It seems fitting that backers of a circumcision ban coming to San Francisco voters this year would resort to using cartoon images since it’s a campaign bordering on comical.
I try to avoid giving voice to the more outlandish eruptions in local politics, which is why I took a pass on the silly venture to name a sewage plant after President George W. Bush some years back. But supporters of the measure to ban a practice dating back thousands of years have unveiled some images that could easily be taken as anti-Semitic, which is why the joke stops here.
Proponents of the anti-circumcision measure recently unveiled a comic strip on their website featuring a character known as “Foreskin Man” who does battle with some dark, evil-looking rabbis, including a very sinister “Monster Mohel” who comes with this unsettling description.
“Nothing excites Monster Mohel more than cutting into the infantile penis flesh of an eight day old boy.”
This is not Archie and Veronica, or even Thor and his mighty hammer. The fact that the superhero is blonde and Aryan-looking does not help the message much, not that any campaign instrument could be more blunt than the whole idea contained in the so-called “male genital mutilation” movement.
The leader of the group, Matthew Hess, has defended his organization’s attempt at comic satire, telling reporters that it’s not ant-Semitic, but rather pro-human rights.
The problem is that the backers of the ban want to be taken seriously, and the off-putting cartoon series seem to undercut their intentions. The fact that they’ve seemed to get a stronghold in San Francisco doesn’t help much either since our fair city has long been known as a repository for the ridiculous.
Of course, Jewish organizations around the country are not laughing off the measure which would make circumcising any male under the age of 18 illegal, even for religious purposes. In the unlikely event the proposal was to pass, practitioners could face a misdemeanor charge punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
“We believe the proposed local referendum on circumcision is likely illegal and surely an affront to all people of good will,” was one response from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, noting that it shows little of the “progressive tolerance” for which San Francisco is known.
Let’s face it, a circumcision ban measure doesn’t belong on an election ballot, it belongs in a circular bin. Why not rouse support against breast enhancement or unnatural hair plugs? A call to end liposuction would be far more sensible.
The truth is — no matter how one feels about circumcision — medical data shows that boys that have undergone the procedure have fewer infections and could provide some protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
But the biggest reason that this push against a commonly accepted practice should be rejected is that it’s a personal decision not a political one. Parents can choose to have the procedure done or not, it’s that simple.
And that’s why backers of the ban, who call themselves “intactivists,” have not gained any traction despite sending the idea to 2,800 legislators around the country. The state of Massachusetts debated it briefly before the proposal was tossed. The only other place that apparently is taking it seriously is our southern coastal sister in Santa Monica, which has worked hard over the years to earn the title, “People’s Republic.”
So it’s entirely predictable that San Francisco would be ground zero for the first test of a plan that will fade like the summer sun. Just about every wacky idea conceived in the political arena has found a temporary home here, from naming dog owners pet guardians to trying to snatch happy meal toys away from kids as a nutritional lesson.
San Francisco loves distractions — our ballots are filled with them every year and proponents of wild schemes sit on our boards and commissions. We get nudist activists and cab drivers who can’t stay out of jail running for mayor.
Yet this latest snippet, which paints Jewish religious figures as malevolent sadists, is distasteful even by our limbo-low standards. It would be nice to send the intactivists a very active message, and let them stick to comic book figures.