This past week, my friend and group member, Lori and I hosted a Kentucky Kitchen Table. At this KKT we gathered with friends and family to eat food and ask some questions that normally send people into running head first into arguments. We had the meal at my and my roommate’s apartment in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The name of the apartment complex is Campus Pointe, known for their affordable housing and roommate system. Everyone brought some type of food or drink a gathered around the dining room table to have a dinner consisting of pizza, banana bread, brownies, and wine. We made a makeshift chair out of the living room ottoman and laughed our way through our food before we got down to the important parts.
To begin, lets introduce you to both us and our guests.
I am Rheanna. I am a 20-year-old, white American female. I work at Ashcroft & Oak Jewelers in the Greenwood Mall. I actively practice a Pagan religion. I am an Asian Religions & Cultures major with an International Business minor and love to travel and experience new cultures.
Lori is an 18-year-old white American female who is also my classmate. She is wishing to pursue languages during her time at Western Kentucky University and is currently a part of the Confucius Institute Program. She enjoys reading in her free time. She prefers letting others carry the bulk of the conversation and listening.
Our guests were:
Corrina, a Black American woman, 21 years of age, who works in Portland, Tennessee at the Macy’s Distributer. She is Christian and attends church every Sunday. She also sings in her churches choir, of which she practices for once a week. A home body who loves crockpot meals, she has a loud laugh and a caring heart.
Jessica, a White American woman, 22 years of age, who is a Graduate Assistant in the Geology Department at Western Kentucky University. She is from Alabama. She did not discuss any particular religious views during our table discussion. She loves being outdoors with her dog Fitz Roy and frequently cave dives and goes on excursions with friends. She has a deadpan sense of humor and a preference to stay quiet.
Danial, a White American Man, 24 years of age, who works at both Bimbo Bakery’s and Papa John’s Pizza. He is Christian and identified himself as leaning more right wing with his views. Constantly cracking jokes, he enjoys being the center of attention.
As can be read, we are all American and majority white, however, past that, similarities are here and there. Some of us are home bodies, some would rather be out doors. Some of us are up to getting our hands dirty, some would just rather not. Areas of work and/or study are varied, family back grounds, religious, and political views are all tinged with variety. Talking with this group of people turned out to be quite rewarding.
First, in order to have everyone as happy as possible, we ate and had a few glasses of wine. (Only those of us who could drink, of course.) From there, we asked our questions to our guests. Us and our guests tended to have varying views on our topic issues. Despite this, we tended to get lost in deliberation. We did preface the conversation with some information on what our class is about. Our class, Citizen and Self, is a course which discussions and deliberates hot-button issues in a very calm and professional manner. We asked that our guest would also conduct themselves in such a way that would allow others to speak their thoughts thoroughly before responding. Allow yourself to think, then respond- not react. I believe this allowed for us to conduct pleasant conversation despite differences.
Of course, before truly getting into our topic issues, we had to ask our guests a basic question. Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you? We received varying responses, but overall, all in attendance seemed to agree that citizenship was much more than the seemingly obvious aspects of being a citizen of a country. Citizenship is more than your obligation to others within just your local, state, or national community. It is more than just the responsibility you yourself hold in these communities, as well. On an infinitely larger scale, citizenship is how you contribute as a human and person to the global community. Is the sum of your actions beneficial to others on the greater scale? Is what you are contributing something of value and something that everyone should contribute?
Topics/questions asked were as follows:
- What do you think are the best things about our world today?
Answers for this question were highly individual. Steps to become ecofriendly, the growing international connection in the world, and freedoms in the individuals home country were all answers given. As we discussed this and really thought about it some more, our answers leaned more and more to a truly global scale. The ease of cultural exchange through the development of new technologies over the years became a common ground for the majority of us as being one of the best things about the world today.
- What is the thing you love most about living where you do?
Caves, guns, nature, local food, etc. A couple of us came to the area specifically for the nature and to attend Western Kentucky University. Some of us are living where we do out of necessity more so than choice. We had to search for what we enjoyed the most in these cases.
- Do you think we have any obligation to other people in our country? In our community?
A resounding YES. We owe it to ourselves and those around us to do our part in our community, whatever that may be. If that is to keep our environment and ourselves clean, then if everyone did contribute their part, the community would run much more efficiently. By doing your part, every aspect of a community runs more efficiently.
- Did you ever have meals around the table with your family or neighbors growing up? Did you like that? Why or why not?
Everyone seemed to say that, yes, we had had meals with family around a table at some point. Some of us never really had sit down meals for dinner with family. Dinners with food in front of a TV was more common growing up, which we all felt was not nearly as beneficial for us or our families. For a couple of us, there were regular family dinners around a table, however, the tradition never held for one reason or another. All of us agreed, especially after the conclusion off our KKT, that having had those sit-down dinners with our families growing up may have even helped with familial connections that are now absent or lacking.
- Have you ever had a conversation with someone from a really different back ground than yourself?
“Of course.” This conversation went into deeper discussion with people of vastly different views, both good and bad interactions. We also discussed how we handle conversations with those who have opposing views. We tend to be respectful to those that show respect. When others have too different of views, however, we have a tendency to stop listening to what the other person is saying. We also discussed the difference in talking to someone with vastly different views that is simple ignorant and someone who is informed but stubbornly unwilling to see any point of view than their own without being able to give a viable option to support their reasoning.
- What social issue is closest to your heart and why?
These issues did tend to be closer to home, both physically and emotionally. Our impact as humans on our local environment, social media influence on the mental health of younger populations, and corruption of the American healthcare systems were some of the concerns that were brought up during discussion.
As you can tell, throughout our discussion, we had a habit of coming back to the concept of community being important on a global scale. Our actions in our local community impacts the greater area without us noticing it. With this impact spreading further to the state, it crosses over to federal, and from there can and will cross to other countries. In class we have discussed multiple times the concept of a “wicked problem.” When we are faced with wicked problems, we tend to focus on the problems within our own country- there is nothing wrong with this and it is, in fact, exactly where we should start. However, we do not often consider how those wicked problems for us in our own country may impact other countries. This impact could be in the form of trade, labor, entertainment, politics- if you can name an aspect of culture, it can be influenced. By being aware of this influence, we are given the tools to do more in our own local community, and furthermore, can become better global citizens.