Jeanna’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

On Sunday, March 31 six other people and I came together around a friend’s tiny kitchen table in an apartment right off WKU’s campus. Going into this experience I thought I would only know my two classmates, Anna and Amelia, but when I walked into the apartment I recognized a girl from one of my other classes, Tatum. Tatum is in my English 200 class (where class is cancelled a lot), as well as a pre-pharmacy major who will be heading to pharmacy school in Alabama next year. The other girls in the room I recognized, but honestly, they were complete strangers before we began to talk. Anna sat across me, who was one of my partners for the Kentucky Kitchen Table and organized the lunch. Next to Anna was Elizabeth, whom I recognized from H4, but I didn’t know that well before. Elizabeth is an Honors freshmen as well, who was planning on doing her project sometime during the next weekend. Elizabeth sat next to Amelia, who was one of my first friends at college through H4 and was one of my partners for the project. Tatum, who I mentioned before, sat next to Amelia. Sitting next to me was Kate, a religion major who brought many insights to our conversation. Kate sat next to Lauren, who was very funny, lively, and I felt a very motherly-like quality from her. All these ladies had something about them that I enjoyed being around, and excited me for the conversation that we were about to have.

             After we all got food on our plates, which consisted of salad, potatoes, and chicken (eggs for the vegetarians), I began the conversation with the question: “What does citizenship mean to you?” With Amelia adding, “besides paying taxes, voting, and following laws.” At first, everyone thought on the question for a little while, with Kate answering first. Kate said that she thinks of citizenship as being a member of a community. Everyone has an obligation to their community, whatever community this might be. She went on to mention something about a global community, which was interesting because she wants to be a missionary. After this comment, the next few comments had a general theme of being in a community and a citizen means caring about what happens in your community. Lauren said something about how being a citizen also means knowing the history of where you live and seeing how this history has an impact on the community in present day. This point brought some interesting takes on how the history of citizenship in our country has changed. In our current day, citizenship in our country is more about embracing where you came from; instead of integrating yourself into the American culture. Tatum thought that encouraging people to embrace their heritage and family past is important for working towards bettering our society. The conversation sort of changed, but not in a bad way, when Elizabeth said her answer to the question I had asked. She felt the need to be a good citizen was because of her femininity and the privilege we have because we live as women in America. She mentioned that if we were in another country, we wouldn’t have the same freedoms as we do now. The privilege that she is given because of where she lives gives her an obligation to be a good citizen. The things that Elizabeth brought to the table really opened the rest of our minds, and it gave the rest of us an idea the being a good citizen as an obligation. Kate then mentioned that she thought about how global citizenship as fighting for the rights of people who are oppressed.

The next question I asked the table was “What do you think are the best parts of our world today?” As I was reading the question, immediately I could not think of one; all the negative parts of the world came in my head. I let the table know this, and they all agreed with me; everyone could only think about the negative parts of the world. The thought of advances in medicine and the uprising of human rights were brought into discussion, as well as the awareness of our problems, were discussed as positives in our world. One of the social issues that we all really cared about and were passionate, was then brought into the discussion by Kate. We had previously been talking about climate change and immigration, so Kate brought those two ideas together and mentioned the current political climate. She meant how the politicians use their words as inflammatory and how they are so rude to each other. The girls and I at the table elaborated on this and discussed how everyone is disrespectful to one another, rather than being civil. This idea of civility related back to practicing citizenship through listening to other people that we disagree with or have differing points of view. This last part of our conversation is something that I enjoyed listening to and being apart of; it really showed me what a Kentucky Kitchen Table was supposed to incorporate and feel like!

This meal taught me a lot: from meeting new people and learning new names, to different people’s views and how to use these views to become an overall better citizen. Around the world, people are dealing with all kinds of issues, but no way to solve them; it might not be up to us who don’t live in the community that has a problem, but it is important to be an engaged citizen to understand the problems that other people face on a day to day basis. I saw people, young women specifically, come together to find some common ground for somewhat opposing views. One major thing that opened my eyes is the negativity that was immediately recalled when I asked the table about the positives in the world. I was disheartened by the fact that none of us could think of a positive. I think that the world has turned away from positivity; every where you look something negative is being brought to our attention, and that is sad.

This discussion relates to the many discussions/mini-deliberations that we have in Honors 251. Each idea that one person brought to the table, another idea would pop up into someone else’s brain and brought a new light on a new perspective. Although I loved this experience, this reminded me of one of our readings that we is had a negative theme to it: “To Hell with Good Intentions.” When having this discussion, in my mind I was thinking that everyone had such great ideas, but, like Ivan Illich had said, we cannot place ourselves in a community where we do not belong. Yes, we have good intentions and good ideas, but we do not completely understand another community’s situation because we are not apart of it. We can sit around a table and discuss the issues of the world (which I enjoyed doing), but it will do no good if we try to place ourselves where we do not belong. However, I do believe that this discussion allowed me to see this reading in the real world; I was skeptical of Illich at first, but now I understand what he was saying.

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