Sick of the phrase: “It is what it is”

Everyone keeps saying it, even when it doesn’t have to be.

I am a big fan of the serenity prayer, especially the version I learned that puts having the courage to change things that I can first.

God grant me the courage to change things that I can

The serenity to accept things I cannot

And the wisdom to know the difference

I think this was cross-stitched on a sampler at the house of one of my baby-sitters when I was a kid.

“It is what it is” keeps being used not for that second line, but to excuse not having the courage for the first.  And I hate it.  We can fight for injustice.  We can fight for equality.  We can keep calling our representatives and not just give up on them.  We are at a turning point in US history– we can get rid of the filibuster, grab DC state-hood, pass HR1 as new voting rights legislation, protect trans kids, pack the supreme court.  After 12 years of unconscionable changes by Republicans doing things never dreamed of in previous administrations in our memory– Merrick Garland, Kavanaugh, Coney Barrett, refusing to bring any legislature to a vote, removing the VRA, not doing anything on gun control after Sandy Hook, etc. etc. etc.– we can also do the unthinkable.

It doesn’t have to be.

But it will be if we don’t fight for it.  If we give up prematurely.

If we don’t have the wisdom to know the difference.


Here’s a link to 5calls.  Demand Statehood for Washington DC.  Support Democracy Reform with H.R. 1.  Protect Dreamers.  And so much more.  But none of this will happen if we give up.  Because the bad guys aren’t giving up.

11 Responses to “Sick of the phrase: “It is what it is””

  1. Tara S Says:

    A good friend of mine always added, after “It is what it is,” the phrase “But it will be what you make it!” With that addendum, I find the expression actually inspires me to think about what I want the future to look like and work to make it so.

  2. rose Says:

    Still contacting elected people and working already on next election voter turn out. THANK YOU for continuing to push this. Thank you for continuing to post. You are such a huge support.

  3. Maya Says:

    I’ve never seen the phrase connected to the Serenity prayer before…
    So I did some digging and liked this:

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The phrase has been around since I was a kid, and likely long before, it’s just been really popular this year.

      ETA: Did a google books search of 20th century books on the phrase. There are lots. Not all examples are used in the same stoic/passive way it’s being used now (there’s a lot of philosophy in there), but there are enough. 1917: “I throughout ; it is what it is , and nothing am first as a thinking being , what I am else . But nature pursues her course of afterwards as an active being . The system ceaseless change . It had not always been of freedom satisfies my heart ;” 1957: “Calling the world names makes no difference , it is what it is .” 1978: “because it is loved ; the other is loved , because it is what it is ” 1985: “It is what it is as I am what I ams” 1990: “Of course , the investigator has no control over ox ; it is what it is ” 1999 (getting into that Vox territory, but making the same complaint this post is): “The standard impulse is to declare that it is what it is and it is right that it should be so .” There’s some for the 19th century too though not as many. 1861: “While it lasts , it is what it is”

      DH suggested to me this morning that the Russians probably have 20 words for that phrase, like they say about Eskimos and snow. I bet he’s right.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      (Though of course when I was a kid, everyone said Que Sera, Sera instead because Doris Day.)

      • Maya Says:

        Yes! My parents were fans of old Hollywood and that “que sera sera” phrase was in use A LOT–I felt fancy saying it, actually.

        I don’t know if it was reading your post earlier that did it, but I’ve been thinking of determinism and fatalism a lot. One of my biggest peeves with the Baghvad Gita is that “do your duty, don’t think of the consequences” is great in the short term, but also locks people into social structures that may need restructuring.

  4. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Apparently these are also known as “thought terminating cliches ”é

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