It’s a phrase I hear a lot as a comedian and blogger, usually shouted from the back of a darkened club, or posted in a comment thread. I hear it after topical jokes, or posts about current events. It’s been repeated so often that it’s become a joke in and of itself.
Whenever a tragedy occurs, be it a terrorist attack, a school shooting, or another example of police brutality, there are always people who come out of the woodwork to say it’s too soon to talk about this, too soon to joke about it, too soon to politicize it.
Sometimes the people saying it are well-meaning, trying to take the feelings of victims or their families into consideration. Other times they’re opponents of change who just want to shut down an uncomfortable conversation that runs counter to their interests.
What they’re actually saying is it’s too soon to publicly acknowledge that there’s a problem. Too soon to start taking the steps necessary to fix it. Too soon to do anything about it.
But it’s when public emotions and attention are at their height can they most effectively be leveraged to affect lasting change. Waiting strips social movements of the critical energy they need to overcome the indifference and institutional momentum inherent to the status quo of any society. Waiting means risking yet another atrocity happening the next day, or the next week, resetting the clock once more and leaving real change eternally waiting for a lull long enough for critics of conversation to deem it respectful to open dialogue once more.
Too soon kicks the can down the road. Too soon defends the status quo. Too soon ensures it will always be too late.