A law unto myself

I wouldn’t say I have a love-hate relationship with Oleg Dulin. More of a “every now and then he decides to pick a fight with me, and against my better judgment I respond” sort of thing. We’ve actually had a civil exchange once or twice. I think. Maybe. I’m not sure. They tend not to be overly memorable.

Anyway, a little over a week ago, I wrote a piece in which I said that the fact that the re-enlistment rate among troops in Iraq is higher than those of troops stationed in other places was indicative that they believed in their mission. That was the latest thing that set Mr. Dulin off, who responded that other factors might have been loyalty to their comrades, an inability to make it economically in the civilian world, and finished off by comparing military service to “flipping burgers” at McDonald’s.

As I’ve said before, I tend to be far more protective of others than myself, and I didn’t care for what I saw as an insult to the troops. I pointed out that his remarks were indicative of his having very little respect for those who serve in the armed forces of the United States.

That’s what led to Mr. Dulin trying to coin a new law — Jay Tea’s Law. (Although I’m sure he’d prefer to call it “Dulin’s Law.”) Dulin cites Godwin’s Law (which states “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one,” but Dulin prefers the version that adds “and the person making the comparison can be declared to have automatically lost the argument”) and comes up with the following:

“Any conversation with a Republican is bound in them accusing the other party of insulting the troops; at this point they lose any argument they may have had.”

It’s clumsy and imprecise, but that’s no great surprise. Let me tighten it up a bit for him:

As a discussion between a supporter and an opponent of the war in Iraq grows longer, the probability of the supporter accusing the opponent of “not supporting” or “insulting” the troops actually fighting the war approaches one. Likewise, the probability of the opponent using such arguments as “Bush lied and misled us into the war,” “it’s all about the oil,” “it’s all about funneling money to Halliburton and Bush’s big business buddies,” or other such points also approaches one. At that point, the discussion can be considered to have no further value, and the side that first reached its inevitable climax can be deemed to have “lost” the argument.

Well, it’s still clumsy, but I think that it’s a bit more precise, balanced and accurate now.

The irony was that after his second piece, I thought about his comparing military service to flipping burgers at McDonald’s, and thought there was some validity to it:

  • Both jobs feature a large number of workers who are there simply to improve their overall lot in life, but a few are making it a career.
  • The actual duties of both jobs, when stripped right down to the bone, are considerably less than glamourous.
  • The actual pay for each job, taken in the context of hourly wages and measured purely in dollars, is very low.
  • Both groups tend to be looked down upon by those who see themselves as “too good” for such labors.

One thing I read a long time ago that stuck with me is that “work” doesn’t care who does it. If something needs to be done, then it needs to be done, and honest work — no matter how lowly — is worthy of respect. I’ve done my level best to respect those who work at even the most menial of jobs. Because unlike so many others I’ve seen, at least they’re trying to support themselves and not be a burden to others. And while I’ve never worked in the fast food industry, I have a lot more respect for a “burger flipper” than I do for a lot of other people I’ve had to deal with in my life.

So will “Jay Tea’s Law” (or even the shoddily-styled and one-sided “Dulin’s Law”) go anywhere? I sincerely doubt it. But it was flattering to see what I inspired.

“Flattering,” in the sense of “I guess that chihuahua likes me, considering how eagerly he’s trying to hump my leg.”

Mark Twain was once threatened with being tarred and feathered, and being ridden out of town on a rail. He responded that “if it weren’t for the honor and glory of the thing, I’d just as soon walk.”

Can't anybody here play this game?
Eric Alterman: The Idiot's One-Trick Pony