By TINA ARNOPOLE DRISKILL
Mike Killingsworth, an activist and poetry enthusiast since his college days during the Viet Nam War Era, has led a very full life as an educator, Modesto Peace/Life Center participant, media broadcaster and poet.
Mike and his wife, Vickie, became active in the Modesto Peace Life Center after meeting David Rockwell at the State Theater. He credits David, sent him copies of Stanislaus Connections, for giving him a “kick start,” and says, “a couple of months later we were dues paying members.” Since that time he has participated in demonstrations at Tenth Street Place, peace vigils at Five Points, has picketed the Hershey Plant in Oakdale, and is an active member of the MPLC Media Committee.
He volunteer s one day a week at Sutter Memorial Medical Center in the Same Day Surgery Center, and his “Bob Marley’s Ghost” radio show can be heard on KQRP 106.1 FM and www.kqrp.com thanks to Brad Johnson who runs the low power station 24/7. He also has appeared on CH 26 public access shows aired by Johnson on Wednesday nights from 9-10 p.m. He is also active in various peace and justice internet movements.
Mike was born in Checotah, Oklahoma and moved to the small mountain town of Tehachapi at age 2, where he was raised. His “parents were Dust Bowl Okies,” he says, “though they would never admit to it.” Starting in the 5th grade, team sports topped his interests, and he was an All Desert Inyo League end in football his senior year.
Mike graduated from Bakersfield Junior College, spent a semester at Fresno State and completed his BS degree at Cal State University at Northridge. He became a credentialed teacher and taught Health at Sylmar High School from 1969 to 1979, where he served 5 years as Athletic Director. Mike and Vickie moved to Modesto in 1979, where he became a Health Services Coordinator for Migrant Education until retirement in 2004.
“It is important to note,” says Mike, [that I] ” was a college student at a very politically active university during the time of the Viet Nam War.” However, he admits that he “was just an interested observer of the demonstrations and marches that were taking place. [I] vividly recall Senator Robert Kennedy coming to the campus to speak a short time before his assassination.”
He tells of visiting the Korean and Viet Nam War Memorials in Washington D.C., “found the name of a high school classmate on the black granite wall, and vowed, then and there, never to stand silently on the sidelines again.”
Mike began writing poetry about 5 years ago and has written over 100 poems on social justice issues, war, loneliness, depression, and fantasy. His interest in poetry began in an English class in college. He still has the book of poetry assigned by his college instructor titled 12 Poets. Through the years he has read its poems over and over making its cover tattered and worn. Until that time his only poetry reading had been in Childcraft Books. His favorite poets are Edwin Arlington Robinson, A.E. Housman, and Emily Dickinson, and his favorite poem is E.A. Robinson’s “Eben Flood’s Party.”
Mike and Vickie have a son, a daughter and 2 grandchildren. Vickie has worked 19 years with the Salida Union School District Office.
America’s history has traveled
Down a crusty, scarred, and bloody path
Its truth hidden from its people
By those who use tricks and voodoo math.
When European royalty sought greater riches
From a shorter and faster ocean route
Then sent Columbus, Cortez, Drake and Magellan
To explore, rape, pillage and loot.
Columbus’ discovery is hailed by many
As a blessing to these new lands
But if you look at the true history
You’ll see the blood on his hands.
The natives possessed such innocence
Their varied cultures rich as gold
Both were taken from them rightly
Or at least that’s what we’ve been told.
Savages all and not human
Was the rationale for their demise
As they were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands
Their fate glossed over with lies.
Europe’s growth on the new continent
Was seen by the privileged and rich
As the normal outcome of their hard word
While trampling every poor son-of-a-bitch.
Some grew fat and wealthy here
On the abundant resources of this land
Wanting to keep all their booty
Encouraging cries for freedom like some rock’n roll band.
We fought for and won our independence
But if you reread your history you could find
That the solidification of rich capitalists
Was what the Declaration signers really had in mind.
The leaders were in love with their system
Capitalism married to the upper classes
So they wrote and signed the Constitution
To further exploit the ignorant masses.
A middle class was created and nurtured
To buffer and assuage the poor
Who thought providence and hard work
Would open the money door.
Then pitted against one another
With race and class the divider
Each group could be eaten
Like flies by a black widow spider.
Relying on solid principles of Christianity
This country was built proud and strong
But if you read your New Testament
You’ll find where we went wrong.
Christianity has been the poor man’s drug
Encouraged by those with power and might
Used as a tool of subjugation
Turning attention from our true plight.
The rich use Christianity like a tool
While steadfastly practicing hypocrisy
Convincing us that it is our duty
To fight for Jesus and democracy.
Poor Americans have fought our wars
For freedom, democracy and expansion
Suffered the horrors of each conflict
While fat cats drank in an iced-tea mansion.
America’s treatment of Mexicans, Blacks and Chinese
Shows they were treated like inhuman machines
Building this country with their sweat and backs
Then used in WW II, Korea, and Viet Nam as marines.
Wars are fought principally for resources and world markets
So that when reality finally emerges
America’s rich get sated with more
Dead soldiers get monuments and victory dirges.
How long will you poor and middle classes insist on living in denial
Because you can’t stand your truths with their ugly fates
Instead of finding victory over your ignorance and prejudice by reading
Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States .
Our nation is now over two hundred years old
But you know it’s never too late
To turn the tide of history by doing what’s right
Instead of lamenting “America,… you could have been great.”
There is a thin line
Rich and poor,
Stone wall and a door
Love and hate
Plan and fate
Heaven and hell
Sick and well
Up and down
A hero and a clown
In and out
A cry and a shout
Sinner and saint
It is or it ain’t
Behind and ahead
Alive and dead
Good and evil
A bountiful harvest
And the cotton boll weevil.
Today I learned of a Hispanic boy
An eighth-grader who lives out in the country
Undocumented though he is
He wants to know if he can join the U.S. Army
When he graduates from high school.
I said “Sure, you can die for this country,
But don’t ask for medical care or food stamps.”
What a sweet, amusing, na´ve, young, fool.
Then he asked if maybe Mr. Bush
Could help him get his papers so he could serve.
I told him I didn’t really know, but that he could try that
He had seen the President out visiting military forces
On his t.v. set, though it was small and in black-and-white.
I said, “Well, it’s for sure you can’t be a tattooed gang-banger,
And you better pass all of those history courses!”
We set pretty high standards for those who are willing
To take a bullet, anthrax, or nuclear radiation
But he didn’t seem to mind
So he asked his classroom teacher to help him get the information.
I suggested that she call a local recruiter
To find out how he might measure up to the line;
How he could prepare himself for purposeful duty
To defend this mighty nation.
This young boy wants to be a man
To serve his new country
Give it his all if necessary
Forfeiting his last breath
He will show how worthy he is to be here
By defending you and I
Even those who would scorn him
In his idealistic act of dying.
God Bless America!
Hate was heavy in the air
Smoky and leaden gray
With the stench of death
The race riots in Detroit
Left thirty four dead
We are not born with hate
We learn it bye and bye
When I ask those who know
They will not tell me why.
So teach your children well
Before it’s too late
How it is we learn to love
How and why we learn to hate.
We went to war in Iraq
To remove a cruel dictator
Free some Shiites and Sunni’s
Maybe a few other loonies
By shooting and bombing them
Can’t they understand
We’re just trying to lead ‘em
To democracy and freedom.
We don’t want their oil
Their hot, dry, sandy desert
Or their mosques and castles
Their Persian history
For you see
It is no mystery
We’re just trying to lead ‘em
To civilized democracy and freedom.
We don’t want
To oppress and rule them
Do something nasty like
Undress and fool them
Were here for a more noble cause
As anyone can see
We’re just trying to lead ‘em
To honorable democracy and freedom.
Why are those rag-head Arabs and clerics
So up in arms and resistant
We aren’t there to change their religion
Or make them Christians
We’ll just take a little of their oil
While hoping they don’t expect us to clothe and feed ‘em
Honest….we’re just trying to lead ‘em
To good old democracy and freedom.
Oh how I wish
I had a drink
Made in Moscow
Some new capitalist
Who can’t wait
To make a profit
On Russia’s new found misery
Workers of the world unite
Fill my glass with cheap vodka
Make me drunk
On your pain
Traveling at the speed of light
In opposite directions
On a collision course
Kill the S.O.B.
“Thou shalt not kill!”
In a particle accelerator
When they collide
Parts of thoughts fly
In seemingly random directions
In my brain
Tracking through the cerebrum
It was a photographic gel
In a dance with the conscious
No silent journey.
Children smile and all the while
Their innocence shines through
With open minds and open hearts
That melt the morning dew.
Then it’s off to school they go
To learn their ABC’s
When they return home to watch the news
It’s sex, violence, wars and aborted babies