Because a Middle East nomad wrote a myth during the Bronze Age, U.S. males routinely have their healthy flesh mutilated at birth in a procedure as painful and unnecessary as slicing off an earlobe.
In the tale, Yahweh told 99-year-old Abraham that his nonagenarian wife would give birth to Isaac, and that the subsequent generations would make Abe the patriarch of a favored nation. Yahweh asked in return that Abraham and his male descendants be circumcised. So, to continue being blessed, Jewish parents then and now practice the procedure.
It consists of strapping down and restraining a baby, then cutting off the foreskin, dividing tissues that don’t come apart easily. This is so painful that some African and South Pacific religions use it as an initiation ritual for teenagers. Being able to weather highly-innervated tissue being cut off shows that the youngster is worthy of manhood.
For those born into other religions, specifically Judaism and Islam, the procedure is performed at birth. Even though Christians reject most Old Testament rules, slicing off parts of infant penises is one that has been kept.
There is one other religious reason that infant circumcision has remained the norm in the U.S. In 19th Century America, circumcision was part of the anti-masturbation movement. For reasons unclear, crusaders believed removing the foreskin would take away the pleasure and thereby discourage boys from accessing the self-service pump. I know I’m not much on anecdotal evidence, but I can attest this is an ineffective strategy. While this theory, and anti-Onanism in general has fallen out of favor, the accompanying circumcision has endured.
Some of the reasons cited by circumcision advocates are so that the baby will look like his father, or would be made fun of in adolescence, or be unattractive to potential mates. These are horrible justifications for subjecting a baby to an unnecessary painful procedure that slices away a healthy, functioning part of the body. Another pro-snip plank is that an intact penis can produce a buildup of sebum and skin cells, but this innocuous substance easily washes away.
There are rare times that circumcision makes sense, such as in instances of penile cancer. But wholesale whacking is as nonsensical as removing breasts from every developing female in order to preempt breast cancer. If we performed routine infant appendectomies, appendicitis would be eliminated. But we don’t do that because of the risk/reward analysis. Abdominal surgery is too dangerous to justify without there being an immediate need.
While uncommon, there are instances of babies suffering long-term effects from circumcision. These effects include deformity, infection, amputation, and death. This century in New York City, at least 11 babies have been infected with herpes when Ultraorthodox rabbis passed the disease onto them during a hybrid of religious ritual and sexual assault. In this rite, rabbis slice the newborn’s penis, then suck the blood out. There have been at least two infant deaths that have resulted from this contracting of herpes. That’s a mighty steep price to prevent potential mocking in a middle school locker room.