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  • Reverend James Squire

"It Is What It Is"

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

It is interesting how a phrase such as “it is what it is” enters public discourse. The President has said it regarding the number of deaths from the pandemic. It is usually interpreted as “that is just the way things are. You can’t do anything about it now”. It is a phrase which locks us into the spoken word in the present and into the past. There doesn’t seem to be any movement forward when you hear it. The phrase calls us to accept an interpretation of reality.

The problem is that it also removes responsibility from the person who is saying it. It refers to something that is inevitable when we know that a change of circumstances could have taken place if we only had a way to go back do things a different way.

A perfect example would have been the revelations by Bob Woodward in his recently released book, Rage, that the President knew as early as January that this would be “the greatest challenge to his presidency”. He chose to not only ignore the reality but also to downplay it. The result has been thousands of more infections and deaths.

“It is what it is” was really meant to indicate that a harsh reality could not be avoided like the fire in California. I haven’t heard anyone say “if only something could have been done earlier regarding the cause of the fire to prevent this tragic occurrence." (Notice that I say start of fire as many of us believe that the fire continued due to climate change.) We can’t control the high winds and dry nature of things in the west. It was a perfect storm of natural events.

But that phrase can be something very important if we hear it and say to ourselves “Could there have been anything that we should have done that could have prevented the fire to start?”

That helps us engage one of the truths that I live by that “everything in life is to be enjoyed or learned from”. If something could have been done, it changes our direction forward making a difference in the future for the good of humankind. The phrase would have a purpose that can redeem what is happening in the present.

When President Trump said those words with a tough interviewer, I was looking for him to follow with a statement such as “it is what it is, but I have now changed the down-playing of the virus and will be encouraging mask wearing, social distancing, and proper hygiene.

I can only contrast two different messages that came about after the release of Bob Woodward’s book. President Trump changed nothing in his response to an approach to the pandemic. His followers still say that the danger of the disease is “fake news”. He is still without a mask. He is still making excuses such as he didn't want to cause a panic. Dr. Fauci, on the other hand, proclaimed loud and clear that we better be aware that the Fall and Winter could be another very deadly time. He also disagreed with Trump’s approach.

The next time you hear those words, “It is what it is” listen carefully to discover if the person saying it has learned anything that would make our lives better now and in the future. Otherwise, you and I would just be joining the ranks of the irresponsible. Don’t let a harsh reality go by without something positive coming from it.

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