Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Few Things I Don't Get About America - On penis-chopping, and other oddities

Gentle reader,

I love America. However, there are a few things that make me wonder. As a non-native (but long-time resident) I'm calling 'em as I see 'em. Free speech is free speech, right?

First of all, let's get one out of the way that curiously, most people here in the US don't seem to think twice about. I am talking about circumcision, the extaordinarily savage practice of cutting off part of a baby's penis shortly after birth. I get the strange impression that most folks don't think that the baby feels the pain of this pointless operation. Let me assure you, babies feel pain. They are acutely aware of pain just like you or I. Also the oft-quoted excuse "they won't remember it" rings hollow to me. By that logic, is it OK to rape a woman because she is drunk and "won't remember it"? Also, there is little justification for the procedure on medical grounds. I won't belabor this point but allow me to address one common justification: "there is less chance that the baby will get penis cancer". Yeah, and if you chop off my arm I can guarantee you that I won't get cancer in that arm. If you chop off my head I guess it will reduce my chances of getting brain cancer too. I hope that 50 years from now, we will look back and laugh at this practice because it doesn't make any sense. By the way, it also causes desensitization of the head of the penis, which changes sex. For better or worse? Debatable (comments?) but usually nature gets things right and it seems presumptuous to try to change it for no particular reason. I'll leave you with one last thought on this one: how do you feel about female genital mutilation (or the removal of a chunk of the clitoris)? OK, why not apply this same reasoning to male circumcision?

Next, what's with the ritualistic recital of the pledge of allegiance in school? To a person born outside this country, this seems very curious and cult-like. I find mindless recital of anything to be an early indicator of problems ahead. Worship of a country or a flag seems like a type of brain-washing to me. Yeah, we are all living in America, that's great but let's all think for ourselves instead of behaving like mindless sheep.

Moving on, what is the deal with the nudity-phobia? It is strangely incongruous that extreme and senseless violence is shown on TV at all hours of the day, but we're not allowed to see a breast or an ass or a penis. Look folks, we all have these things under our clothing. We are not all just floating heads with nothing but pretty clothing from the neck down. Let's become slightly more comfortable with our bodies and not freak out quite so much. A friend of mine often regales me with a story from when he was at a beach somewhere in France . He was just walking along the beach, and many of the girls were topless. No big deal. Until somewhere from the side, a loud Texas-drawl shouts out "LOOK AT THEYEM TEEYATS!!". Yeah, get over it buddy.

OK, another thing that makes no sense to me: you have to be 21 to be able to get an alcoholic drink. If you're 18 years old it's OK to become a soldier and die in Iraq. But sorry, ya can't have a drink. Enough said on that.

Finally, why is it a big problem to be an atheist in the US? Live and let live. This country loves freedom, right? Then let people believe what they like, or nothing. If they are not hurting you, then leave them alone. It is plain to me that atheists don't feel comfortable admitting that they are atheists in the US. As Richard Dawkins points out, it's like being a gay person in America in the 1950's. That is just plain wrong. In the UK and most of Europe, it's just not a big deal and it shouldn't be in the USA either.

Time for today's quote:

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots. -Barbara Ehrenreich

Until the next time gentle reader I remain, as always,

Your friend,

Buford Twain