Kentucky Kitchen Table: Citizenship Consensus

By Rylee

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We could not get everyone in one shot, so Bonita is missing from the top picture and Michael is missing from the bottom one. Therefore, we took two photos to make sure they were at least each in one.

My KKT involved eight people, including myself, who met at my home in Bowling Green, KY. The first person there was my mother, Holly. She is 49 years old and is originally from Morgantown, KY. She teaches eighth grade English for a living at Butler County Middle School. She is passionate about her job and those she teaches, and is currently rallying for teachers’ rights in Kentucky. She makes a difference in as a citizen in this way. Second was my stepdad, Michael. Michael grew up in Brownsville, KY, better known as Edmonson County. As a young boy and teenager, he did a lot of farm work to help his family. At age 47, he is currently principal of Bluegrass Middle School in Elizabethtown, KY. He truly started at the bottom and was able to achieve much through his intelligence in order to get where he is in his career today. The last member of my family who was there was my grandmother, Bonita. She is Michael’s mother and is 73 years old. She lived in Edmonson County her entire life until moving in with Holly and Michael six months ago. She has a strong Christian faith and although she suffers from polio, she does not let it get her down as she maintains a spunky attitude. She offered another perspective to our group since she is two generations older than most of us.
The next people to be described are people who attend school at WKU. Kinsley came and assisted me in hosting the dinner because we have Honors 251 together. She is a freshman from White House, TN and was raised by military parents. As an honors student, she is a hard worker and considers college to be a full-time job. She is also an avid member of CRU, a Christian group on campus. Her strong faith and kindness cause her to radiate light. Another friend of mine who came is Nichole. She grew up near Florence, KY but later moved to White House, TN. She has done a lot of traveling in her life and gains perspective from other cultures in this way. She enjoys helping others and plans to do so through her career path as a nursing major. The last two people in attendance were Katelyn and Taylor. I had met them a couple times before, but do not know them as well as Kinsley and Nichole. This opportunity allowed me to learn more about them. Katelyn is sophomore honors student studying journalism and tends to be more soft spoken. Her boyfriend, Taylor, is a junior honors student majoring in computer science. He mentioned that he enjoys talking and proved this by adding much to our discussion, typically asserting his conservative values.
Getting into our discussion, we started by discussing the required question: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” The main consensus was that as citizens, we should be polite to those around us. Holly and Michael also mentioned that part of being a citizen is standing up for how you believe life should be in this country, not only through voting, but through freedom of speech, petition, and press. Considering the fact that they both work in education, this is particularly relevant to them at this time as they have attended rallies and protests to support teachers when the Kentucky state government is cutting funds for their pensions. They also believe a citizen should be well informed when participating in protests such as these. Essentially, we came to the conclusion that citizens should be polite, work together, and contribute to society by utilizing American rights.
The next question we discussed was what kind of community we would like to live in. As residents of southern states, most everyone reiterated that it’s nice to live in a community where people are generally nicer to each other than the stereotypical rudeness of northern states. Bonita pointed out that this is something she has noticed in her lifetime. Taylor also brought up that he believes people should be armed to protect themselves, but that extensive background checks should possibly be made on people who purchase guns. After some deliberation, we agreed we are okay with having a gun locked away safely in people’s houses for the purpose of defense and hunting animals, but that no one should have a military grade weapon. I think what was most important to us all is that we live in a nice and safe community.
Some good responses were made to the question about how each of our jobs relates to our roles as citizens. Holly feels that all citizens should be educated and as a teacher, she does a good job of ensuring that they are. Additionally, I used to work at a Boys and Girls Club where I felt that I was being a good citizen by tutoring young children who may have not had the best home environments. I currently work in retail, where I enjoy interacting with others and helping them find what they need. Nichole also described how she worked in a grocery store and would help people take groceries out to their cars, which is part of being a polite citizen. Overall, we just do our best to help people in our occupations.
Following that, we asked how our religious identities influence how we treat other people. All of us firmly answered yes. Although we may be involved in different denominations of Christianity, we are all Christians. As Christians, we believe that people should treat others the way they would want to be treated. Kinsley mentioned that she thinks of how Jesus would act towards others and how he loved everyone. She is influenced by this and tries to show kindness towards others in her daily interactions. We all agreed that this is how we want to live our lives as well. Tying into that, we discussed our obligations to other people in our country and community. Our religious identities have a huge effect on this. Christians believe that you should serve your fellow beings. This allowed Kinsley and I to refer back to our class discussion about moral obligations and the video we watched of the young Chinese girl who was hit by a car. We decided that we believe we should be like the good samaritan that is described in the bible and help those we have the ability to help. That is our obligation.
These are not all the topics that were discussed that night, but I feel that these were the ones worth mentioning because they all have running themes of our consensus on citizenship. We basically answered the first central question of our class: how do we live better together? Everyone agreed that citizens should be polite, serve others, and be well informed in order to contribute to a nice, safe community. Citizens should not only vote and pay taxes, but stand for what they believe in and engage in solving social issues through the use of their basic rights. This leads to living better together.
Some of our conversation also reminded me of readings we have done in our class. Early on, Holly and Michael mentioned how citizens should be informed about politics and situations they may be advocating for or protesting. This relates back to our class reading of “Green Fire, the Still Point, and an Oak Grove.” In this reading, the college students protested the removal of the oak grove when they thought the trees were wild and had grown there ages ago. In fact, the grove was merely a garden. The students’ ignorance led to blind protests and they were simply seen as egrets fishing through their smeared reflections.
I also thought back to our reading, “If It Feels Right,” when talking about our obligations to others in our community and country. The author, David Brooks, claims that young people no longer have a shared moral framework and may lack moral reasoning abilities. However, I drew from our discussion that the millennials at our table do in fact seem to have shared moral standards. I believe this goes back to everyone’s religious identity because Christians have certain moral obligations in serving and helping others. Thus, not all young people can be said to only do things “if they feel right”. Many millennials were taught core moral values as children and keep them in their hearts, such as the ones in this group.
In conclusion, this experience allowed me to interact with intelligent individuals about the proper way to be a citizen. I was also able to engage with others who have different values than me. For instance, I am a democrat while most of the college students there had conservative views. It was a nice opportunity to deliberate with various people and reach a decision about what citizenship truly entails.

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