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.