Camille’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Camille

My Kentucky Kitchen Table meal took place in Louisville, Kentucky. My older cousin was getting married soI decided to ask the questions at her rehearsal dinner. The dinner was at anItalian restaurant called Volare. The people sitting at my table were my mother(Sarah), father (Todd), my cousin (Lindsay), and a family friend (Rich). My mother is a dental hygienist and my father is an electrical engineer for the government. Both have very liberal stances in politics and I would say are pretty accepting of people. My mom takes great pride in being an informed citizen. She watches the national news every night, has never missed an election, and volunteers throughout Louisville. My father is more moderate in his opinions and has a mixed viewpoint since he works for the government. I would say he really only does the bare minimum when it comes to being a citizen. My cousin Lindsay is a lawyer for the district attorney’s office inLouisville. She is much younger than my parents so her opinion varied a little bit from theirs. My parents’ family friend is much older, as he was a friend of my grandfather. His views are a little more conservative, but also liberal. He does a lot for his community and has done so for most of his life. He is on the board of his neighborhood association and does a lot of community service.

            I began the conversation with asking a couple other questions instead of asking what citizenship meant to them yet. Some common themes that first came up were about good morals. Sarah and Rich both stressed the importance of being a good neighbor. They both live in the same neighborhood in Louisville which is called the Highlands. This neighborhood is very diverse and is welcoming of all types of people. Rich brought up how he sponsors a refugee family through his church. The family is from Syria, I believe, and he takes them to any place they need to get to in Louisville. He teaches them English. Rich stressed how lucky he was to have been born in the U.S. so he feels that helping these refugees who came from nothing is part of his civic duty. He said that trying to communicate with people that speak very little English has had a deep impact on him. It has enhanced how he views living in the U.S. Sarah knows every single neighbor on our street. She has talked to each one, and introduces herself to any new people that move in. I think that she does this in order to keep up the community within our neighborhood. Rich is also on the neighborhood committee so it is important to him that everyone feels welcome.

            Another theme we talked about religion. Sarah, Todd, and I are all technically Catholic, but identify as atheist. Rich and Lindsay are active Catholics. My parents both stressed that people can have good morals without being active in a religion. This is how they raised me so I agree with them. I also believe that people can be morally good without believing in God. Rich, however, stresses that being active in the church is important in daily life. Most of the service he does is through his church. My dad believes that doing service does not have to be related to religion and that helping our neighbors is important regardless. Much of Lindsay’s work is dealing with people in the community who have not been “good neighbors”. They are individuals who have broken laws or caused harm in the Louisville community. I think that if people were to be informed citizens they could be better at following the law. This could relate to the ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ reading since a once normal civilized society turned into a war zone. This may not directly relate to our conversation, but in some ways it does. When people do not follow laws and do not practice good morals it is possible for a civilized society to turn in to a place of chaos.

            When I asked what citizenship meant to the table, people definitely had varying answers.  Lindsay, being a county lawyer, answered that citizenship is taking care of our community, of our homes, giving to those less fortunate, and being kind. She also said that if every single person followed the law and was a good citizen then she wouldn’t have a job as a prosecutor. I think that this is an interesting point. There will always be people within society that do not follow the law and are not respectful to others, but this is what people like Lindsay are for. They serve the purpose of protecting the community from those that cause harm to it. The leaders of the Bosnian genocide felt that they were doing some sort of good when in reality they were causing great harm to the country as a whole. There is a fine line between what people think is good for the community and what is actually good.

            Rich had a different take on citizenship. He emphasized that being a good person is a huge part in being a good citizen. This ties into his help with the refugee family. Since they did not have anything when they came to the U.S. helping them out was something he had to do according to him. He tied being a good Catholic and citizen together saying that they almost went hand in hand in some ways. Sarah had a different stance on citizenship. She is proud to be a citizen of the U.S., Kentucky, and our neighborhood the highlands. Since she has this pride in where she lives she feels that it is important to keep up the condition of where she lives. In some ways, I feel that this relates to “To Hell With Good Intentions”. Sarah stressed that citizenship starts at the local level. This relates to this article because it was all about how Americans need to fix the problems in the U.S. before going abroad. Fixing the problems that directly affect our citizens is imperative.

            Todd had a very different stance on what citizenship means to him. He talked a lot about how lately being a citizen of the U.S. has been an embarrassment to him. Being a citizen to him means that we take care of other human beings, but that the recent leadership in the U.S. is not doing this. Since the U.S. does have the resources to help countries that do not he feels that they should try to help all people in need. This also kind of goes along with ‘Love Thy Neighbor’. There was a great debate about whether or not it was the United States’ duty to help the Bosnians. I agree with one of the points Todd said. He said that it is hard to be a good citizen of a country who is not a good citizen of the world as a whole. I agree with this. I feel like many people would feel this way in the current political climate of the U.S.

            The conversation also shifted into talking about jobs and how they relate to citizenry. Todd holds a federal engineering job for the Corps of Engineers, but he feels that this has no real connection to his role of a citizen. Sarah, as a dental hygienist, feels that her job does serve her neighbors. She sees people on a daily basis that have had very little access to adequate dental care in the past, so by helping them she is helping her fellow citizens. Lindsay’s job directly relates to her role as a citizen. As a public prosecutor, she protects the public on a daily basis by sending those who have broken laws to jail. She is contributing to the safety of the community which seems to relate to being a good citizen.

            Overall I feel like one of the main themes of our conversation was about being a good neighbor. This word not only applies to our literal neighbors that we live next to, but also to other citizens in the U.S.We must respect others and help people that do not have the resources to help themselves.Being a good citizen is clearly not just about following laws. It is also about having a strong moral compass that helps others within society. I think that what side of politics someone falls on also plays a huge role in what being a citizen means to someone.  Throughout this conversation I learned that people value their citizenship at different levels. While Sarah, Rich, and Lindsay felt that citizenry means helping their neighbors and serving their community at the local level, Todd felt that we must take care of our neighbors at a global level. I think that a combination of both is vital in order to keep order in this modern society. With so many conflicts going on in the local, the national, and the international communities, every citizen must try to contribute in some way to put an end to said conflicts.

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