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The Trauma of Circumcision
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. – Carl Jung
I typed “C I R C U M C I S I O N” into my computer. I was not prepared for what I saw next.
A screaming baby. Contorted face. Rigid body.
A tiny, tender, vulnerable, newborn baby boy who had been curled up in a ball for nine months in the womb, stretched out and strapped down spread-eagle. Erect penis. Clamps. Razor sharp scalpel. Blood.
I turned away. Closed my eyes. One moment and I had already seen more than enough for a lifetime.
Knives and blood? Genitals and screaming? This is what is euphemistically called “circumcision”?
It was just a photo, but my whole life was there in that moment with that baby – heart racing, adrenalin pumping, every muscle tensing, fighting, squirming, struggling, screaming, crying, trying with all my might to get away from that knife.
Knowing, due to my work in mental health, that trauma imprinted a mind, I saw a disaster in the making — an innocent consciousness being welded to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness, loneliness, isolation, terror, panic, anger, sex, and violence.
I couldn’t help but wonder, Where is that baby now?… and What is his life like today? Is he happy and peaceful? Or has he lived his entire life kicking and screaming in reaction to this long-forgotten trauma? Does he avoid people? Push them away? Run away? Does he then wonder why? Does he leave disaster in his wake?
Does he scream aloud or cry inside, “You don’t really love me. Leave me alone! Don’t touch me! Go away! I hate you!” Is he one of the many men who commit suicide at four times the rate of women?
Quite frankly, honestly and simply, in that photo I saw rape.
If the victim had been an adult, a girl child – or even an animal – the abuser would be jailed and newspapers all over the world would be up in arms about it. If people knew what the practice entailed, they would no longer used the sanitized word, circumcision, but they would call it what it is: inhumane, rape, torture, sexual mutilation, assault and battery.
I wondered, How can we be so seemingly oblivious to the harm this practice causes?
Maybe because – like me – so few people are actually aware of what circumcision really is. We’ve been given the whitewashed version. And then I read that this baby is only one of more than a million baby boys who are circumcised each year in the United States. One every 26 seconds.
No wonder, I sighed. No wonder there are so many lonely, unhappy, desperate, confused, frustrated, angry men.
It would be difficult to imagine a more insidious wound to the body and psyche than this common practice: routine infant circumcision, but here it is — made public on the Internet — and now on the screen of my computer.
Physically restraining an infant. Handling his genitals. Cutting on their tender skin. Altering their form, structure and function. Changing his relationship to his body and sexuality forever.
If we could see circumcision from a rational, objective perspective, we would surely have to classify it as the most extreme form of childhood sexual abuse: baby rape. And if we were honest with ourselves, we would have to stop and shake our heads at the ignorance of our ancestors.
Why on earth would anyone ever do this to a baby? There has to be a very emotional, irrational element to circumcision.
Violence. Cutting! An irreversible mutilation!
From my crisis counseling work, I knew that abuse is especially devastating when it happens to children before they have words for it. The terror is welded to every cell of children’s bodies — and as adults they have a difficult time in life. Circumcision leaves both physical and psychological scars.
I could only guess what the world would be like today if the United States hadn’t been cutting a majority of its male infants for the past 60 years. Common sense says, if we had been kinder to our babies, they might have grown up to be kinder, gentler, happier, healthier adults. Earth might be a kinder, gentler, happier, healthier planet.
The implications of this terror, intentionally inflicted by human hands on babies, instantly overshadows nearly every other concern I have ever had about my life and the world in general.
Could circumcision be the root of man’s inhumanity to man?
No matter how cruel, every perpetrator has first been a victim and here we are, manufacturing potential perpetrators every time we cut an infant.
Is it only a coincidence that the only three cultures that circumcise their young are at war in the Middle East? Yes, Jews, English-speaking Christians and Muslims are the only three cultures that circumcise their young.
I had no idea what would happen when I typed “C I R C U M C I S I O N” into my computer. That was a long, deep journey in a very short space of time. A fast lesson in a shocking truth. I sat back in my chair.
This is it. A clue to exponentially improving the quality of life on this planet, to take one tiny step toward the healing of what I have always called “man’s inhumanity to man.”
How on earth did such an odd and awful practice begin, anyway? Turning back to my computer, I began to read… and I read and read… For years I read and researched this subject, until I finally found out it had happened to me. Suddenly my men made sense, my life made sense… and then I wrote my book.
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