Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When Dog Ownership is Violence and Cutting Your Son is Freedom

I learned something new the other day. I casually mentioned my dog, Butters, while at the playground. I laughed a little and said, "I never thought I would be a dog owner, but he sure is cute!" The lady I was talking to did not respond with amusement. Her face remained flat as she sternly rebuked me. "Dog ownership is a form of violence. It is wrong to own another living being. I am an animal companion."

We have reached a fascinating step in mankind's development. We have reached a time where we are dedicated to eradicating any form of violence against any living being. To smack a dog on the nose is abuse. To cut its tail is an unspeakable horror.

And I certainly find nothing wrong with that stance. Hurting another living being does not receive defense from me. I do not punitively care for my dog, despite the inadvertent use of a politically incorrect label. I guess my doggie companion will forgive my verbally violent labeling even if this society cannot.

What I find most hysterically concerning is actually the inconsistency in applying an affront to violence. Are we actually opposing violence because it is violence? Or do we select specific forms of it and specific victims to suit our own emotional needs?

I have an analogy, one that I have shared during those terse and unpleasant times when human violence activists begin to pick and choose what violence they oppose and what violence they support. They make bold attempts to oppose violence while still loudly supporting it in another way.

Let's say, within the expanding field of prenatal surgery, that a mother is now able to choose elective circumcision surgery on her son while he is still in her womb. Thanks to the miraculous advance of technology and medical precision, at the mere gestational age of 17 weeks, doctors can use a delicate laser to accurately remove every bit of the male's foreskin long before he is born.

Would someone who opposes circumcision but supports reproductive choice still support the mother in this situation? Would someone who opposes surgical abortion but supports parental circumcision choice still support the mother in this situation? Or will their heads merely explode after reading this analogy, as they refuse to acknowledge their hypocrisy and lash out at the messenger? Perhaps, then, the two parties will find unity in their contradiction.

If you oppose a mother electing to have a surgeon cut a piece of flesh off the body of her son after he is born, will you still oppose the mother electing this if her son is inside her womb? Is it not her reproductive choice to do as she desires while pregnant?

Will you only attempt to educate or dissuade the mother if the organ being destroyed is the foreskin? What if she decides to pay for other cosmetic changes? What if she decides to surgically alter her daughter in the womb?

If you say that circumcising a small, defenseless human being out of preference, desire, or misinformed and uneducated reasons is wrong, is painful, is violent, is inhumane, is you only feel this way when the flesh removed from him is a foreskin? And only after he is born? What about if an arm is removed? A leg? At what gestational age is it repugnant? At 12 weeks? Or 22 weeks? Or maybe only the last trimester?

Oh, I do not hold only one party to the wall here. Let us not overlook the screaming, red-faced activists who vehemently oppose abortion. Life is precious! Unless you are a baby boy. Abortion is violent! But cutting a newborn's genitals is loving. We are pro-life! Except for when we want to risk our sons' for sexual preferences. She's a person, not a choice! He's my son, it's my choice! Ah, how the gaps grow wider.

If people are only now becoming aware of the level of violence against completely defenseless living beings, I see nothing wrong with giving them space to continue to soften their heart and adjust their ethics.

If someone has not stopped to think about what it means to dig a sharp tool down between the prepuce and penile shaft, to rip the two apart, and then to clamp and cut the organ off as the newborn is tied down to the circumstraint board and fully conscious, I hope she stops to think now.

If someone has not stopped to think about what it means to locate the being inside the womb, cut him into pieces small enough to vacuum out, reconstruct his body to ensure no pieces of him were left behind, then send him nameless and forgotten off for incineration, I hope she stops to think now.

What underlying need is more important than the plight of these tiny living beings? To be esteemed by friends? To be accepted into a group? To look as if you are saying the right thing and doing the right thing? What would cause a person to oppose violence against him in the womb, but then turn a blind eye to his bloody genitals after birth? What would cause a person to rally against the scalpel when applied to the penis, but fall silent when applied to his entire body?

I think back to an incident after the birth of my third son. For the first time in my mothering journey, I flinched while clipping the fingernails of my baby. I barely clamped down on the top of his finger, not even breaking the skin. He awakened immediately, eyes wide with fright, and began screaming. I felt a wave wash over me as I held him. What kind of wave must parents harden their hearts against when they sign the papers for something that cuts as deep as circumcision and as final as abortion?

If I cannot stand to clamp the tip of his finger accidentally, if I cannot so much as clamp the flesh on my son's penis after he is born, I certainly cannot clamp his arms and feet, nor crush his skull, nor have his tiny body sucked up into a tube to be incinerated. Circumcision, this thing some people consider to be a "snip" is a severe, deep human rights violation. The concept of dismembering his entire body, then, must be unbearable.

This aspect of ignoring violence has always perplexed me. If a woman, going back to my dog example, refuses to call herself a "dog owner" as she finds the concept of owning an animal to be a form of violence, what then of actual violence committed against defenseless beings?

If uttering a word is violent, if snipping foreskin is violent, what then, is this thing, this choice we can barely utter in close company, this magical "A" word, that involves crushing entire bodies and incinerating them as mere hospital waste?

So, you see, when activists from various topics mingle and begin to shout at each other, asserting who is the least violent and who holds the most important stance, I have to bring up my analogy about prenatal surgery.

Of course, I find that focusing on one topic at a time is sometimes necessary. People need to work through things, they need to reconsider, grapple, learn, and grow. Toss too much at them and it can shut them down or turn them off to your thoughts. I get that. I also think the forest is filled with birds and each bird has a unique song. Focus on what your talent is and share it with the world. If you lack experience or insight when it comes to a particular topic, leave it for others who have their heart in it.

That being said, in the continuum of consistent upholding of living beings' rights, it's clear that we cannot hold contradictory viewpoints on the aspect of violence against defenseless and innocent living beings. Either we oppose forced cutting, or we don't. All this talk about it being just a prick or  it being justified because it's the mother's choice or refusing to enter the debate because whatever parents choose to do is their right  is merely a socially acceptable way to express our apathy when it comes to protecting the bodily integrity of other living beings.

Perhaps, after that lady informed me that she is not a dog owner, I should have smiled brightly and responded, "I understand! I am not a child owner."

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