My family had a late Easter dinner on April 14, 2018 which is when I chose to engage in my Kentucky Kitchen Table Project. This took place in Calvary, Kentucky which is the birthplace of both of my great grandparents. At the dinner (my table) was myself, my grandfather, Rickie, great grandmother, Patty, and my other great grandmother, Betty. I chose to have this discussion with people who were older in order to view different generations’ perceptions on citizenship, government, e.g. Both of my great grandmothers are in their early eighties and have lived in Marion County their entire lives, Patty describes herself as wiser due to being the oldest of ten siblings. Both come from agricultural families of middle-class income. Ricky, my grandfather is in his fifties and is more engaged in politics than my grandmothers. I started off this discussion by asking the first question to them “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” To which the conversation began to center around how America allows people to earn their status based on achievement and hard work, in many cases. Patty stated “I wish I had the opportunities your generation had, I always felt like I was obligated to stay around here and do exactly what all my family did before me.” In some cases, social class can hinder one’s ability to fulfill their dreams, but when bringing this up they all agreed that although college is expensive that it is much more accessible for today’s youth. I found this as an interesting topic because in our class we always talk about how we could live better together and I feel that most people coming to college and fulfilling their dreams have some interest in learning more about others on diverse college campuses. Furthermore, another topic of discussion relating to this question was that citizenship to them means that you should contribute to society and work hard at whatever contribution you make. My grandfather is a very hard-working farmer, which he takes a lot of pride in, and said that having that contribution to society makes him feel like he is a part of something, and gives him purpose rather than focusing on the monetary incentive. This statement motivated me to move into another point of discussion on what types of people they wanted to be, and although my great grandmothers are old in age they had some very refreshing answers. My grandmother, Betty, said that she wants to be more carefree and outspoken; Grandma Betty has always been the quieter of the two, but she claimed that talking to people that she doesn’t know is still something that she forces herself to do on occasion. I found this inspiring because if all of us would go out of our way to talk to strangers and get to know other people in society I feel that could be a small start to understanding and living better together as American citizens. Furthering from her answer, the main theme of their desires was to be a person who was hard-working, religious, and honest. In my opinion, I feel that these are all qualities that I strive for and are very respected in their generation as well as this generation. Also, since they brought up religion I introduced the question of whether religious beliefs shaped how they believed we should treat others. Since they are honest people they did admit that being raised within a period where racism was more prevalent that they were not proud of how they had viewed African Americans at some points in their life, but all three of them said that because of their deep belief in God and his creations that they never treated anyone as different. They also expressed that they consciously tried to be compassionate to others and their situations due to their religious beliefs. Therefore, I believe that religious beliefs do motivate some people to disregard biases they may have been exposed to, to accept people as equal and treat people with respect.
The next topic of discussion I focused on was the community-based conversation starter, such as “what kind of community do you live in?” and “what do you love most about living where you do?” My guests are a part of my extended family and all grew up and remain in a small, rural area that is about fifteen minutes from the small city that defines our community. My grandfather stated his excitement for this topic because he absolutely loves our small town, his main positive aspects are how personable people are in a small town. You know how they say in small towns everyone knows everyone, he loves running into someone he knows everywhere he goes. Another positive aspect he discussed was the convenience of not being too close to anyone, considering he lives on a large farm, but still feeling like “I could go next door to ask to borrow some sugar.” He expressed that the feeling of unity he feels in our community is by far his favorite part of our town. On the other hand, though I feel that most people in my hometown community are basically the same causing issues with no diversity and low exposure to different people and cultures. Also, my grandmother, Patty, said that she loved how safe the community was. This stems from the unified feeling when coming from a small town, but with less people who also all know each other, crimes seem to be more defining and shameful. My grandmother calls me often telling me that I should not walk alone and to carry maze with me everywhere I go which shows how paranoid she is about the dangers of being surrounded by more people considering that Bowling Green is a city, which commonly have higher crime. Therefore, small towns seem to be ideal in some aspects but also contain drawbacks when discussing exposure.
Branching off from this topic, this sense of togetherness in a small community like mine made them feel that they had an obligation to help others in the community. For example, a young boy lost his leg in a car accident and the community supported him by buying t-shirts to fund treatment, mentioning his story and praying for him throughout county churches, e.g. The obligation to help others is increased when the situation is more personable. Contrastingly, other than my grandfather, my grandmothers thought that the United States needed to fix our own problems rather than dealing with other countries issues, unless a state of emergency arises. My grandfather strongly disagreed though, which may be in part because he knows more about large issues in the world, and he combatted this with the fact that the United States is obviously one of the most privileged countries in the world and that we should use what we possess to help other countries and their citizens who are struggling through poverty, e.g. Therefore, their deliberation conveyed the problems within and outside of the United States that were close to their hearts.
Betty said “the social issue that is closest to my heart is all of the drugs these young people use that ruins their lives.” In our family, there is someone directly affected by drug addiction, therefore making this topic especially important to us. Once agreeing with my grandmother, I discussed our article “How to Stop the Deadliest Drug Overdose Crisis in American History” by German Lopez by introducing some of the solutions such as preventing wrongful prescription of opioids, making drug usage safer, and making treatment more accessible. They came to the consensus that some of these solutions paired together could potentially resolve the issue, but they seemed to see the addiction as more of a disciplinary fix. My grandfather strongly wanted stricter regulations on drug activity because he saw the options I offered to them as more enabling which we discussed in class, since they did not actually prevent drug usage he, most of all, thought they would not help as much as in theory they would. He believes that if there is more of a punishment enforced that there is less of an incentive to even start using these drugs. Although, I explained that the options of better access to treatment or making drug use safer as ways to save lives which both of my grandmothers felt was the most important thing to begin to address the problem. Our personal relationship really affected their viewpoints on the issue I believe because they knew that this addiction was not primarily a moral issue which is normally a large misconception of the public, as we discussed.
Through this experience I learned not only more about my family members but more about myself. I now recognize all the good things that stemmed from my unique background and community, along with why there may be more controversy and issues in Bowling Green rather than my hometown. This relates to what we have learned in class because through leaving that small town I have experienced so many different people with varying backgrounds and viewpoints which I believe will help me live better with others, solve problems, and have more of a say in my own life in the future. Furthermore, I learned how disciplined the older generation is, I feel that the newer generation is so much more accepting and open to deliberation, discussion of large issues than those generations who have very strict belief sets. For example, my grandfather directly putting the opioid epidemic in the hands of law enforcement because although my grandmothers saw that this was not a moral issue, he thought that it was punishable due to the moral decision to initially take opioids. This experience was very eye opening and helped me to relate to many issues that we have been discussing this semester.