Kentucky at War
Carol Trainer could hardly process what was happening. To her, a 60-year-old grandmother and Vietnam veteran, of all people. On Memorial Day, of all times. Arrested for protesting the war at, of all places, Abbey Road on the River, an annual five-day Beatles tribute that had adopted a fortieth-anniversary Summer of Love theme for 2007.
Forty years ago, when the Louisville native married Air Force officer Harold Trainer, Carol wouldn't have gone near anything associated with the Summer of Love. "I wasn't an activist; just the opposite, in fact." But since 2002, when the Trainers--he retired from twenty-three years in the Force, she from eleven years as a Northwest Airlines flight attendant--found that they couldn't keep quiet about the catastrophe that was poised to unfold in Iraq, they've been unlikely stalwarts in one of the country's feistiest grassroots antiwar movements.
At Abbey Road, Carol had joined cohorts from the Louisville Peace Action Community (LPAC), passing out end-the-war pamphlets to incoming patrons--many of them young folks duded up for the occasion in flowers, beads and peace signs. Early that afternoon, she'd decided to join the fun inside, have a couple of beers and dance along to the music she'd missed in the '60s. After spotting a couple of youngsters holding up peace-symbol signs, she figured it would be OK to walk around with her bright blue End the War! sign. The festival's producer gave her explicit permission to do so. After all, it was perfectly in tune with the spirit of a festival whose grand finale would be a musical production called "Hell No, We Won't Go."
Trainer didn't make it that far. As she was dancing and singing along to the strains of psychedelic nostalgia, holding her sign off to the side of the main festival stage, an oversized sheriff's deputy came stalking toward her. "He comes up to me and says, 'Drop your sign,'" Trainer recalls. "I said, 'Why?' He said, 'I told you to drop your sign.' He grabbed it out of my hand when I didn't drop it. That kind of started me. I thought, What's going on here? I kept asking why and he wouldn't tell me." The only explanation Trainer received, after her arrest, was that offended patrons had complained that she was harassing them and ruining their fun. She says that while dozens of people thanked her for the message, she had been confronted by four patrons, including one veteran "who said, 'This is Memorial Day--we're here to enjoy ourselves.' I said, 'When do the people in Iraq get to enjoy themselves?'" Crying and struggling with the deputy, she tried appealing to Mayor Jerry Abramson, who was watching the show nearby, but he "just stared and glared at me and didn't say a word." The deputy and a Metro Police officer dragged her off forcefully in handcuffs. "I did not go quietly," Trainer acknowledges, and she ended up charged not only with disorderly conduct at the festival but also with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. (Two of the charges were ultimately dropped; on the advice of LPAC's attorney, she agreed to do forty hours of community service for the resisting-arrest charge without admitting guilt.)
"You don't think that this could happen in the United States, you know," says Trainer. "One thing that irritates me is when some military people come up and say, 'I'm over there so you can do this. So you have the right.' And I'll say, now, after this, 'No, I don't have the right.'"
While protesting the war has alienated the Trainers from many of their old military buddies--"They tend to think we've left the reservation," says Harold--they've become fast friends with "peace people" they once despised. "They've really accepted us very well as partners in the peace effort," Harold says, "even though we're military." While LPAC, a spinoff of Louisville's large and active Fellowship of Reconciliation, includes its fair share of hard-core pacifists, the group--like so many other peace efforts around the country--has flung its tent wide open. "When Harold and Carol joined us," says longtime activist Judy Munro-Leighton, "it elevated our credibility about 1 million percent. When people came up to us at the state fair, or wherever we were demonstrating, and said, 'Yeah, what the hell do you know about it? You've never fought in a war,' we could point to Carol and Harold and say, 'They have.'"
Carol Trainer's twelve hours in jail kicked off the most raucous summer yet for Kentucky's antiwar movement--a vibrant microcosm of the coalition of peace activists, military veterans and families, blue-collar hard hats and college professors, old and young and (mostly) middle-aged, who've been spurred to action by the disaster in Iraq.