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CIRCUMCISION, MOM, BASEBALL, and APPLE PIE by Donald Morgan (email@example.com) Copyright 1996, Donald Morgan [This article was published in the June 1996 issue of _Sound Views_, monthly newsletter of the Humanists of North Puget Sound, La Conner, WA] The nonreligious circumcision (NRC) of American males is as American as mom, baseball, and apple pie. In fact, it is a uniquely American custom which is not duplicated in any other country in the world. While the vast majority of American males are circumcised, the vast majority of the world's males are not. The practice here, for example, contrasts sharply with that of the Scandinavian countries where NRC is not, and never has been, routinely practiced and where it is estimated that less than 5% of all males are circumcised. The current rate of NRC in the United States is now about 70%, down from its peak in the late 1960s when about 95% of all newborn males who were born in hospitals were circumcised. In some regions, notably the Midwest and the Northeast, the NRC rate remains at almost 90%. In others, notably California, it is considerably less. Still, NRC remains the norm in most areas of the country. This is especially true in the case of white, middle-class America. Few Americans likely realize that NRC was originally promoted in this country in the last half of the 19th century in an attempt to curb masturbation and the countless ills and dire consequences that were thought to be associated with it. Here is one of the many examples which could be cited reflecting the then current wisdom regarding masturbation: In all cases which male children are suffering nerve tension, confirmed derangement of the digestive organs, restlessness, irritability, and other disturbances of the nervous system, even to chorea, convulsions, and paralysis, or where through nerve waste the nutritive facilities of the general system are below par and structural diseases are occurring, circumcision should be considered as among the lines of treatment to be pursued. [Charles E. Fisher, M.D., A Handbook on the Diseases of Children ...., Chicago: Medical Century Co., 1895, p. 875] In fact, there was hardly an illness or disease that could not be, and was not, attributed to masturbation. In addition to those previously mentioned, the list included insanity, blindness, epilepsy, convulsions, tuberculosis--you name it. Often, a drastic circumcision performed without anaesthesia was the preferred "treatment." Dr. Kellogg, founder of the corn flake company bearing his name, had this to say: A remedy for masturbation which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision.... The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering anaesthetic, as the pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment. [John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., Plain Facts for Young and Old, Burlington, Iowa: F. Segner & Co., 1888, p.