Against Conformity

Against Conformity

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"Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth." – John F. Kennedy. When we allow ourselves to conform to what our friends, family or society asks of us, we lose the ability to grow into our own persons. Conformity, however, is more than just the 13 year old middle school girl wearing UGG Boots and an Abercrombie hoodie in order to fit in. It is more then only listening to the top 40 radio stations and watching American Idol so you have something to add to the conversation that your co- workers are having over stale, company supplied coffee. Conformity is a killer. It attacks the week and strangles them until their true self dies and a new person is created. This new person disregards all values they once held in high regard and will do anything to not be perceived as different. The funny thing about this killer is people are more than willing to give into his pressure in order to seem "normal". Sometimes it is easier to be obedient and do and feel as people say you should in order to avoid trouble. Sometimes it is easier to blend in to the crowd then to be crucified for being different. Why would anyone really want to be different? Society tells us different is bad. Different is weird. We are taught from the beginning that different is not what you want to be, it's not a safe bet. So people are willing to give in to the pressures of society in order to be "safe". People's willingness to give into conformity is shown in the literary pieces entitled "What is a homosexual?" by Andrew Sullivan and "Salvation" by Langston Hughes. Both show what great lengths people will go to in order to slide under the radar of public opinion and criticism.
In "Salvation" Langston Hughes describes an event in his childhood when he pretended to be saved by Jesus Christ in order to save his congregation more aggravation and trouble. At the age of 12 Hughes was called a sinner. He was placed on the mourners bench in his church with several other children who were about to be brought to "the fold". Hughes was told that he would "feel Jesus" in his soul, and he believed them because they were older and supposedly knew better.

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He waited and waited but nothing. No bright light, no chorus of music, no bearded man in a white robe, only Hughes contemplating whether to stick it out or to just give up and conform like the other lambs. Hughes still didn't feel anything and after seeing that Westley had not been struck down by lightning for lying, he decided to cut his losses and head up to the alter with the rest of the children. Hughes deceived the congregation into believing that he had been saved when he was in fact the furthest thing from it. He was in fact more lost than ever. Hughes felt that if he did not pretend to be saved he would have been looked down upon by his congregation. He conformed in order to avoid confrontation and to make other people happy. He did not conform because he wanted to; he did it because he felt he had to. This caused Hughes complete loss of faith in religion forever.
Another example of conformity is shown in Andrew Sullivan piece entitled "What is a homosexual?" Sullivan discusses what it is like to have grown up as a homosexual. Sullivan states that a gay adolescents "survival depends upon self concealment". He goes on to say that "No homosexual child, surrounded overwhelmingly by heterosexuals, will feel at home in his sexual and emotional world, even in the most tolerant of cultures." Society often simply tells us, heterosexual good, homosexual bad. Because of this, many homosexuals feel they must hide their true identity in order to be accepted. They will go to any length to disguise who they are and how they truly feel in order to be accepted. However society should not make homosexuals feel like they need to be something they are not due to the fact that being a homosexual is not a choice. Society pressures homosexuals to "act" like they are straight when in reality that is not who they really are. Our culture is so afraid of what they don't know or cannot understand that they force people of different sexual preferences to either be quite or conform. So that is what Sullivan did, he was quite and conformed to what society asked of him. He threw himself into his school work and never admitted to anyone that he was a homosexual. Sullivan also talks about "ultimate disguises". Some of these include the sports jock, the altar boy and the young conservative. Homosexual children will often go so far in their quest to hide who they truly are, that they change their personality so they are not discovered.
"Salvation" by Langston Hughes and "What is a homosexual" by Andrew Sullivan are very similar in many ways. Both took place during the writers adolescent time period, which is a very fragile time in a person's life. One may argue that most conformity occurs in the younger years because children are more naive and willing to please. Because children are so willing to do what adults and society say is right, they are sometimes left losing a part of their childhood that can affect them forever. Because the adults in Hughes life called him a sinner and forced him to feel something he did not he lost his faith in religion forever. Sullivan was forced to keep his sexual preference a secret for fear that he wouldn't be accepted by his peers. Both authors conformed to the pressures around them, Hughes pressure was his family, while Sullivan's was society.
We are all naturally afraid of rejection. No one wants to be socially rejected. Because of this fear we are so willing to conform in order to be accepted. We will do anything to be normal, even if it means losing our self. However some people have the strength to overcome the pressure to conform. These people don't have to be the punk rock kids that dye their hair green and listen to hard core rock music. Rather, these people have the strength to be who they truly are, and would not change just because someone says that they are different and weird. Being different is not weird, being different means that you have the strength to stare conformity in the face, then turn and walk away.
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