It isn’t bigotry; it’s freedom of religion. It isn’t mass murder; it’s Depression. It isn’t diplomacy; it’s appeasement.
It isn’t rape; it’s drunken sex. It isn’t obstruction; it’s Democracy. It isn’t murder; it’s self defense. It isn’t spying; it’s security. It isn’t union busting; it’s the right to work. It isn’t about public health; it’s about private choice.
It seems like we actually spend our lives on what something or someone isn’t. We have a tradition of distinguishing ourselves from others by emphasizing other-ness. Even with our history of civil rights and feminism, expanding rights for all sorts of people once excluded, the current zeitgeist is not one of inclusion and expansion. Critical thinking has largely been distorted into oppositional thinking.
Say it isn’t so!
We’ve shifted from what it is to what it isn’t, as we’ve been bombarded with challenges to our assumptions:
It’s a slam-dunk! (for which we are paying unimagined consequences in the Middle East).
It’s a no brainer!
It’s a sure thing!
It’s a 10!
It’s a boy!
The truth is, it is complicated. There are different views and facets and understandings and expressions of much of life. Concepts of gender, of life, of liberty, of religion, and so many constructs that were historically entrenched….are still evolving. It doesn’t feel like evolution when we seem so mired, and it is easy to feel despair.
It is what it is. The sigh of stalemate. We don’t hear “c’est la vie” any more. We say “it is what it is”, like pop zen masters (or Winnie the Pooh). When we don’t know what else we can do, we can acknowledge that it is what it is. Move on.
We don’t seem to be moving on by what it isn’t. It isn’t right. It isn’t safe. It isn’t about you (or me). It isn’t working.
So many articles are written to sound as though previously held notions were naive, or misguided, or wrong. It’s as though some people think they sound smarter by debunking anything we’ve known prior to now. It seems as though everything you thought was true isn’t. It is what it isn’t. Aside from being able to eat butter and drink coffee now, this new moment of deconstruction requires critical thinking, not just being critical. Some previously held ideas and constructs that seemed to be true and even natural deserve to be queried. But, not everything must be turned inside out or dismantled. In fact, there seems to be a dearth of common sense and wisdom, much less decent behavior. And there is certainly a lack of common good.
So how do we move beyond it is what it isn’t? Acknowledge that it is what it is, but doesn’t always have to be this way or simply the mirror opposite (that way). Movement happens between (and/or beyond) those points–where there is space to move. We know there is a better way, isn’t there?