As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the stabilizing force of uninformed individuals in the democratic process, this morning I found myself reading Darryl Pinckney’s latest NYRBlog post, “Misremembering Martin Luther King.” This amounts to a “frank and open” (in diplomat-speak) assessment of Katori Hall’s play about Martin Luther King, The Mountaintop, currently running on Broadway with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. The title of the post says it all, although I am sure that most ticket-holders are there for an in-the-flesh experience of Jackson and Bassett and could care less whether or not they take home any useful knowledge about King.
Reading Pinckney, on the other hand, was a far more informative experience. The connection to yesterday comes at the very end of his post, when he quotes a passage from the famous “Letter from the Birmingham jail,” which King wrote in 1963. More specifically Pinckney quoted King’s observation that “shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute understanding from people of ill will.” King’s point is that people of ill will tend to be very good at voicing exactly what they believe and why they believe it in clear language, regardless of whether or not that language may be logically flawed. People of good will, on the other hand, are more wishy-washy in their argumentation, believing that fundamental goodness is all you need to make your case.
Imagine, now, the following thought experiment: An uninformed individual is faced with having to make a major decision in the next election. Give that individual the opportunity to hear what the person of good will has to say, and then provide the same exposure to the person of ill will. Which one do you think will be more effective in swaying the decision of this hypothetical voter?