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In the latest example of his problem distinguishing between fact and fiction, John McCain repeated the "cross in the dirt" story last night at Rick Warren's Faith Forum.

For those of you unfamiliar with with the story here is a recap:  

On Christmas Eve, as he was in solitary confinement, a prison guard loosened the ropes that were tying him to the wall.  On another occasion, the same prison guard came over to McCain, as he was let "out of my cell to stand alone in the outdoors and look up at the clear, blue sky...," and with his foot, drew a cross in the dirt in front of McCain.

Now, this is a very touching story, if true.  By writing this diary, I in no way want to demean the service of McCain to the United States.  I do, however, question the use of his service for political gain, but that's a topic for another diary.

The version that he gives in his book "Character is Destiny," is different than the dramatization from a primary campaign commercial he released in 2007, where the guard uses a stick to draw a cross.

We'll get back to these different versions in a moment.

But, people are now questioning the truth of this entire story.

Why?

Because Alexander Solzhenitsyn had a very similar experience:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian author who spent many years in the gulag of Siberia, bears witness to the power of the cross. After long suffering in the work camp of Siberia, he fell into despair. Like other prisoners, he had worked in the fields day after day, in rain and sun, during summer and winter. His days were filled with backbreaking labor and slow starvation. On a particular day, the hopelessness of his situation became too much. He saw no reason to continue living, to continue fighting the system. He thought that the rest of his life was meaningless since he would most likely die in this Siberian prison. His life made no difference in the world. So he gave up.

Laying his shovel on the ground, he slowly walked to a crude work-site bench and sat down. He knew that at any moment a guard would order him to stand up, and when he failed to respond, the guard would beat him to death, probably with his own shovel. He had seen it happen to many other prisoners.

As he waited, head down, he felt a presence. Slowly, he lifted his eyes and saw a skinny, old prisoner squat down next to him. The man said nothing. Instead, he drew a stick through the ground at Solzhenitsyn’s feet, tracing the sign of the Cross. The man then got back up and returned to his work.

As Solzhenitsyn stared at the sign of the Cross, his entire perspective changed. He knew that he was only one man against the all-powerful Soviet empire. Yet in that moment, he knew that there was something greater than the evil that he saw in the prison, something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that the hope of all mankind was represented in that simple Cross. And through the power of the Cross, anything was possible.

Solzhenitsyn slowly got up, picked up his shovel, and went back to work. Nothing outward had changed, but inside, he received hope.

I fully believe that Solzhenitsyn didn't make this story up to sell a few more books and make a few more Rubles.  But, I do question if John McCain had read this story, seeing as McCain thinks Solzhenitsyn "was a writer with unusual gifts, utterly devoted to his art, brilliant and exacting, producing work that would stun not just literary worlds but the entire Cold War political world."  And I do question if John McCain has, in a mix up of perception or clarity, claimed this story as his own.  

If you had had this extraordinary experience.  And a famous writer, a writer that you have written about your admiration for, had a very similar experience.  Wouldn't you publicize it?  Wouldn't you write about it?  And wouldn't you have talked about it last night at the faith forum when you we're relaying the story?

You and Alexander Solzhefrickingnitsyn have this incredible shared experience of being imprisoned , having someone draw a cross in the dirt, it inspires you and you don't publicize it?  You don't talk about it?  You don't write about it even as you write specifically about Solzhenitsyn and your admiration of him.

So, there are different versions and there is an example of a famous author having a very similar experience.

I call bullshit on this story.

Thoughts?

Thanks to Mr. Magu for title name change.

Another tidbit from the comments, thanks to Duval Slugger:

This was supposed to be a (1+ / 0-)
Communist Vietnamese Prison Guard that drew the cross in the sand.  Did you catch that a Communist (anti-religious) prison guard did that.  Supposedly a Christian guard in a prison camp did that.  Seriously!  Seriously?

by Duval Slugger on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 04:19:48 PM EST
[ Reply to This | RecommendHide ]

More from kossack turing:

Here's another made-up McCain story... (1+ / 0-)
McCain viewed himself as someone who shared a very important destiny with Solzenitsyn--someone imprisoned by the communists who nonetheless stood up to them.  So maybe McCain just kinda "adopted" Solzhenitsyn's story "as if" it had happened to him.  However, that should not diminish our estimation of McCain's ability to make up shit out of whole cloth, as witness this bit from 1974 (which he also did not mention in his 12,000 debriefing the previous year):

Reagan was Governor of California in 1974, when he invited McCain to a prayer breakfast in Sacramento. McCain has never been a particularly reverent guy; but that morning he found himself telling the silent crowd about a discovery he made when he was thrown into solitary confinement in a 6-ft. by 9-ft. hole in the ground. On the wall was etched a testimony, scratched into the stone by a previous occupant: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty," read the jagged writing. The words sustained him, McCain told the crowd, through his 2 1/2-year solitude. When he finished, the audience, including the Governor, was sobbing. "I realized," he says now, "it wasn't really me that moved them. It was the Story that did it."

http://www.answers.com/...

by Turing on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:18:17 PM EST
[ Reply to This | RecommendHide ]

The big question:  Why wouldn't you reference Alexander Solzhenitsyn when telling this story, even when you've written that "he was a writer with unusual gifts, utterly devoted to his art, brilliant and exacting, producing work that would stun not just literary worlds but the entire Cold War political world."

Originally posted to Throwing Stones on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 01:54 PM PDT.

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