>Pen vs. Sword

2 May

>Comments to my posting on the possibility that San Franciscans could find themselves voting on a measure to ban circumcising males has taken an interesting turn: at what point ought the State to intervene?

In broader terms, this is a question of persuasion versus compulsion, of the word and example as opposed to the courtroom and the force of arms. I found myself at an impasse for a useful example until I picked up a biography of automotive pioneer Elwood P. Haynes.

Haynes was a lifelong advocate of both Temperance and Prohibition. In the two, you have about as nice an example of the effects of convincing and those of coercing as anyone could want.

The Temperance movement in the ‘States dissuaded a great many persons from the drinking of alcoholic beverages, primarily by rallies, sermons and essays, but also by offering alternatives: Temperance fountains, for one; even healthy sport was put forward as a way to keep young people from drinking, By and large, it was a successful movement; while it didn’t run saloons out of existence or put an end to domestic abuse — it is from that time that stereotype of the drunken wife-beater emerged, not without some justification, and Temperance advocates were quick to take correlation for causation — it did bring about a general reduction in drinking (or at least the acceptability of drunkeness).

But as happens with many such a movement, it wasn’t enough for the group; alcohol was so vile in its effects, advocates argued, it ought to be banned by law. After a long, hard slog, it was banned, state by state at first and ultimately by Constitutional Amendment.

…And somehow, we failed to enter into a new era of peace and happiness; the drunk who might — might! — in an earlier time have stumbled to the fore at a Temperance meeting and renounced the bottle “forever” was now doing business with criminals and kept his silence along with his bottle. As time went on, criminality became widespread; by the Roaring Twenties, many a person who might otherwise have barely (if at all) consumed beer, wine or spirits found themselves in a rollicking underground; and if you were going to flout the law to the extent of one drink, why, in for a penny, in for a pound: might as well have six!

Prohibition in the United States was, among other ill effects, the single greatest boon organized crime ever received. A measure that was supposed to make civil society more civilized had precisely the opposite effect.

There’s my example; there’s what happens when you substitute men with guns for orators, inflexible laws for moral conviction. It’s what happens when you screw the valve shut on a pressure cooker: something’s going to go POW!

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12 Responses to “>Pen vs. Sword”

  1. Nathan 2 May 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    >Frankly, I don't see anywhere in the Constitution that gives the government any power to regulate circumcision.But if that power is actually there, I want to outlaw tramp stamps on pretty girls.

  2. Roberta X 2 May 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    >Excellent point. (And one well-taken by Prohibitionists).

  3. Nathan 2 May 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    >Funny thing. My lodge in Broad Ripple was a hotbed of the WCTU. In fact, when the big lodge building on Guilford was built in 1907, the couple that donated the money to build it stipulated that the WCTU must have a room in the building in perpetuity.My guess is that there could probably be a lot of electricity generated at their gravesites given that the building now houses businesses that deal in Demon Rum.

  4. og 2 May 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    >It doesn't help that the average person knows as much about circumcision as about the constitution, as in anxious to jump in with their "feelings" about what they think thye are.WV Xecons. Extraterrestrial conservatives.

  5. perlhaqr 2 May 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    >Nathan: A.) State vs: Federal.B.) I agree, but how far should that go? The Constitution doesn't give the government any power to regulate FGC either, and frankly that's some horrifying shit.In a study of infibulation in the Horn of Africa, Pieters observed that the procedure involves extensive tissue removal of the external genitalia, including all of the labia minora and the inside of the labia majora. The labia majora are then held together using thorns or stitching. In some cases the girl's legs have been tied together for two to six weeks, to prevent her from moving and to allow the healing of the two sides of the vulva. Nothing remains but the walls of flesh from the pubis down to the anus, with the exception of an opening at the inferior portion of the vulva to allow urine and menstrual blood to pass through. Generally, a practitioner recognized as having the necessary skill carries out this procedure, and a local anesthetic is used. However, when carried out "in the bush", infibulation is often performed by an elderly matron or midwife of the village, without sterile procedure or anesthesia.Likewise it doesn't give the government any power to regulate foot binding.It was generally an elder female member of the girl's family or a professional foot binder who carried out the initial breaking and ongoing binding of the feet. This was considered preferable to having the mother do it, as she might have been sympathetic to her daughter's pain and less willing to keep the bindings tight. A professional foot binder would ignore the girl's cries and would continue to bind her feet as tightly as possible. Professional foot binders would also tend to be more extreme in the initial breaking of the feet, sometimes breaking each of the toes in two or three separate places, and even completely dislocating the toes to allow them to be pressed under and bound more tightly. This would cause the girl to suffer from devastating foot pain, but her feet were more likely to achieve the 7 cm (3 in) ideal. The girl was not allowed to rest after her feet had been bound; however much pain she was suffering, she was required to walk on her broken and bound feet, so that her own body weight would help press and crush her feet into the desired shape.Unlike my sinister amputation hypothetical from the last thread, these are real cultural traditions, practiced by people for 1000 years in the case of foot binding, and 2100+ years for FGC.C.) There's a significant difference between an adult woman getting a tattoo, and a minor child having these things done to them by someone else.——I don't know. I just feel like someone needs to protect the right of children to grow up unmutilated.

  6. og 2 May 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    >"C.) There's a significant difference between an adult woman getting a tattoo, and a minor child having these things done to them by someone else."There's also a significant difference between circumcision and FGM or foot binding. Hundreds of millions of men who have been circumcised as children have been living perfectly normal happy and fulfilling lives without that useless piece of skin for thousands of years. The same can not be said for women whose genitals were mutilated, nor for women whose feet were bound. Foot binding and genital mutilation are also NEVER performed as a necessary medical procedure, as circumcision is. Infection and irritation as well as phimosis are common causes adult males need to be circumcised, and commonly, men who have been circumcised as an adult have enjoyed the improved sensation as a result of the operation.Additionally, though the anti crowd has downplayed this and claimed it is untrue, the HPV virus can be harbored beneath the foreskin and transmitted, endangering the individual's partner. Having attended several circumcisions, the discomfort to the child is less than an average case of diaper rash, and lasts for less time. In an hour, the baby is invariably happy and laughing and playing again. It's more traumatic as an adult. The medical benefits/detriments have been argued forever. I don't have a dog in the fight either way either, because I'm already cut. If I wanted to, I can buy an appliance that will let me grow it back, if it's that damned important, which it is not.

  7. Anonymous 2 May 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    >Both my father and father-in-law had to be circumcised for medical reasons at ages 10 and 42 respectively and they both said it was incredibly painful, even with anasthesia. For that reason, my father had decided I should be circumcised early and I made the same choice for my son.

  8. Roberta X 2 May 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    >Okay, here's a hyperthetical (as we say down to the five and dime): malnurition leads to lifetime problems, even deformity; so if there is such concern over the well-being and physical integrity of children other than one's own, ought the government feed them, too? Alcohol and smoking expose the unborn to great harm; hadn't some agency keep expectant mothers from using tobacco, intoxicating beverages or worse?…My question remains not the slippery-slope of "when does it stop" but the admittedly harsh, "why should it start?"

  9. og 2 May 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    >I am not even remotely interested in forcing anyone to circumcise OR feed their child. Or anything of the sort. Arguing that circumcision is akin to female genital mutilation or foot binding, on the other hand, is risible. There can be no meaningful comparison. Making it the law? Too many laws already. WV: Fledum. The anatomical name of the prepuce of the third and fourth penises of Andorrians.

  10. Roberta X 2 May 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    >But what of forcing them not to?

  11. og 2 May 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    >"too many laws already"

  12. John B 3 May 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    >As I've always said, There ought to be a law against people who say, or think, There ought to be a law!

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