Jim Johnston of Keene died April 29, 2019, 4½ months shy of his 99th birthday.
Anybody who drove through Keene on a Saturday morning between 11 o’clock and noon from 2002 to 2018 would have seen him on Central Square, holding his sign saying “Out of Iraq.” He held his sign upside down and people across the street or driving by would yell over to him, “Your sign is upside down!” And he would yell back, “It’s not my sign that’s upside down, it’s the world that’s upside down!”
Only poor health prevented him from being on the square in person during the past year and a half.
Jim could argue with the best and over the years we saw his temper occasionally come out when people stopped what they were doing and came over to the square to accuse the whole bunch of us of being traitors to the country. But Jim and some others of our group had the right to speak out against war. Jim had served in Europe during World War II. Others had served in Korea or Vietnam. Of all people, these veterans understood war and the evils it brought and the futility of it.
Some people drive by us and give us the finger and shout insults, the strangest one making us laugh. “Get a job,” they cry, as if a group of mostly gray-haired people on a Saturday morning should be at work instead of trying to remind people that our country is at war.
It is now 2019 and we have been trying for 17 years to get people to be furious that we have made war successively on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, and less-well-advertised operations in African countries, and are threatening actions against Iran and Venezuela. Our money is being poured down the drain of war. It is the reason there is nothing left over for health care, infrastructure, green energy, college funding, child care, low income housing; and hardly a candidate for president has a bad word to say about our ongoing wars.
Jim Johnston did not get into the details of ongoing wars. He just knew from experience that war was a waste of lives and money, a source of grief and pain, and those who embrace war or ignore war are living in an upside-down world.
We have lost a crusader for peace.
138 Esty Road
On behalf of the Keene Peace Vigil