do.” Admittedly, I never look at parents the same way again after I have learned they had their son(s) circumcised. It is inexcusable.
One of the sad truths is that most people don’t challenge injustice. In general, we are a docile society where most folks don’t question authority. They may finally go along with change only after the advocates and activisits have done all the heavy lifting. Apathy, silence and inaction give license to injustice to continue.
Circumcision in the U.S. is highly inappropriate, but sadly not illegal. The cultural practice — religious circumcision aside — got established through the cunning and pseudo-science of doctors and social engineers like Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the medical profession that developed in the 20th century that hoodwinked parents into allowing cutting off foreskins from the innocent for a number of bogus reasons. Today we have the circumcising industry that so many people cannot recognize for what it is, the violation of the genital rights of another human being without his consent.
Fortunately, the circumcisers are on the run as growing droves of people are speaking out and writing against it. In 2010, the Internet has exploded with blogs and Facebook exchanges of links to TV, radio, newspaper and magazine accounts of the debate. We intactivists have been furiously getting the information out there and finding many new supporters. More and more expectant parents are waking up to the fact that foreskins belong on males as nature intended. Many of us respond to the “comment” section of news articles. Here is one I wrote in response to a pretty lame article Friday in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“The Upper Midwest, progressive in so many ways, just can’t get it right about circumcision, a cruel, unjustified, arcane practice. Where are parental instincts when it comes to cutting off healthy, living, purposeful body structures? Don’t you see the sheer hypocristy of being repulsed by cutting off parts of girls’ genitals in Africa but you don’t flinch at what is commonly done to boys? Don’t you realize why nature put that there? We left our son intact 35 years ago because it sounded cruel and perverse. How shallow to think that you can cut off a body part to spare a boy being teased. Girls get teased in the showers for their chests and no one is proposing surgery on them. Wise up folks, circumcision is de facto sexual assault on the helpless.”
Recently, National Public Radio, normally a responsible outlet, had a one-sided segment that drew hundreds of comments of outrage. NPR’s ombudsmen, Alicia Shepard, tried to make amends for the clumsy program on Sept. 9. The American medical industry, whose doctors take the Hippocratic Oath to “First Do No Harm,” has capitalized on misinformed, uninformed parents and has chosen to trivialize the foreskin to perpetuate circumcision. Doctors shamelessly don’t care how stupid expectant parents are with their reasons to have their sons’ penises reduced and forever altered. For $200 to $400 for a few minutes work, why would they care about parents’ shallow and unjustified reasons are to clip foreskins. Cosmetic surgery on helpless babies is easy money. Parents couldn’t get the docs to trim trivial boy ear lobes. The most loving, well-meaning parents should not have the right to order the cutting off of healthy structures from the bodies of off-spring.
Edward Wallenstein spoke out in the mid-1980s on TV. The author of “Circumcision: An American Fallacy,” sought 25 years ago to expose the circumcision industry that so relies on gullible, unthinking parents who ought to know better. . It remains a scandal for thousands of defenseless babies daily to be genitally altered forever. It doesn’t take a humanitarian to understand that.