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the bullet

My eldest daughter gave me a book for my birthday this past summer. I don’t think anyone has ever given me a “book” on my birthday that wasn’t signed by the author. But this one wasn’t signed because Brian Doyle (the author) died with a brain tumor in 2017 at the age of 60. Slowly and methodically, I have read his words, which convey much more than the actual thoughts on the page. I have loved every offering in Brian’s book, and it saddens me deeply that I did not know him personally. I think he would have been a great friend whom I would have loved very much. I ache to have shared a pint or two or three with him.

I’m putting up one of the short reflections in Brian’s book. I’ve gone back and forth about posting it because I realize how easily people are triggered around topics that have been politicized and used as a litmus test for “the love of God… and country.” I, for one, am not ignited by these kinds of partisan political passions. I’m trying really hard to live my life following something else… Someone else… a different “Way” in my life.  I’m no longer convinced that God is vested in any kind of political wing (especially the one we might favor OR claim as the “righteous side”). Honestly, I used to think that way, but not anymore.

This constant bickering, bullying, and demonizing of each other, all produced by mankind’s political opinion and/or lust for power and control… well, it’s so damn tiring.  So, I’ll stop with my shallow words and let you chew on Brian’s.

I offer this story only as a mix into your thinking. It’s not a statement. It’s not a directive. I’m driving from here to nowhere specific. I’m just thinking and wondering how we arrived to where we are. To be clear, I have people I love, children and grandchildren that I don’t want anywhere near the implications of this story. —MDP


Here’s a story. A man who was a soldier in the American army in Iraq tells it to me. A friend of his, one of his best and closest friends, was nearly pierced through by a bullet fired by a sniper. The bullet entered the friend’s upper right chest, just below the collarbone, and plowed almost through to the back, just below the shoulder blade. American surgeons removed the bullet and discovered it was a 5.56-millimeter cartridge manufactured in Lake City, Missouri. The Lake City Ammunition Plant was founded by the Remington Army Company in 1941. Today it is operated by Orbital Alliant Tech systems, which averages five billion dollars in sales annually. Half of the one hundred biggest weapons and ammunition manufacturers in the world are American companies. Orbital is one of these. Orbital sells 1.5 billion rounds of ammunition a year to the American army and to the armies of other nations around the world. Some of that ammunition is lost or stolen or shuffled clandestinely to all sorts of revolutionaries, criminals, gangs, and thugs, including some that call themselves freedom fighters or insurgents against economic and cultural imperialism, though in many cases they are actually fighting to impose their own chosen form of oppression and tinny empire on the people they live among, people whom they are not averse to slaughtering for advertising reasons.

So let us review: An American soldier, age twenty-two, is nearly pierced by a bullet made in America, sold for a profit in America by an American company that makes half a billion dollars a year selling bullets and other weaponry to armies all over the world. The vast majority of the companies make a tremendous profit every year selling bullets and weaponry all over the world are American. Most of them are publicly traded companies in which many other Americans are heavily invested. So the bullet that nearly pierced an American boy, a bullet that caused him enormous pain, a bullet that permanently affected the use of his arm and shoulder, the bullet that cut a scar on his chest that he will wear until the day he dies, was made in America, by American workers, and paid for by American investors who profited handsomely by the sake of the bullet that executed its purpose by punching a hole the size of a quarter almost all the way through a boy from America.

A 5.56-millimeter bullet can penetrate fifteen to twenty inches through “soft tissue”—soft tissue meaning, for example, a boy. The bullet is “prone to yaw,” which means that it skews easily from a direct path, and it is also liable to fragment at what is called the cannelure, a groove around the cylinder. When a bullet fragments on delivery, the fragments slice and tear and rip and shred everything in their path, including bone. A 5.56-millimeter bullet can punch nearly half an inch into steel, and punch right through a bulletproof vest, and punch right through a human being of any size and shape and age and nationality and gender and religion and sexual orientation and combatant status, or not.

Rarely does a writer speak bluntly, ahead of time, to people who will type furious outraged insults in the comment section, after his article is posted, but I will here and now.

Dear outraged shrieking lunatic, you who are about to lecture me on how this was just an accident, and how it’s a necessary part of the capitalist system, and how I am clearly a yellow liberal pansy: Are you stupid, or are you insane? What part of all this makes sense? What part of all this is not about profit? Why should America be the biggest weapons dealer on earth? Why do we lie about how this is directly linked to murders all over the world, and how our own kids suffer and die from American weapons and ammunition? Is profit share more important than the lives of uncountable thousands of people all over the world who die from our weapons and ammunition? Are there no other products that all those American employees could possibly design and manufacture? Really? Have you ever been nearly pierced through by a 5.56-millimeter bullet? No? Then how do you have the unmitigated gall to say anything to me, you pompous ass?

—From One Long River of Song by Brian Doyle

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Patrick Hurley
    April 22, 2022 at 1:58 pm

    Thank you. I’m going looking for the book.

    • April 22, 2022 at 4:05 pm

      It should be easy to find!

      Thank you,

  2. Shane Ventura
    June 21, 2022 at 10:18 am

    I borrowed this book from the library and now must go buy it because I can’t bear to give it back. Story after story grips me. The Bullet being the most recent in the wake of the horrific mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas. I love this man without knowing him.

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