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Is it what it is? 

Resist for change and accept what can't be changed

"The collision nearly wrecked my car, and I don't have the money to fix it."

"It is what it is."

"My back is killing me, and the doctors can't figure out what's wrong!"

"It is what it is."

"The hurricane wrecked my cousin's house in Miami, and they can't find a rental."

"It is what it is."

"The president is wreaking havoc with our democratic tradition.

"It is what it is."

Now, wait a minute, I protest. Something seems wrong with this mindlessly repeated phrase, so I fire back, "No it ain't necessarily so; it isn't what it is for all times." I try to explain that when I (we or you) find a solution or launch a resist movement, it won't be what it is now.

After I heard this mantra invoked for every piece of bad news or minor-to-major setback, I began to wonder why people had become so pessimistic, or worse, fatalistic. I realize this phrase is meant to be reassuring, as in, "I hear you." And I understand that there are things that one can't change and adaptation or acceptance is called for. On the other hand, as a rebellious baby boomer, the philosophy conveyed by "it is what it is" awakens the contrarian in me.

My generation did not passively accept what was, we aimed to change it. The Vietnam War had no justification and we were losing, so many of us tried every possible tactic to end it. The sexual mores of the '50s were repressive and patriarchal, so we threw them out the window. The music of our parents was pleasant, but it didn't speak to our time, so we embraced Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, Taj Mahal, and The Eagles. A century after the Civil War, the descendants of former slaves still did not have equal rights or equal opportunity, so we joined the civil rights movement. The environment was being plundered by large corporations whose bottom line trumped all other considerations, so we worked with the Sierra Club, Earth First!, the Environmental Defense Fund, and any group that would take on the polluters.

The Democratic Party did not seat the Southern delegations that truly represented the people of their districts, so we acted up at the 1958 Chicago presidential convention. Native Americans were fed up with their second or third class citizenship, and Dennis Banks launched The American Indian Movement, which some of us joined.

In these and many other situations, we did not sit back and say, "It is what it is." In light of recent events—endless wars and the refugees they create, anti-immigrant polices, women stepping forward to report sexual abuse, excessive us of police force against minorities, the administration's rollback of hard-fought-for environmental regulations, the denial of proven science, and the advent of truly fake news—it seems to me that there is plenty of grist for the mill of non-acceptance.

I will continue to resist and to only accept what truly can't be changed, but I hope that younger generations will too. I urge them to embrace the credo: "It doesn't have to be what it is now!" Δ

Judith Bernstein is channeling the resistance from Arroyo Grande. Send comments through the editor at [email protected] or write a letter and email it to [email protected].

Readers Poll

Do you think the SLO County Board of Supervisors should have gone against their policy that states funding for independent special districts should not result in a net fiscal loss to the county?

  • A. Yes, the housing and job opportunity the Dana Reserve is bringing is important
  • B. No, it's giving special privileges to the Nipomo Community Services District
  • C. I trust them, they know what's best for the county
  • D. What's going on?

View Results

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