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“Well,” I said, “I have to agree that she said and did some pretty disgusting things.”
“Yes,” Mr. Magundi agreed, “and we can all be thankful that the entertainment industry has succeeded in ostracizing its one racist member. Now everyone can go back to making movies and TV shows where the white hero treats his comical jive-talking sidekick with deep respect.”
“It makes him hard to get along with,” Mrs. Bowman was saying. “But I suppose it’s more important to be good than to be nice.”
“I strongly disagree,” Mr. Magundi interrupted. “Anyone who believes that being nice is the most important thing will exercise every Christian virtue in trying to make things pleasant for the people around him. Anyone who believes that being good trumps being nice is capable of any iniquity for the sake of his own inflexible idea of what’s good. ‘It’s more important to be good than to be nice’ neatly summarizes the beliefs of Pol Pot, of Robespierre, of nearly every terrorist there ever was; and I’m sure that, translated into Latin, it was the official motto of the Spanish Inquisition. All the misery in the world is caused by people hell-bent on being good at all costs.”
“But I don’t hold with the idea that man is just a higher animal,” I was saying.
“I think you’re right,” Mr. Magundi agreed. “Maybe instead of seeing humans as higher animals, we’d be better off thinking of animals as lesser humans. Or maybe ‘lesser’ is the wrong word.”
“So what did you think of the debate, Magundi?” Mr. Bates asked, with an arch of his eyebrows that suggested he thought he might be poking a hornet’s nest.
“I didn’t watch any of the debates,” Mr. Magundi replied, “and I can’t imagine why anyone else would, either. They’re ludicrously artificial performances that tell us nothing about what the candidates really intend to do, and do not simulate the actual activity of governing in any way. We’d learn exactly as much about the candidates if we put them in frilly tutus and made them dance the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker.”