My Kentucky Kitchen Table project took place on November 11 in Bowling Green, Kentucky at one of my close friend’s house like 10 minutes away from campus. Her mom was nice enough to host us for a home-cooked meal. The meal was chicken puffs (crescents with chicken in them), mashed potatoes, peas, corn, and for dessert we had vanilla milkshakes. The people at my dinner were: Maria, Izzy, Ally, Halle, and Cory. Maria, Ally, and Halle are all in the same sorority however, all come from varying backgrounds. Ally is from Louisville and went to a large public school. She is the oldest of two siblings and came to Western to major in public relations. Maria, Izzy, and Halle are all from Bowling Green but all went to different high schools and have diverse family backgrounds. Maria is the youngest of two girls and went to one of the public schools here in Bowling Green. Maria is currently undecided at Western. Izzy is one of 4 siblings and her parents are separated. She went to a different public school from Maria in Bowling Green. Izzy is majoring in accounting. Halle is an only child and went to the same school Izzy went to. She is planning to either be a nurse or elementary education teacher. Cory is the father of Halle, who I got the pleasure to meet the night of my dinner. Cory has lived in various places of Kentucky throughout his life and often travels a lot for his job as an insurance office director. I had even learned that he frequently traveled to St. Louis, where I am from, for business.
To begin the meal, we talked about our day and general get to know each other type of questions. This allowed everyone around the table to better know one another and create a more comfortable environment to deliberate. To dive into the Kentucky Kitchen Table experience I began by asking the big question: Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you? The conversation took a little time to begin as they noted that to them citizenship typically means voting, paying taxes and following laws. Having the meal closely after the election brought up a lot of points about voting and being able to voice one’s opinion to be a citizen. However, when we dug into the question more, the conversation truly began. Izzy was the first one to note something. She said that citizenship can mean to preserve the country in which one is a citizen. Many were curious as to what this was meant to say and asked for examples as to how we, as citizens, can preserve our country. Cory brought up the idea of climate change and how in order to care for and preserve our country we need to be concerned with global warming and its effects on the people. This was a unique idea to all of us because it is literally preserving the physical country in which you are a citizen rather than the governmental infrastructure. They said that we can choose to do little things in order to potentially create a big change as a community. Such little things as recycling and population control were noted to benefit our community, therefore, making one a better citizen. This was intriguing to me because in class we read different articles about what we can and cannot to for climate change. I thought about the article, “Why Bother?” in which it noted that we are too late to make a change when it comes to climate. I brought up the point saying that we could potentially be too far gone that out small actions wouldn’t even make an impact. Many were astonished by this idea but understand the concern of how things may be too far gone. The agreement and disagreement were done in a very mature manner as we discussed climate change and how this could impact citizens. Understanding the idea that an individual’s actions may not specifically make a big enough impact to cause change many argued that a whole community could create it. They simply said being a better citizen starts at a community level. This became a common theme throughout the topic of conversation. They noted the idea that if a whole community made a change due to the way they handle the climate, then it could potentially have a greater impact. Taking the conversation away from climate control, many said that one needs to better the community in order to fully live out the rights of a citizen. This could mean educating the community. For example, having community workshops where people are taught the basic ideas of our government. They could be able to better understand what is being said on the news about things happening in the government and how our laws have impacted decisions over time. Becoming more educated on America and how the system works could help many in the community feel as if they are achieving the standards of being a citizen. Ally even noted a valid point saying that if all communities were to take a small step into educating and informing their people, America would benefit in the end. America would be filled with citizens informed and ready to fulfill their duties as they see fit. In conclusion, citizenship meant to be educated and to make change happen in one’s community so that could impact greater things.
I continued the conversation by asking what is good in the world today and what is bad. It was astonishing to see the number of bad things people thought of before anything else. It was so easy to come up with bad things happening today- war, racism, sexism, mass shooting, etc. Yet, there were very little ideas of good things happening. Many thoughts about things in their own lives that they could say was good, nothing related to the whole world or the country as a whole. I asked what could be changed to reduce the bad in the country and many brought up the idea of gun control and how that could limit the mass shootings. Izzy and Ally jumped on the idea of gun control right away noting that this social issue was the most prevalent in today’s society of being an American citizen. They noted how they feel that there needs to be reform when it comes to gun control and this change needs to happen at the national level. They brought up the idea that being a citizen is expressing their ideas gun control was an important concept that they wanted to see change brought to. Communities can try to implement ideas but ultimately it would be the national government making the change. Others around the table agreed with their opinion saying a modification is necessary with the amount of mass shooting occurring in the nation. As citizens, they are wanting the best for the nation as a whole. However, they still feel as it would need to be more than their individual self to have a big enough voice to change the governmental view as a whole. We still came back to the idea that communities and bigger groups need to come together to find a change rather than a single individual.
I found this whole process of the Kentucky Kitchen Table to be eye-opening. Being able to hear many different ideas about issues and get to know people better all around a traditional table and meal was fascinating. I feel like in the society we live in we are always busy and doing something, there is rarely time to sit down, have a meal, and good conversation. When the meal was all done, the people around the table felt like they had opened their eyes to new ideas and found new perspectives on what being a citizen truly meant. They all thanked me for the unique opportunity, even Cory who I had just met. He had felt like it was educational for everyone involved. I was happy with the outcome of the dinner and the conversation. There was no real place in which the conversation lacked, everyone always had something to add or say to contribute.
Throughout this project, I got to experience a new way to deliberate. Rather than the typical classroom setting and the same people each time, it was very different. It seemed more casual all around a kitchen table while we ate. Each person was still very considerate of one another and respected each other’s viewpoints and ideas. No one was completely against someone else’s viewpoints, they each understood every angle that was mentioned. Despite the questions and ideals, we talked about to be “wicked problems” with no clear answer, we continued to think or ideas or ways to better some problems with society and the ideal of citizenship. They truly wanted society as a whole to be able to work, and live, and solve problems better. Even though people have varying opinions of issues if we can agree to disagree and acknowledge everyone’s right to an opinion maybe everyone could live better together.