By Nicole

My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place at a sociology professor’s home in the city of Bowling Green, Kentucky. There were four members at our dinner: the professor, Lauren, Madison, Kaleb, and myself. Lauren’s daughter was there eating with us as well, but she was two years old, so there were technically four people at our table. During our Kentucky Kitchen Table, we ate fruit salad and chicken salad in crescents. It was delicious. I am a picky eater, so I was unsure about whether or not I would like it, but it was really good. After we finished eating, we were hanging out at the table talking, and then Lauren’s daughter wanted to go outside so we moved our conversation to the outside furniture. Then, she wanted Lauren to watch her swing, so we moved to the swing-set and stood around and talked.

Lauren is married and has two children. She is from New York. For graduate school, she moved to Ohio to attend Bowling Green State University. She met her now-husband and started working as a professor at Western Kentucky University in Kentucky. During our Kentucky Kitchen Table discussion, she told us that she pays more for childcare than she does for her mortgage every month. One of the most important issues that she cares about the most is the Fairness Ordinance, which is the ordinance that supporters are trying to be passed by the City Commissioner’s Office in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Kaleb is a freshman who is from Somerset, Kentucky, which is only about an hour away from campus. He was more shy during my Kentucky Kitchen Table than the rest of us. He wears glasses, wore a t-shirt and shorts, and lives in Minton Hall on campus. He is technically a sophomore and he is majoring in computer information technology. During my Kentucky Kitchen Table discussion, I learned that his father is a high school teacher who once was laid off, and when his father was laid off, his family was on food stamps for a few months. I found that interesting because I did not expect to learn that he and his family had been on food stamps.

Madison is a freshman who is from a town close to Maysville, Kentucky. She lives on a farm. To the Kentucky Kitchen Table, she wore a dress and a pair of boots, which was a cute outfit in my opinion. She is a freshman this semester. She was pre-med, and then she switched to pre-nursing. She had blonde hair. When I first saw her, she looked like a popular sorority girl. However, I was surprised by how she was much more than just a popular sorority girl. She was kind and was happy to help Lauren with her two-year-old daughter, Tenley. She has a country accent and tattoos. One of her tattoos, which I thought was really interesting, was “Just Breathe” written on her wrist. That particular tattoo came from words that her mother told her when she would have an anxiety attack, which happened frequently when she first came to college. During the Kentucky Kitchen Table, I learned that her father is a high school teacher. He used to work with mechanics and then got a pacemaker. When he got a pacemaker, he was laid off and then her family was on food stamps for a short period of time. I was also surprised by learning this because I did not expect to learn that she and her family had been on food stamps.

We spoke about a wide range of topics during our Kentucky Kitchen Table. We spoke about how citizenship and being a good citizen in society is helping and caring about other people around you. It also means thinking and considering what other people are dealing with and going through when making decisions and living our lives. One example that Lauren brought up during our Kentucky Kitchen Table was the Fairness Ordinance, which is an ordinance that protects LGBTQIA+ people from being discriminated against based on their sexuality and gender identity. As she pushed her daughter on the swing outside and we stood around her, she said, “Obviously, I’m not gay, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be sympathetic to people who are gay and may identify as a different gender.” We discussed how citizenship means considering others around you instead of thinking only about yourself. We discussed how in America, we sometimes end up only thinking about ourselves and what we go through. I brought up how with the attempt of passing the American Health Care Act by the Republican party recently, the politicians are wealthy, white, and did not consider the ramifications that that healthcare legislation would have had on the impoverished communities in America who rely on Medicaid.

When we discussed listening to others and considering what others are going through, we discussed the factors that play into poverty, including institutionalized racism and job availability. We also talked about the difference between a personal problem and a public problem. For example, if one couple gets a divorce, people around that couple may think that that is simply a personal issue between that couple. However, if divorce rates have gone up in the community where that couple lives, then it becomes a public issue. Therefore, we talked about how we need to stop only thinking about ourselves and see the bigger picture. This discussion made me think about wicked problems and how there are a lot of different factors that go into solving wicked problems.

We talked about social issues that we are passionate about. One social issue that Kaleb talked about was Medicaid and food stamps. He talked about how he does not like that some people think that people who are enrolled in Medicaid or get food stamps are simply lazy and do not want to work in order to afford their own food and health care. That was when he told us about his father getting laid off and how his family was on food stamps for a certain period of time. I talked about how I was passionate about the issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault because I was sexually harassed by a coworker and I was extremely bothered by that incident. However, when I was harassed by him, I did not realize that it was sexual harassment because it was something that was extremely normalized in our society, which makes me feel sad about our society. Normalizing acts of harassment enables rape and harassment culture to continue, and that is something that I am passionate about ending. Madison talked about how she was in an abusive relationship and when she was in that relationship, she did not realize that it was abusive. She continued that relationship for a long time and then when she broke up with him, he called her over 40 times and left a bunch of voicemails where he threatened to kill himself because of her, which is one of many forms of emotional manipulation that he worked on her. Therefore, because of that situation, she is passionate about stopping abusive relationships and helping victims of abuse.

We also talked about the abortion-genocide pictures that were featured on campus in Centennial Mall recently. In general, the pictures were pictures of aborted babies and the displays compared them to pictures of genocide throughout history, such as genocide in Cambodia and the Holocaust during the 1940s. Lauren told us that those pictures have not changed since she was a student at college during the 80’s. I talked about how those pictures will not change anyone’s mind about the issue of abortion. Madison told us that she was pro-life because she came from a very small town where everyone was pro-life. I told her that I used to be pro-life until I took a step back and thought about the issue from the perspective of a woman who has had to get an abortion. We discussed how it is important for us to have a healthy debate about the issue of abortion, not compare it to genocide and make pro-choice supporters angry and not want to debate the issue. That topic that we were talking about made me think about the “Importance of Argument” reading that was in Week 1 of class. It is important for us to deliberate on topics instead of yelling at each other and not wanting to compromise on the issue. This could connect well with the “How We Talk Matters” reading, too. Deliberating is important in order to get things done in society.

Overall, I learned how although we all came from different backgrounds and had different views on things, we all still had similarities between us. I also learned how there are so many wicked problems in our world, including Medicaid, poverty, the minimum wage, and abortion. I could connect what I learned at the Kentucky Kitchen Table with the “Wicked Problems” reading because there is no right or wrong way to solve these problems. There are only better or worse ways to solve the problems. I appreciated the Kentucky Kitchen Table dinner because it helped me get different perspectives on the world around me.

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