The Importance of Conjunctions
Here is an example: “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice . . .” Those words are from a sermon Dr. Martin Luther King preached a few months before his murder. They, along with the sentences that follow, were paraphrased on the new memorial that will be officially dedicated by President Obama today.
Notice the importance of “if.” Consider how different one’s impression of the speaker’s self-image would be if it was not there.
Unfortunately, the paraphrase on the side of the new memorial does in fact omit that one small word. It reads: “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The omission makes Dr. King sound “like an arrogant twit” according to the poet Maya Angelou.
There have been many calls to revise the monument’s inscription, and if they continue it may be done someday. We hope so.
We hope that one small word will be allowed to join the others, just as we hope every person will join somehow in Dr. King’s vision of a fully integrated society. Each of us may feel too small to make a difference, but in fact God created the entire human race with each of us particularly in mind. We are all subordinating conjunctions; each one establishes the relationship of everyone around us, and when we withdraw ourselves from the community of man because of fear or pain or unforgiveness, we change the meaning of humanity into something less than what the Author of all life meant in the beginning.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (Martin Luther King, “Letter From A Birmingham Jail“)