For my Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I invited over a few of my friends from the forensics team and their roommates. We had a great dinner consisting of pulled pork, salad, spicy baked white beans, cilantro lime brown rice, and bread. The people who were at the dinner were as follows. Bailey is a junior at WKU who is a member of the forensics team and brought the pulled pork. Eli is a freshman at WKU brought the rice and is roommates with one of my teammates Alex. Eli is also a member of the forensics team. Alex is also a freshman at WKU who is on the forensics team and he brought the spicy beans because he is a vegan. Alec is roommates with my friend Bailey and he is a junior from Lexington Kentucky. I originally planned to have my other teammates bring some of their floor-mates but they had cancelled at the last minute.
While the group wasn’t as diverse as it could have been, I do think that the group was representative of great geographic diversity. In fact, every single person who attended the dinner was from a different area. The group represented people from Blaine (Minnesota), Englewood (FL), Lexington (Kentucky), Albany (Georgia), and Newton (Kansas). Bailey and I are also first generation college students with family lineage going back to grandparents and/or parents who immigrated to the United States from Europe.
As dinner got under way the first thing that was brought up was the obvious, the results of the election. The majority of the people around the table had a general disgust with the election overall, which is how the conversation started. All parties involved decided that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been the two weakest candidates since we have been able to vote. Realizing that a Trump victory was an inevitability, much of the discussion was centered around the idea of why we believe that Trump had to use such bigoted and discriminatory framings to advance his policies. While none of us agreed with the policies that Trump was implementing, we all agreed that there could be some policies better formulated by Trump. One such suggestion was creating a system that vets all immigrants instead of just targeting Muslims by establishing a registry. We agreed obviously it is important to know the background of people who are going to reside within this country, but we all though that it should be easier to get citizenship.
Moving on from the political discussions, we began to talk about our family heritage. Eli, Alex, and Alec grew up with families who have lived in the United States for the last few generations. However, both Bailey and I had the unique experience of coming from families who are very diverse in their background and come from Europe. One thing that Bailey and I noticed was different was the size of our families. When we have family get-togethers, it is normal to have 30-40 people over at our house. However, the other members in our group came from very small families who weren’t very close. Both Bailey and I realized that we know our fourth cousins like they are our siblings, but the rest of the group really didn’t know their extended family very well or at all. However, everyone at the dinner came from families who are not extraordinarily wealthy. Baily and I learned to be frugal from the older generations of our families, but the rest of the group grew up in rural areas in families that know how to save money and spend frugally. I thought that is was quite interesting that even though our lineage came from very different backgrounds, there are some societal indicators that pass down traits through generations. In this instance, families who have come from humble upbringings teach future generations to be frugal with the money that they make.
The final theme that we discussed at our dinner was religion. For the people in the group, both Eli and I identify as being Roman Catholic. Alec identifies as Lutheran. Both Alex and Bailey stated that they did not believe in any higher power or God. This conversation got a bit personal but eventually centered around the idea of how religion can be used as a powerful tool in society. Many people in the past have used religion in harmful ways to extort money out of people for their personal gain. But, on the other hand we realized that the moral underpinnings of a variety of religions and moral codes all like on the same principles of being a good person and ensuring that you not only benefit yourself but also those around you.
Everyone at the end of the meal said what they thought citizenship means to them. In light of the recent political climate, many people in the group were slightly hesitant to identify as being proud of our nation. However, people said that being a citizen of this country goes beyond the bounds of the person our country elects in the white house. In fact, the group agreed that if you are unhappy with the political situation in the country it is your obligation to speak up and vote to incite change. Thus, we concluded that a citizen is someone who always stands up for their best interests and the best interests of everyone in this country. As a bunch of white males, we will never personally feel the ramifications of Trump’s immigration policies for the Latino or Muslim population. However, as citizens of this country we have an obligation to speak out and protect those around us. That is how we can truly “make America great again”.
I really enjoyed my Kentucky Kitchen table. In fact, this project had very pronounced connections to the class which preaches about a sense of community. A strong community will always strive for seeking out ways to live better together. While we didn’t agree on every issue that we discussed, there was always a middle ground that was found. This is because everyone in the group put forth their ideas in a reasonable and calm way. As a result, we kind of engaged in a deliberation that brought us together instead of polarizing us. This project has taught me that there is no way to live better together as a community than getting to know the people who surround you. And even though many of the members of this group were on the forensics team with me, I learned so much about my fellow teammates, especially the freshman. This just goes to show that talking to the people around you can bring you all closer together.