I used the phrase primarily to get along with others. I found the expression appealing because it seemed to offer a bough of appeasement while simultaneously maintaining a sense of steadfastness. Like all appeasements, the “I’m okay with’ platitude was a soothing blend of what were essentially two contradictory statements occupying the dividing line between surrender and ultimatum, weakness and strength, tolerance and intolerance, acceptance and rejection, vice and virtue, and open-mindedness and close-mindedness.
On the surface, it was all very noble and diplomatic. Through the phrase, I could essentially communicate some or all of the following – that I did not really accept / approve of / care about / want to think about the thing in question, but was willing to acknowledge / tolerate / ignore its existence as long as the thing remained somewhere in the external world, far away from me, and that I would not allow this external thing to be forced upon me, because when all was said and done, I did not really understand / subscribe to / approve of / endorse the thing itself.
This live and let live sentiment seemed to be the epitome of a classic win-win in my mind. I could essentially acknowledge the liberty of others while staunchly defending my own freedom at the same time. Also appealing was the subtle warning this “I won’t bother you if you don’t bother me” approach contained. I had drawn a line in the sand that could not be crossed, and if the line were crossed, not only would I vehemently defend myself, but I could even go on the offensive. When I spoke the phrase, I assumed the parties at whom I aimed this sentiment of acceptance / tolerance held an attitude similar to mine, that they would be grateful of my acceptance / tolerance and, in return, would respect my freedoms and leave me well enough alone.
But this is not what happened. As the years passed, the line I had drawn kept getting encroached upon – and when I offered no real resistance, other people were quick to draw their own lines around me, lines that effectively trapped magnanimous appeasers like me who had so nobly attempted to protect and respect the liberties of all.
Though I don’t like the concept of the culture wars, it could be argued that these wars had been won and lost on the back of the “I’m okay with it, as long as they don’t force it upon me” phrase. Looking at the statement today, I see it as nothing more than a self-constructed Trojan horse that I had unwittingly deployed against myself. By speaking those words, I had admitted unacknowledged enemies into my fortress.
In retrospect, I realize the “I’m okay with it” phrase contained two fatal errors. The first error was indirect endorsement. Although I did not recognize it at the time, signaling tolerance and acceptance of a thing I sincerely considered unacceptable actually helped to legitimize it. The second error within the phrase was the tacit consent it implied. Since “I’m okay with it” was not an outright objection, it could be interpreted as consent. In other words, not voicing an explicit disagreement equaled implicit agreement.
Stating that you would not accept having a thing forced upon you and then capitulating for the sake of appeasement was the second flaw within the sentiment. As I stated earlier, when I spoke the phrase “I’m okay with it, as long as they don’t force it on me,” I assumed the people on the other side of a given issue were also in the live and let live camp. This, of course, proved false as most adhered instead to the live and let die philosophy.
It also never occurred to me at the time that telling the world you would tolerate a thing without wanting any part of it essentially amounted to little more than confirmation of your disapproval of the thing in question; naturally this was intolerable to those who considered the thing good.
After all, how could I not want to be a part of the thing I had indirectly endorsed and tacitly consented to? If I was okay with, how could it, in essence, be bad? The answer was simple – it couldn’t be. Thus, the thing was obviously good, and the problem squarely resided in me. Any unwillingness to freely celebrate and support a good thing revealed I was, at best, a primitive simpleton or, at worst, a hate-filled, hypocritical bigot. As appeasers like me quickly learned, there was no place in the world for hate-filled bigots openly hostile to the good. When the attacks against the “I’m okay with it” appeasers inevitably began, a volley of accusations was usually all that was required to reduce even the staunchest defenses to rubble. I survived by sentencing myself to a self-imposed exile.
Nearly thirty years have passed since then and I seldom hear the phrase “I’m okay with it, as long as they don’t force it upon me” anymore. Most of the people who used to proclaim such sentiments have either freely submitted to or have been pummeled into submission by the leftist agenda. Besides, being okay with it, whatever it happens to be, is barely adequate today. Today “it” must be wholeheartedly supported, endorsed, promulgated, celebrated and embraced. The slightest failure to do so immediately creates suspicion, and inevitably leads to consequences. Barely anyone spouts noble refusals at being forced into anything anymore. If refusals are heard at all, most ring hollow and empty.
Of course, you will never hear leftists speak phrases like “I’m okay with, as long you don’t force it upon me.” Contemporary leftist convictions are clearer and firmer than libertarian appeaser convictions were in the 1990s. Leftists refuse to be okay with anything not fitting their particular set of values, and are quick to make that known. Unlike the appeasers, the leftists show little interest getting along with others. They prefer simply getting on. And getting on requires you either get with it or get lost.
When all is said and done, “I’m okay with it as long as they don’t force it on me” is a harmful and foolish phrase because it seeks to appease. Though it aims to placate and pacify, it does little more than provoke and inflame. In a way, the saying reminds me of Neville Chamberlain stiffly holding aloft that limp piece of paper he had brought back from Germany as he proudly declared he had secured peace in his time. Chamberlain’s example shows that appeasement as a strategy is, more often than not, utterly ineffectual.
At the personal/spiritual level, it is always ineffectual because, contrary to what we may believe, appeasement comes not from love, but fear, which is why avoiding the strategy altogether seems not only prudent, but necessary.