What a Difference a Bullet (or a Musket Ball) Makes


Posted on April 1, 2014 by Ruth O’Brien

When I was 16 or 17 years old, long before then-Rep. Chuck Grassley from Iowa called my mom, I got a bullet-hole tour of our nation’s Capitol.  Now, this bullet-hole tour guide was conducted by a young man my age.  And he was a guy, I happened to think, who knew a lot and was cool.  Very cool.

I listened to him explain the holes in the marble walls, as we traipsed down the spiral staircase.  He showed me each one.  Some were bigger than others, and, as he explained, musket balls made different holes than bullets.  At the bottom was where they had temporarily laid Abraham Lincoln’s coffin.

These are from 1812, he said.  But not those, he pointed.  Boy, did we look at them all.

Now, I had no idea if this was “the truth.”  I had no idea if his explanation had any veracity, let alone integrity or authenticity at all.  I assumed it did.  I don’t think I’d want to disturb my emotional teen memory with any new interpretations of truths about bullets or musket balls.

Remember, these were the dangerous days of the late 1970s.  I didn’t really know what was what.

I’d left home in a hurry, barely after relishing my interview with the former governor of California (then running against President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination).  Forgetting all about the latter’s falls (which I remember thinking had little to do with policy or ideology), all I noticed with his opponent the former governor was the tint of his hair.  That, and the vast number of empty chairs.  But then, again, this was years before he became POTUS #40.

You see, all I remembered was that he was not “cool.”

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About Ruth O'Brien

Professor Ruth O'Brien, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY) & Honorary Unaffiliated Academic Book Series Editor for The Public Square, Princeton University Press & Heretical Thought, Oxford University Press, USA Last book: Out of Many, One: Obama & the Third American Political Tradition (U of Chicago 2013). Nickname: Professorette by Rush Limbaugh (see http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Faculty/Core-Bios/Ruth-O-Brien)

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