Sep 29 2010

BillIrwin_Tonys2006_0 I'm not a beacon of courage or advanced thinking on the subject of circumcision. Till I became a father I hadn't thought about it much -- either the history of the practice, or the cutting that most of my generation experienced right after birth. Now I see that this is one of the most important men's health issues of our time -- and one that we choose not to think about much.

Seeing the video about circumcision on Intact America's website (www.intactamerica.org) was stunning. Newborns scream in pain -- the myth that infants don't really feel the cutting doesn't hold up to evidence. It was jarring to hear health care providers, men and women, offering their testimony and perspectives on the brutally of this practice that we somehow have managed not to hear, not to think about, because we've been assured that circumcising our boys is essential.

I'm thankful that my wife started me thinking and researching the question, and that our son was spared circumcision.

I may soon have to change my email address because of the flood of spam I get, mostly from people trying to sell me pharmaceutical products targeted at middle-aged men. I can't help but wonder how many of the problems we men have throughout our lives may have to do with being cut at a few days old. I think we may soon read research on this question.

Part of my life's work as an actor is examining -- and holding a mirror to -- the rage and grievances that men carry through their lives. I can't help but wonder what part circumcision may play in this. I wanted to join Intact America’s Board of Advocates, and support the important work of keeping babies and children’s bodies whole.

As you get older you see the importance of tradition and of cultural continuity, but also of our human capacity to ignore, to leave things in place -- to deny. Finding the path is difficult. But at this late point in my life, I'm finally brought to ask: How is it that custom -- and economics, for circumcision is a market driven practice -- can blind us to this essential question: Why are we wounding our sons at birth?

Actor Bill Irwin is a Tony Award winning actor.