There have been many Prophets of Peace – Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and King Jr. (just to name a few). All of these people have advocated for Peace and Justice, and each one’s teaching influenced the other. It must be noted, though, that rarely does a person come along as a 'drum major for justice' and call for things to stay the way they are. Love is revolutionary in a world full of vanity. To be a drum major goes against the grain in a world of standardization, where, the perversion of the drum major instinct reigns supreme.
The Drum major instinct is amoral. It can be used as an individual’s way to ignite a fire amongst others for peace, or it can be a weapon of tyrannical injustice. Mother Teresa acknowledged the best of her ‘instinct’ and served the poor. Dictators like Saddam Hussein had just as strong a drum major instinct, yet he was driven by that instinct to commit crimes against humanity, massacring thousands of Kurdish people.
The drum major instinct has us on the fast track to the self-destruction of the world — the drum major instinct is our only hope to heal the planet.
I do not deliver the Charge today, Dr. Martin King does — I am merely a messenger. I believe He is charging us all to reclaim the gift all of us have — to lead for the good, to speak for the good, to act for the good — the common good.
Here is our call, our vocation:
Look around! This is the kind of world we live in, a world of the perversion of the drum major instinct! Our responsibilities to one another have been outsourced in the most disrespectful way, deferring to our infamously undependable politicians to make grave decisions for our poor, homeless, and the next generation. It’s a comfortable curtain to hide behind, but not one that Dr. King would approve of. Remember: the politicians said to King and all those he stood for, “Do not worry. You will get your rights as soon as the time is right.” If Dr. King had not been a drum major for racial justice, perhaps we would still live in a world without the Civil Rights Act of 1964! Perhaps desegregation would have been a phenomenon of 2004 instead of 1964.
Human drive propels history. It is the often criticised arguement of author Ayn Rand. She would agree that ego, the human desire to be recognized, drives history on. I think Dr. King would agree. And on and on and on.
Do we care about what the next fifty years will bring? Do we care what will happen to our children? What kind of world will they see? How will the drum major instinct be used? Are we damned to live under the tyranny of the perverse? Here is our charge, imperative to the future of our world: we must use the drum major instinct, and use it right. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do.
If you take nothing away from today, take this: I implore you to promise to yourselves to never say again: What difference can one person make? What can I do? I’m no King. I tell you today, Dr. King tells you today: we can all be drum majors for peace and justice, love and compassion, if only with one word, one action. That is all that is asked of us. That has always been the first step.
Love, moral excellence, peace. I don’t claim to know what these things are or what their true essence is. But I have seen what love looks like. It looks like a soldier giving a piece of candy to a child in Baghdad. What those small eyes have seen! I have seen what moral excellence is when… Peace, yes, I can see it, here it is, screaming and shouting to be let loose, only an action of love, only a word of consolation away: here is peace, waiting to set the world on fire, in each of you.
Now, let us pause for a moment to think about what we will say to today and what we will do for tomorrow...
A Charge to the Community given January 16, 2012 on "The Drum Major Instinct."