Every generation has their controversial topics: the 1910’s had women’s suffrage, Civil Rights from 1950-1960, Vietnam War during the 1960s, and Nuclear weapons in the 1980s are among some of the most hotly debated topics in recent American history. Today we have same-sex marriage, abortion, climate change, and animal testing as the most (relative) debated topics of the 2010’s. For every controversial topic, we have had passionate people fervently fighting for their beliefs, usually the younger generation fights against the more conservative older generation.
Statistically, the older generation has been the most reluctant to change their views and ideologies as they do not want to change something that they have been comfortable with for most of their lives. Today we see it most prominently with same-sex marriage with age being inversely proportional as when age goes up, support for same-sex marriage goes down. We often see this in our personal lives as well with our parents telling us how they used to do things “their” way, showing extreme hesitance when you tell them how colleges now look at a more diverse requirements than compared to the past requirements. Humans in general are extremely reluctant to change the usual as that means when things change there are unknowns and humans love dealing in the known.
We see this extreme conservatism in the Puritan communities when they shame individuals that do not believe in the community’s ideologies, this can be seen in history when the Puritans exiled Anne Hutchinson for her beliefs of antinomianism. They were so unwilling to change that they were willing to exile another human being; exiling eventually lead to entire communities losing their sense of individualism. Everyone became part of a uniform mold with the same ideals, beliefs, and mindsets, there was nothing except physical characteristics to distinguish each other. As religion was a dominant force in New England at the time, all the outcasts that were shunned eventually came together to create the colony of Rhode Island, a colony that was known for its diverse group of citizens and that there was no dominant church that forced its rules upon the people. We can see how extreme conservatism destroys the individual and creates a homogeneous community.
In literature, this is seen very distinctly in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in which the main protagonist, Hester, is shamed for committing adultery by the town’s inhabitants yet the town’s inhabitants are not sinless themselves, even if they act like it. Hester’s child, the result of her adultery, is seen as a spawn of Satan which is a conclusion that is completely unfair for the child; she didn’t choose to be born from a mother that committed adultery yet most of the village insists on taking away the baby from her mother even if the mother is at fault, not the baby. As group shaming is very prominent in Puritan communities, even Hester’s old husband (Chillingsworth) nor Hester’s illegitimate partner (Dimmesdale) want to acknowledge their roles as if they did it would be social suicide. The limiting effect that a conservative, unaccepting community on an individual can be seen here as both Chillingsworth and Dimmesdale both can’t express themselves as an individual due to the fear of the community.
Relating back to the world today, the conservative older generation in the past often justify their beliefs with outdated reasoning such as “It ain’t right” or “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”, both of which are completely illegitimate reasoning for support against a controversy as serious as same-sex marriage. We often preach a separation of church and state yet we use religious reasoning to support out beliefs, beliefs that sometimes prevent others from their pursuit of happiness. The common saying of if you don’t like same-sex marriage, than don’t be in one holds true here; who are we to hold back others from doing what makes them happy. If it does not personally involve or affect you, there is no need to impede on other’s liberties, the sexual preferences of others should not matter to you in any way what so ever. Change is progress, progress is unavoidable, the faster we conform and adopt to changing times the faster we will progress. Therefore there is no need to adopt such a conservative mindset, it will only hinder progress.