Archive for May, 2009

This Saturday morning (May 9), many of us prepare sadly, once again, for our Nick Berg Memorial Vigil at the courthouse, which The Chester County Peace Movement has held every year since Nick’s death in Iraq. His father, as usual, will join us, as will some of Nick’s and his father’s friends in the community. Just a few hours later, another group –  classmates, parents, and teachers – will gather at Westtown School to remember Johanna Justin-Jinich, slain just as brutally and senselessly as Nick was, but at her college in Connecticut.

We gather simply and quietly at the vigil this morning just to say, “We will never forget Nick.” And our message is this:  Stop the hatred and violence that permeate this world and this country and that take the lives, daily, of too many Nicks and Johannas, whether in the streets of Baghdad or of Philadelphia or of Middletown, Connecticut.

And we will gather simply and quietly this afternoon just to say,”We will never forget Johanna.” And the message again will be this:  Stop the hatred and violence that permeate this world and this country and that take the lives, daily, of too many Nicks and Johannas, whether in the streets of Baghdad or of Philadelphia or of Middletown, Connecticut.

When some mock and deride “peace-niks,” often brutally and with extreme hatred, for standing out on that street corner for almost seven years now, we can only keep on standing there and trying to send a message that might save another Nick or Johanna someday – or a Tariq, a Maria, a Tyrone, a Brandon, a Tina, or a Matthew. We can only try.  

That’s the least we can do in their memory.

The words to the song below have been going through my mind relentlessly since the news of Johanna ‘s death this past week. She was a classmate of my son’s in the Westtown School class of 2006. I have listened to the youtube play (below) while reading the lyrics – I felt some very strong connections between this song, written long before Johanna’s birth, and her life and death.  My son, when a student at that beautiful place, with Johanna and the rest of their wonderful 2006 class, introduced me to this song; and it’s still one of my own favorites (realizing that, of course, every Dylan song is a “favorite”).  I think we all this morning are preparing for one of the saddest hours of our lives this morning, then again this afternoon.

May God bring some form of peace to both Nick’s and Johanna’s families.


Visions of Johanna
By Bob Dylan

Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind

In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane
Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like veneer
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna’s not here
The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He’s sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it’s so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles
See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, “Jeeze
I can’t find my knees”
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule
But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel

The peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Sayin’, “Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”
But like Louise always says
“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain.


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