Abigail Mitchell’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Abigail

            I held my Kentucky Kitchen here in Bowling Green,Kentucky on December 1, 2018. I held it at my sister’s apartment, and it was abit of a more relaxed situation than we were originally planning. The weekend Iwas originally going to host my KKT I had to move out of Minton, which led tous having it later than what was originally intended. However, we still hadsome wonderful discussions, and I’m glad that we were able to find a time tohave this meal together.

            One of the things that made our evening lovely was the people there, who all helped to deepen the discussion in some way. To start off with, there was my sister Emma and I. We are from a small town in Indiana, and we come from a very conservative, religious family. Get ready to see a theme. Emma’s roommates who were there with us that evening were Olivia and Madison. Emma met them through church, so as you could guess, they too come from conservative families. Madison is from a small town in Kentucky, but Olivia is from Memphis, so she brought with her the experience of living in a more diverse community her whole life.

            The student who I hosted this Kentucky Kitchen Table with was Faith, who is my Citizen and Self class with me. She has lived in Indiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and currently lives in New York, so she has had a broad experience of different communities and regional cultures within our country. The last person who attended our KKT was Blake. He also attends church with us, and is neighbors with Emma and her roommates. Before our KKT we had not talked to each other that much, so it was interesting to hear the opinions of a person who I did not know as well.

            When it came to the meal itself, it was not exactly traditional. Considering that we are all broke college students living in small apartments with little space to cook (or couchhopping with no space), I did not want to require everyone to cook. Instead, we had a very stereotypical college meal. Faith and I both brought a pizza, and Emma and her roommates brought drinks and chips. When we had all arrived, we sat down at Emma’s table, and Blake said a prayer to start off our meal.

            I had only ever had casual conversations with most of the people at the table, so it was a little intimidating to start off the meal with the question of “what does citizenship mean to you?” People were quiet for a few moments, but soon people began to speak up. Olivia shared that she believes part of citizenship is the rights that you have as a citizen, such as freedom of speech and a right to fair trial. Emma said that she thinks a lot about local citizenship, since she can see her actions making more of a difference on that smaller scale than she can on a national level. She feels that being a citizen of a community means that you have a responsibility to those around you to help where you can, and to play your part.

            Madison then related this to citizenship as a whole. She pointed out that as citizens of America, we have a responsibility to work, and to do our part to keep our country’s system going. We all agreed that every county and economy can be compared to cogs in a machine, and that if one area stops functioning correctly the whole thing starts to fail. As citizens, we need to work and pay taxes to keep the system of our society functioning the way it is intended to.

            Blake then brought up the topic of how religion relates to citizenship. We are all Christians, and we believe that our “citizenship is in heaven”. Does this belief impact our roles in our earthly citizenship? Discussing this idea took up a big chunk of our time, and we related it to many issues that related to citizenship in multiple ways. From our perspectives on taxes to our political stances, we all felt that our ideology surrounding even the term “citizenship” were highly influenced by our religion.

            As this conversation progressed, I became a little concerned that we may be getting a little off topic. But then I considered the fact that the purpose of this dinner was to let the conversation flow, and to hear people share whatever feelings on the topic of citizenship they may have. So, I chose to let the conversation continue to flow, and everyone continued to discuss how religion effects their view of social issues.

            One topic that came up was the difference between American citizenship, and more general citizenship of nations worldwide. We discussed how your identity is a part of being a citizen, even though it does not tell the whole story. This led to us deliberating on the citizenship of the Dreamers, as they identify so strongly as Americans but are not seen as such in the eyes of the law. In addition to this we also brought up racism, homelessness, equality in educational opportunity of minorities, and how all of these things effected people’s experiences with citizenship. We all had different stories and opinions to share in the discussion, and everyone openly shared these things with each other.

            As this portion of our discussion began to slow down, Faith and I felt that another good question to ask would be “what social issue is closest to your heart and why?” Olivia spoke up first, and said that the social issue closest to her heart was women breaking the glass ceiling. She said that she has seen gender inequality impact several of the women in her life, and believes that it is a social issues that’s solution is long overdue. Emma shared that she cares very much about modern slavery. She has researched a lot about the relation to the relevance of pornography in our culture to sex slaves, and how even though that some pornography is consensual so much of it is tied to sex slavery and people being forced into situations that they did not ask for. She does her best to be a spokesperson for this cause, and supports groups that fight against this modern slavery.

            Madison feels that one issue that has been close to her heart in recent times is abortion. She feels that unborn children should count as human lives, but she also recognized that making abortion illegal would lead to more dangerous, illegal abortions taking place. Faith said that the issue closest to her heart at the moment is racism. She recognizes that we all have some form of racism and prejudice in us, and that everyone needs to be more to be aware of what they are doing to hurt and help those around them.

I said that the issue I care most about currently is environmentalism. I feel that environmentalism is something that many people overlook because its results are not immediate, so people do not feel a real need to act. However, not caring about the environment could fundamentally change our planet and the lives of all people, so I believe that it is something that people need to make a priority in their lives.

            Blake brought up an interesting idea as his “social issue”. He said that the social issue closest to his heart is sin. He feels that the root cause of all of these problems we discussed is sin and corruption in the hearts of people, and that if people changed their relationships with God and lived more Christ-like lives then these problems would be solved. This is another example of how religion has shaped the lives of the people at my Kentucky Kitchen Table, and how it has  definitely shaped Blake’s perception of the issues that we are facing in our world today.

            As a whole, I feel like I learned a lot about the mindsets of the people I had at my Kentucky Kitchen Table. I have spent a lot of time around my sister’s roommates, but I had never thought about asking them about their opinions on these complex issues. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that they did have well-thought-out answers to the questions that Faith and I asked, and it reminded me that people think about social issues more than we see. It was also nice to get to know Blake better, since he was a person who I had spent a little bit of time with but had also never had deep discussion with.

            I felt that this was a really great experience to learn more about everything we discussed in class. I did not have much opportunity for true deliberation since everyone at my Kentucky Kitchen Table were mostly on the same page when it came to citizenship and social issues, but I think that the experience was still helpful to prepare for having more controversial discussion in the future. I am glad that I had the opportunity to “host” this event, and I hope that it leads to further discussion on these issues in the future.

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Faith’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Faith

My Kentucky Kitchen Table was quite postponed but still meaningful. I had it with my fellow honors student Abigail, her sister Emma, Emma’s roommates; Olivia and Madison, and another friend, Blake. We had it in Bowling Green at Emma’s house around her table on December 1st.  Abigail as I said, is also a part of our Honors 251 class. Emma is an Honors student, so she had also participated in an Honors 251 class, but she did not do a Kentucky Kitchen Table. We all shared religious values in common, but we also did have diversity. Olivia is from the city, whereas Emma, Abigail, Madison, and Blake are from less urban areas, and I have moved around a lot. We all are studying different things from environmental science to Interior Design, to Biology and more. There were also different political leaning around the table.

Abigail is a freshman at Western, studying Environmental science. Emma is a junior studying biology. They are both from southern Indiana. Olivia and Madison are also both juniors. Olivia is studying interior design and Madison is studying Elementary Education. Madison is from Kentucky and Olivia is from Memphis. Blake is from Indiana and He is a student at Western but I’m not sure what year he is or what he is studying. I am a freshman, studying English professional writing and cultural anthropology. Like I mentioned I’ve moved around a lot but currently, my family lives in upstate New York.

After going around to share a little about them, we started the discussion with the required question: what does citizenship mean to you? The conversation was a bit slow at first. I think that starting with such a broad question as “what does citizenship mean to you?” was hard at first. Abigail and I had the benefit of having been in this class the whole semester, but I don’t think the average person contemplates citizenship very often. I think that some people at our table had a hard time knowing how to answer. We each described slightly different things. At first, we mainly focused on our relationship with the government; our freedoms, our rights, and our laws. Emma brought in the idea of a more personal contribution. One of the things brought up in the discussion was occupation. Emma said that by doing her job, she was contributing to the world and that was part of citizenship. The discussion continued talking about how by doing our job we are being a part of the machine that is society. This reminded me of “Professionalized Services,” but where it saw each person doing their own specialty and not handling much else as a negative, the people around our table generally saw it as positive.

Eventually, the discussion shifted to the difference between being a citizen of a nation and a citizen of a community. Many of us agreed that we found our community citizenship more important than our national citizenship. Although we appreciate the rights provided to us by our country, we found the impact we could have on our own communities to be more meaningful and important. The theme followed well with the “Why Bother” reading. We cared a lot about small actions that can make the spaces we live in that little bit better.

Because we all brought up our religious beliefs, I decided to ask how we thought our religious beliefs affected our citizenship. One thing that was brought up is the Bible’s commandment to submit to the government. We discussed what that means to us; not just following laws but also respecting our government even when we don’t agree with them.

We also decided that many of the beliefs we hold tend to make us better citizens due to the fact we are always looking for way to better ourselves and to help others because of our religious beliefs.

I also believe that our religious beliefs affect us because we see ourselves as citizens of something bigger (God’s kingdom) before we see ourselves of citizens of America. That belief permeates all that we do and the whole discussion we had.

Once conversation began to take off a little, we talked about a variety of topics. We talked about the French national anthem, and Olivia brought up gun control. The table even brought up the Pledge of Allegiance which some of us are not comfortable saying. As the conversation dwindled I decided to write one last question; what social issue is closest to your heart? 

Olivia said it was women breaking the glass ceiling. Madison brought up abortion. Emma said modern slavery and human trafficking. Blake mentioned just the general sin and immorality in our world. Abigail brought up concerns about the environment. I talked about racial inequality which started a whole conversation about the complexity of race in America. I really enjoy seeing the things that people, especially my peers are passionate about. Sometimes we think that people are so caught up in themselves that they do not care about what is going on in the world but from what I have seen in this class that is simple not the case.

I found it interesting how somethings that maybe would normally be seen to go hand in hand with citizenship, did not equal citizenship in the minds of some of us. In particular, the fact that some members of our table do not say the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge of Allegiance is so closely tied to our nationally indentity but our discussion brings the question, do you have to indentify perfectly with your nation to truly be a productive citizen?

I really enjoyed talking to my friends about some things we don’t always talk about. This assignment and this whole class have inspired me to try to cultivate complex conversations with those that are around me. I think we are often afraid of starting polarizing debates and so we miss out on productive and engaging interactions. We all have things that we are passionate about or concerned about and maybe if we spent more time considering them together we could encourage one another to be productive citizens. The food itself was nothing fancy but by coming together with a group of people I wouldn’t normally eat with and discuss these things with we were able to create a space that was truly unique, even if only for a little while.

The part of the discussion that really stuck with me was when we were talking about being citizens of our community and not just Citizens of our nation. I think that it goes along with the Illich reading to some extent. Illich brought up working where you know as an alternative to working somewhere we don’t understand and then accidentally doing harm. Changing the world can be a daunting task but we do have power to affect the people and places around us, and to me, that is what citizenship is truly all about.

Citizenship does not just mean being a member of a nation it means being a member of a community. It means making a community out of the space that you are in. It means looking out for the needs of those around you. It means that you do your part to make the world better. It means that you respect those above you, but you also advocate for change. Citizenship looks different for each of us. Just like each person around the table brought their own unique point of view to the conversation, we each approach citizen with our individualized spin because of the different experiences we have had. The people at our table described citizenship in their own ways but that does not mean that it is the way everyone views citizenship. It’s like when we talked about experience being epistemologically significant. By sharing our opinions we can learn more about citizenship but that does not dictate what citizenship means. When it comes down to it, the important thing is what citizenship means to you.

McKenzie KY Kitchen Table

By McKenzie

My Kentucky Kitchen Table Project took place in Lexington, Kentucky, my hometown. At the dinner was Cameron, Lexi, Jacob, Kaleb and myself. Cameron is 20 years old and the thing that makes him diverse to the group is that, one, he is the oldest and two, that he is of a minority ethnicity. His mother was born in Guatemala and moved to the U.S. about 30 years ago. He describes himself as very open, caring, and “opinionative to the max”. He said that he is never afraid to share his opinion (which is why we used to be such good friends). Lexi used to be my absolute best friend in high school, to the point of practically my sister. She describes herself as easy-going, very relaxed, very opinionated but more so than not quiet about sharing them. (She did agree to share them for this project and did with every part and tangent within the conversation.) She is 19 years old and from Versailles, Kentucky. One of the things that makes her diverse to the group is her sexual orientation. She asked that I not say more than that. She is very kind-hearted and it showed a lot during the discussion. Kaleb is very quiet. Even when talking one-on-one he isn’t one to lead the conversation. I actually had to ask Lexi to help describe him because he didn’t know how to explain himself when asked. All he said was that he was very quiet and that he seldom has strong opinions and even more seldom expressed them. He was very obviously engaged in the conversation but more so by listening than speaking. He would throw in a lot of “yeah same”s and “I agree”s. The thing that made him diverse to the group was that he was the youngest. He is 16 and still trying to form opinions. Kaleb and Lexi are siblings. Jacob is also quiet but more talkative than Kaleb. He described himself as a very introverted person who loves conspiracy theories and loves to question things and people, especially their reasonings for opinions. This was very much a part of our conversation. Jacob also described himself as being very compassionate. The thing that made Jacob diverse to the group was that he was home-schooled his entire life. I would describe myself similar to Lexi with the exception that I am not quiet about my opinions. If I have an opinion about something, I will say it with no filter more than likely. The thing that made me diverse to the group is I am the only one who is/plans/planned to attend(ing) college. Kaleb is not pictured but was there, he just showed up late and we forgot to take another picture with him because we were already in conversation..

Over the course of the meal we talked about a lot. Upon asking the required question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following the laws, what citizenship mean to you?” I was honestly really surprised at the different responses. Cameron went first answering and essentially started talking about humanity and morals. Lexi picked up and so did the boys, and that kind of started the entire conversation. Overall we talked about what it really means to be living in the town and world we are today, and the different struggles everyone faces on both personal levels and just as groups of people. This meaning things we struggle with as people and how whole races face different struggles. We talked for a long time about morals and empathy. We went to the theme of love and how humans are connected in such a profound way but seem to ignore it. We talked about how there’s so many different ways people divide themselves completely unnecessarily, and how it should really change and how our society needs to change over all. We all are relatively young so I would have liked to have had someone older there, but it didn’t work out. Being so young but so aware really was amazing to me. We talked for almost an hour only about love and empathy and morals, which I found amazing. I’ve had similar conversations but never in such depth with such intellectual and deep thinking. I told them about how in class we talked about the different wicked problems in different moral questions and we spent a long time talking about those questions (incest, soul selling, etc.). All in all our entire conversation from start to end really wrapped around the theme of what it means to be a human and how we need to be better humans, as individuals and as a whole world really.

From this entire discussion I learned a lot about friends that I’ve had for a long time in ways that I didn’t know that I could learn about a person. When you start talking about morals and empathy and what it means to be a human, you learn a lot about a person. I learned a lot about myself as well as I took in all of these peoples’ perspectives and intertwined in with my own personal thoughts and feelings. To tie it into the reading, “The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail,” I let my elephant really show and so did everyone else in the conversation. And it was so intriguing to me. I have a deep love for conversing about topics like this because it really shows a person who they are and shows other people how someone else can think about certain situations that are usually difficult to think about. There were a lot of silences when we were all just kind of thinking and reflecting upon one another. I looked through the list of optional questions and asked a couple referencing neighbors and learned that Lexi and Cameron both do not know anything about their neighbors. I asked why and if they wanted to change that. They both said they did not ever really have the opportunities to meet and talk to them but that if given the chance they probably would. Lexi works at the Humane Society and is an extreme animal lover. She has two dogs and said that she did make it a point to try and figure out which of her neighbors had pets as well. Jacob and Kaleb both live in Versailles; Jacob said he knew his neighbors but not on a personal level, but more so of an ‘I know they exist and have had those awkward waves and smiles while passing them or seeing them for short durations of time’ level.

All of the things that I learned during the dinner relate to what I learned in this class in the sense that I truly got new perspective. In this class, I was introduced to so many different new ways to think about things that I had never truly thought about: from what an actual deliberation is, to what a wicked problem is, to education and patience, to empathy and how to be a better human. I think the one reading that truly stuck with me the most, and that I actually referenced in my dinner at one point, was “To Hell with Good Intentions,” by Ivan Illich. I’m not really sure why, but the whole theme of trying to do something for someone without even truly talking to them, just really blew my mind and made me reflect a lot. I’m one to go out of my way to help someone out, and so are Lexi and Jacob, so they were able to relate. When I told them about this reading, they were both very quiet at first. Lexi deals with and works with volunteers and is involved with volunteering a lot through her work, so she actually really understood the reading and very much so backed it up based on a very general overview I gave of it; we briefly talked about volunteerism and how it should be a bigger part of society and communities and how more people should get involved in that type of work. It’s a great way to make connections, it’s a great way to learn new things and see different types of people. Also with volunteering you can learn a lot about yourself and things you like and dislike and could potentially make a living out of. The central idea of the classes that we touched on the most was how can we live better lives, especially in relation to others.

All in all, having this discussion with these people and after taking this class, I have an entirely new perspective on a lot of things and I am extremely grateful that I have these new perspectives and ways of thinking.