It Is What It Is ... But should It Be?

Santa Clarita Signal • Opinion Column • Ethically Speaking • August 24, 2014

 It Is What It Is ... But Should It Be?

David W. Hegg

Recently I read a study on English language clichés which named “it is what it is” as the most annoying. It started me thinking about the sentiment behind this declaration we all either use or hear regularly.

I first heard this cliché from my sister-in-law who began using it years ago. Now I hear it everywhere. Things didn’t work out as planned? “It is what it is.” Car repair cost was triple what we expected? “It is what it is.” You get the picture. What once was a clever, even shocking statement of the obvious has become so common it’s now annoying for its repetition.

But there is more to it than just another annoying, overused cliché. Let’s dissect it a bit.

For some “it is what it is” declares an understanding of reality. Bad things happen. Cars break. People disappoint. There is a certain amount of wisdom in seeing the way things are and accepting them. Many use this phrase to mentally walk away from the anxiety they feel facing problems with impossible solutions. It becomes a mechanism for emotional restraint and mental stability. When they say it, they mean “the situation can’t be changed, and getting mad or worrying won’t help, so I’m just going to admit the reality I am facing and get on with life.”

But for many more “it is what it is” has become more than acceptance. It masks a deep resignation combined with a passionate reluctance to admit accountability, either for the situation or for any responsibility to make it better.

What we need to be saying is this: “It is what it is, but should it be? it is what it is, but should we let it stay that way?”

I am increasingly appalled at the lack of personal accountability in our nation today. We are becoming much too comfortable with realities we have created ourselves through laziness, selfishness, or ineptitude. Further, we find ourselves resigned to these realities and lack the fortitude to admit our faults and get to work on real solutions.

More kids are having sex in their teens. “It is what it is.” Poverty is overtaking more and more people. “It is what it is.” We’re running short on water, are dependent on foreign oil, and healthcare costs are spiraling. “It is what it is.” Racism is rampant, honor and integrity are old fashioned, and God has been almost completely banished from the public square. “O well, it is what it is.”

There are times when recognizing reality and refusing to get embroiled in it can be the better part of wisdom. But there are also times to shove convenience and complacency aside and get after changing things that damage us and will seriously hurt our children.

So, let’s resign ourselves never to be resigned in the face of challenges needing to be met, problems needing to be solved, wrongs needing to be righted, and ideas needing to be opposed and corrected.

What is may not be what needs to be. And we must fight the good fight lest one day we wake up and find that those creating our nation’s reality have decided to no longer include us. At that point we may find ourselves admitting that “what is” can no longer be changed to “what should be.”