My Kentucky kitchen table was hosted by another student in my class, Tori. I brought my roommate (also named Rachel), and we had dinner with Tori, her boyfriend Ian, and Ian’s friend Justin. We agreed to stick to snack type foods, and enjoyed chips and salsa and pigs in a blanket. Tori is a veterinary science major (and has a very cute cat and dog at her house!). Ian, her boyfriend, decided to go straight into the workforce after college, and had some interesting viewpoints on the differences between higher education and the alternate path that he chose. Rachel–my roommate– is a lesbian, and discussed with us some of her own struggles with her sexuality. Justin grew up in a fairly deprived background, and told us about his experiences with his bipolar disorder and receiving government assistance.
We talked about a lot of things, obviously, including citizenship, drugs, equality, and gender issues. While we all had a vague agreement on what it means to be a citizen–namely, don’t break the law or hurt other people–our varying backgrounds meant that we all had different specific views on how best to serve our community. Ian’s view seemed to be a more active one, in that he felt like you weren’t a good citizen unless you were actively doing good work in your community, while I felt that often citizenship can also be more passive, in the sense of minding your own business and allowing other people to have privacy. It was also interesting to me that the men were the ones who were more eager to bring up gender issues, and while the general consensus was that sexism is obviously an issue, Justin and Ian felt that there are still differences in what women and men are best suited for when looking for jobs and when serving their community. Justin’s background also meant he had much more experience with seeing the effects of drug abuse, so he was able to discuss the impact of these drugs that he’s seen.
I’m from Nebraska originally, so it was interesting to me to see the variety of experiences in Kentucky. The differences between the Midwest and the South came to the forefront when we discussed citizenship, I think. The South tends to be much more gregarious, which I think is why Kentucky people often see citizenship as involving an active engagement with other people. The Midwest is definitely much more closed off, and there’s often an attitude that other people’s lives aren’t really your business; while that sounds kind of bad, I also think that this kind of attitude is what contributed to Iowa, for instance, being one of the first states to legalize gay marriage. There’s a sense of “I don’t like what you’re doing, but it’s also not my place to tell you not to do it.” At the same time, I think this definitely could contribute to some of the passivity that we talked about in class, such as with the little Chinese girl who couldn’t get help.
Both sides have their pros and cons obviously, but it was interesting to me to see how the social attitude of the South contributed to Kentucky people’s views of citizenship. Obviously this relates to our own class’ discussion of citizenship, as there’s been a lot of argument over whether we have an active responsibility to do certain things. I can’t say whether there’s one right or wrong answer, but it was really interesting to see how these people of various backgrounds approached the issue.