My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place on October 21st at my sister’s friend’s house in Louisville. The dinner took place around Laura P’s kitchen table, and we had a potluck. I brought spaghetti and Italian sausage (cooked by yours truly), while others brought bread, salad, and vegetarian pasta. The food was excellent, but the highlight of the meal was definitely the conversation. My table included four college educated women. My sister, Laura K, a graduate student studying geography, was one of the participants. Her friend, Cecily, is in medical school doing clinical practices at the moment. Kara, Cecily’s friend, works for a non-profit organization based on environmental sustainability in urban environments. And Laura P is a graduate student at physical therapy school. While this group consisted of all women except for me, I believe they had diverse opinions and experiences. Two of the aforementioned proudly identify as LGBQT members in our area. Cecily is from Richmond KY, and Laura P is from Maryland.
I opened our conversation up with the required, “What does it mean to be a citizen to you? Other than paying taxes, voting, and following the law.” Laura P’s answer was the most memorable one. She stated she thought citizenship was a term for exclusion. It is a social construct that allows one group of people to exclude someone they view as different than themselves. Certain groups that the majority feels has slighted them collectively are often made aliens to places they call home. Cecily stated citizenship was a term for privilege. It gives someone the privilege to vote and live without fear of being deported from their homelands. Laura K stated a citizen is someone who promotes their nation in any way possible, while remaining true to themselves. Their nation can be based on ethnicity, or it can be based on allegiance pledging. Kara viewed a citizen as a legal structure that enables people to gain certain rights and privileges. Privilege came up during multiple answers, which I thought was an interesting perspective, since some Americans would say that citizenship is a right which is clearly dependent on whom’s perspective you ask. They then asked me what I thought it meant to be a citizen? To me, being a citizen is a cosmopolitan effort. It is about being a good person and promotion of mankind as a whole to reach greater heights. I took on citizenship as a distinctly more positive term that has been abused by those in power to create the negative connotation my KKT participants stated.
I then switched the conversation to a more uplifting one. I asked what is the best thing in our world today? Laura P stated that the park system in Louisville is beautiful. We have dozens of parks in our community that are each uniquely beautiful and a great opportunity to mountain bike. Cecily stated Mammoth Cave because of its rich history and awe inspiring beauty. Laura K said that the Louisville community was the best part of the world. It offers the perks of a large city such as transportation and entertainment, while also offering a small-town feel. She enjoyed how she could not go anywhere in public without running into people she knows. This kind of experience helps foster a genuine sense of belonging within the community and a mutual bipartisan desire for people to help improve the community. Kara stated the refugee community in the Louisville area as her favorite part of the world. Louisville is proudly a refugee center and has groups of refugees from all across the world. She enjoys planning events that help bring the worlds of all Louisvillians together through her non-profit. My favorite part of our world today is the interconnectedness of our melting pot. Through soccer, I have met people from all over the world who I may not have met otherwise. Off the soccer field someone may receive preferential treatment or be wealthy. On the field though, we are all equals there for the love of the game and we all care deeply about the world’s greatest game.
We then talked about how we could make life better for those around us. Laura P stated a friendlier environment for American immigrants would make life better; she finds it ironic that almost all Americans migrated to the United States, yet there is still a great disdain towards them by a significant portion of the population. Kara challenged this sentiment by stating people in the south were welcoming to all cultures despite their anti-immigration stance. I played devil’s advocate to this statement responding that there is a big difference between allowing someone to live near you, as opposed to making them feel truly welcomed in your town. I also brought up Peter Maas’ Love Thy Neighbor in which Bosnia descended into chaos in a multi-cultural nation. It was important to note under the right leadership and right circumstances that genocide and war atrocities could be committed in a developed nation. Cecily stated improvement in funding in Jefferson County Public Schools would elevate our society by helping our future voting citizens become more educated and informed. Currently, some lower income schools are struggling with sending their students to college and maintaining positive learning environments. Laura K stated that Louisville could expand its eco-friendly public transportation system. The city currently has a few “green” routes, yet could do more as a leader in the city by cutting emissions. Louisville sits in the Ohio River Valley and has notoriously poor air quality, particularly in the summers. My biggest area for improving life in our area was the city hosting more public events that help bring diverse people out to celebrate the greatness of diversity.
I then transitioned by asking what social issue was closest to their hearts. Laura P’s was immigration. She was very upset with Trump’s immigration policy and hundreds of children under the age of five being kept in cells without their parents. She believes it is a scare tactic by Trump to deter future illegal immigrants who want to move to the United States in search of a better life. Cecily’s biggest social issue was LGBT rights. She believed that they are accepted in most areas of society, yet there is still a strong number of people who would prefer no interaction with people from this community. Laura K stated that the environment was her biggest social issue. She believes there will be no time for politics when there are water shortages and mass migration problems as people from coastal cities are forced into mainland cities. She said if you think immigration is a problem now, wait until the environment forces an astronomical amount of people to move inward. I mentioned that in our reading, “Forget Shorter Showers”, municipal waste only creates 3% of all environmental waste. Laura stated she knew corporations were the largest polluters, and that restrictions being passed down on them from politicians who care about the environment would be the best avenue to create positive change. Kara’s biggest concern was minority rights. While she did concede strides have been made to getting minorities more representation, it has not enough to satisfy her concerns. She cited the disproportionate amount of African Americans in prison and involved in police shootings to continue the fight for their rights. My biggest concern was gun control as I strongly believe we need to increase restrictions on gun control. I know we cannot feasible track all weapons, but the amount of mass shootings is on a sharp rise; they simply do not occur when people who should not have guns do not possess them. The second amendment is the right to bear arms, not the right to mass murder.
From this kitchen table, I gained new perspective on both global and local points of contention as a male in society. As these women conveyed, they do not feel fully represented by their government and know it a reality that they have an extra step to go to be granted equal rights and opportunities as men. It is important to not be set in your ways of thinking, and always be open to the possibility that your opinion and perspectives may not always be correct and accurate. You should obviously believe in something, however it is important to inquire about why we think the way we do and how we can learn to consider all perspectives as much as possible when weighing the consequences of our actions. Overall, my conversation was a great learning experience and effective in pushing me to think outside my own norms. Everyone who participated was invested in the dinner, and I would recommend future classes partake in the activity. I believe my group was extra effective in that it cited facts and statistics, not solely how one issue made them feel, which is a skill that is dying out in our society. Our own view of the world is affected by outside and internal factors. It is important to be able to keep a leveled head when processing outside factors, so that we come to rational conclusions. I felt as though our conversation was a deliberation, in which everyone let everyone else speak. The participants in my dinner cared about our conversation, but they did not take disagreements as a personal slight, and realized that is important to have disagreements about our future, because it shows people are trying to conceive all possible outcomes, not just ones we want to see.