On March 16 I hosted a Kentucky Kitchen Table discussion in my home in Frankfort, KY. My mom, dad, and I provided the group with soup and sandwiches. The participants included me, my mom, dad, Fred, his mother Ruth, and his sister Lilly. [Some names changed.] My parents are both agnostic, white, 45+ years old, Republicans who voted for Trump, but they have pretty moderate views; they don’t hate gays, and they’re actually pretty accepting of a lot of the progressive ideas of our generation. My mother has completed 6+ years of college, and is an elementary school teacher. My father is a construction worker, ex-Army, and always very set in his beliefs and ways—he believes never wrong. Fred is the exact opposite of his sister Lilly. For starters, they’re the opposite gender, Lilly is a strong liberal whereas Fred is a strong conservative,Lilly is very selfless and Fred, it seems to me that Fred could be seen as selfish. Fred is widowed, and Lilly is divorced as of the 1970s; she’s almost always been on her own, and Fred always had a woman to take care of him. But they both have full college degrees; Fred got his masters in chemistry, and ran his own business for most of his adult life. Whereas Lilly got her degree in accounting and held jobs at banks and the sorts until she retired. As for their mother, Ruth, she is 90-ish years old—she’s unsure because she has Alzheimer’s. Sadly, she didn’t contribute much to my discussion because of her bad memory loss. I was hoping this discussion wouldn’t get too political, but you’ll soon come to see that this was completely impossible.
The only question I had time to ask was the required question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”Lilly started the conversation with her opinion. She essentially explained that she sees us as citizens of the world and that we should do everything we can to help others and all get along better. This, surprisingly, related back to one of our main questions in the class; “How can we live better together?” Eventually her brother, Fred, interrupted her with the dictionary definition of “citizen”, which is “a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth.” After this definition was given Fred and my parents completely took over the discussion by telling Lilly she was wrong and stupid to think that we are citizens of the world. Fred and my father agreed that a citizen only needs to vote, pay taxes, and obey the laws. Fred, who appears to me to be rather selfish who boarders being libertarian, even shared that you only should take care of yourself. My father and mother both decided they believe you should only have to take care of “your own”—basically your immediate family. Any time after this that Lilly attempted to explain her side in a calm way Fred would interrupt her with his dictionary definition of a citizen. My dad got annoyed and said that “Honors 251 sounds like a very liberal class, and I don’t like it.” At some point Lilly and Fred were screaming at each other, and Lilly eventually said “I feel completely ostracized in a room full of people against me.” And she left crying. I listened quietly as the remaining participants bashed and laughed at her after she left, and eventually Fred and Ruth left as well.
I actually learned a lot from this complete disaster of a discussion. The main thing I took away was a good general statement for conservatives and liberals. It seems to me that conservatives have a more “at home” way of looking at things, whereas liberals have a “bigger picture” outlook on issues. For instance, Lilly sees us as citizens of the world and thinks we should do all we can to make the world better for everyone to live together cohesively and happily. Fred and my father believed more that we should take care of our; whether it be our family, friends, community, or social class. Also, liberals often have a view that we should help those all over our nation with things like food stamps and Obamacare, whereas conservatives are usually against things like this. This is probably because conservatives commonly have the opinion that “everyone should work for what they have.” This is obviously more of an overarching statement because this might not always be the case.
The most important thing I learned from this discussion is that people from older generations have not been taught how to deliberate, essentially. For instance, when Lilly was sharing her opinion the others sat quietly and “listened” until they had heard enough and gotten mad. Then, when she tried to explain herself and give a rebuttal to their arguments, she was cut off and ostracized. The same thing happened when she had enough of them sharing their opinions, which contrasted hers completely. The older generations don’t care to scream and make fools of themselves if this means defending their beliefs and making their point be “more heard.” “How We Talk Matters” by Keith Melville talks about how important it is to listen to others when in the middle of conflict. I’m honestly so glad that we have talked about this in class. Throughout high school I learned a lot about how to debate and share my opinions, but we never talked about how to listen. That’s one of the main things I’ve taken away from this class; listen and calmly respond. It seems a lot of people in the world don’t really know how to listen to people when arguing and debating. This could probably be the cause for all of the unresolved conflict and problems in the world and government.
I’m honestly really disappointed with the outcome of my Kentucky Kitchen Table discussion. I only got to ask the one main question, but it honestly gave me a sad reality. The men and women in charge of us, our children, and our governments are roughly the same age as Fred, Lilly, and my father. They usually have about the same levels of education; Fred has his masters, Lilly her undergraduate, and my father had basic college level schooling while he was in the army. If the 3 of them couldn’t even discuss their differences in a casual and calm setting how can we expect the men and women in charge to do the same? That’s why I’m extremely grateful to be learning such important, useful cooperative skills through the readings and discussions in our class.