A Diverse Table and an interesting Meal

I did my Kentucky Kitchen Table at my home in Oakland, Kentucky. I invited my girlfriend Halee (Third from the left), Chase (second from right) who I met on the bus one day on my way to class about a week prior, his grandmother Ramona (second from left), and one of Halee’s teachers at Ross, Mendy (right). Halee insisted on making the whole meal (and since she scares me a little bit I let her).

The people around this table, with the exception of Halee and me, had very little in common. Chase is a first generation college student from Washington who came to WKU for a Photo Journalism degree. He is from a very poor family in one of the rougher neighborhoods in Seattle. His political leanings are more liberal than conservative and he considers himself to be a democrat. His grandmother, Ramona, was in town to visit him (which is why I chose the date to have the meal). She is originally from Minnesota, but moved to Washington for her job back in 1982. She is a member of the LGBT community and recently got married to a woman named Emily. She is more liberal than conservative but does not claim to belong to a political party.

Halee is from a middle class family and went to the same high school I did. She is politically conservative but has never really given much thought to a political party. She went to higher education at Ross Medical where she received a certificate in medical billing (it has a longer name but I couldn’t remember that for the life of me). Her teacher, Mendy, is also from Bowling Green. She has been teaching at Ross for 7 years. She has a husband and three kids. She is politically conservative and is a member of the Republican Party.

The conversation started with small talk (the weather, sports, etc.) There was no feeling of awkwardness that I could tell. Everyone seemed very comfortable. So when the conversation died down a bit, I asked “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Surprisingly to me, the answers were very much the same. Everyone agreed that to be a citizen was to be active in the community in some form or fashion. Whether that be to donate to local charities or to be active with local causes.

I then asked “What is the ideal society to them?” This got some different responses. To Chase, it is a place where the arts are well funded and encouraged. He wants a world where following a passion or hobby could make you just as successful as following jobs for money. He says that an art program would really help to inspire people in lower classes to become something more. Ramona said much the same thing but she specified more tolerance of other cultures. She said that she is tired of people being marginalized because of their race, culture, religion, etc. My ideal place is where everyone’s identity was American first, then religion, race, identity, etc. I feel that if everyone agreed that they were American first, much of the violence in this country would decrease.

After this question we just ate and talked about random things for a while. I learned that Chase is a Patriots fan but Ramona is an Eagles fan. They said that at the super bowl they made bets and the loser had to buy the other dinner. After some more small talk, much of it hilarious, I asked “What advice would you give to presidential candidates?” Mendy said that she would tell a candidate to base his policies on the people he is representing even if it conflicts with his own political beliefs. This was the first question to have differing opinions. Chase said that it is important for candidates to follow their own beliefs because if they didn’t “Then what they do will be fake.” He believes that people should elect a candidate based on the candidate’s belief system and to do otherwise was dangerous. Halee and I agreed with Mendy. Ramona was more interested in a candidate that was transparent with their personal lives. We all agreed on this to a point, but I said that his or her personal life should not be a problem unless it conflicts with their political lives. For example, I don’t think it would matter if a candidate was unfaithful to his or her spouse as long as they remain a good leader. Halee disagreed saying that we should elect not only good leaders, but morally good people as well.

I tried to ask “Does your religious or spiritual identity relate to how you think we should treat other people?” but the problem was that only Halee and I were religious. The other three were either agnostic or atheist. Chase said that seeing the world through a religious lens is dangerous and leads to much of the racism and world problems today. I disagreed saying that only religious extremists’ view of the world is a dangerous thing. But people who follow the religions more moderately can become more helpful and caring than if they didn’t have that aspect of their lives. Halee said much the same thing (But she sounded much smarter when she said it). Ramona didn’t think religion was dangerous, as Chase did, but she just didn’t think people should need that as a reason to treat others well. She said that it should be intrinsic to be kind to people. Mendy agreed with this statement basically saying that most everyone is kind whether they have religion or not. It is only the crazy people (religious extremists or just nutjobs) are the ones destroying the world.michael picture

The meal ended with the question “what social issue was most important to you?” The basic theme was poverty. Everyone agreed that poverty was a driving force for much of the other problems in America. We all basically agreed that poverty breeds crime, and if you can fix or decrease the amount of poor, you can also decrease the amount of crime in America.

What I learned from the meal is that even people from completely different walks of life can meet around a table and talk about things as civil people. Even when we disagreed, no one raised their voice or looked offended. We all parted with more knowledge of the other side of issues that we haven’t thought about before. I know that at least for me, I walked away more knowledgeable of the struggles and thoughts of near-strangers.

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My Small Town Kentucky Kitchen Table

IMG_4242By Ally

In the little town of Somerset, Kentucky, it seems as if everyone has the same opinions. You seem to hear the same political and social ideas throughout the city; however, at my Kentucky Kitchen Table, it was refreshing to hear different ideas. At my table, I had my mom, dad, my aunt Pam, my aunt Paula, (they’re twins), Pam’s husband Keenan, and Paula’s new boyfriend, Steve. My mom and aunts’ jobs all involve education, while my dad and Keenan are retired. Steve works at a rental car place in my city. I was excited to hear that Steve was coming to the dinner because he seemed to be different than my other family. Most of my family are seen as Republicans, while Steve is a Democrat—I felt like this would add a lot of character to my answers and not get the same, repetitive statements every time. We ate a hearty meal of vegetable soup, cornbread, and mac n cheese, one of my favorite meals. After filling our stomachs with too much food, I explained the basis of my topic and began to ask questions.

First of all, I asked the question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Paula immediately answered with the statement, “Helping everyone in your community out even when you don’t think you can.” Keenan agreed but wanted to add to the statement, “Not just the community, the country. I think being involved and understanding what is going on in politics is a huge part of being a citizen.” Everyone around the table seemed to nod their heads in agreement. I asked if there were any other thoughts, but no one really seemed to have any extra statements to add besides my mom. She chimed in saying that people shouldn’t really focus on the basic parts of being a citizen, like voting and paying taxes, but focus on the larger parts of citizenship, such as political and social knowledge and being there for others in a time of need. There seemed to be a large common ground in helping out others if it were possible to do. This reminded me of the empathy discussion we had in class where we discussed how far you would go to help someone. It also reminded me of parts of our empathy reading, “The Baby in the Well” by Paul Bloom. It seems like people help in theory, but only the commercialized versions of it. Hearing my family discuss this, it seemed like they would go as far as possible to help—and that makes us a good citizen. When I brought up this statement, it really brought up some disagreement. Pam said it wasn’t the citizens’ faults because they don’t know anything without having the media involved. Steve bounced back with the statement, “That’s why we should stay as involved in issues as we are with social media. We should focus on finding the misfortunes so we can help.” I thought that seemed a little excessive and negative. When I thought about the question, I suppose I agree with these statements as well. Being involved in the country’s social issues is a huge part of citizenship but I had never really thought of it being that important until it was said at the dinner table. I think that there is a fine line between being involved and becoming obsessed with these issues, however. Even though my family had very similar answers to this question, I know there are so many possibilities to answer the question.

I continued to ask questions and create conversation. The next question I asked was, “What do you like about where you live?” My mom answered, “The peacefulness of living in the country.” My dad agreed with it being peaceful, but also said he loved being able to have a large amount of land he can do whatever he wants with. Paula answered the question, “Even though I know I’m not, I feel rich.” She lives in a subdivision in a larger-scale house she recently bought and renovated after her divorce. She wanted her house to have a wealthier feel, she said. This answer really intrigued me because it made me think about how materialistic we are as a culture. Most people in our society feel the need to look and seem wealthy to have this status. When I brought this up to Paula, she said “That’s true. It also may be because I grew up poor and it may just be a change to me.” I really liked that answer and it gave much more clarity. I asked Pam the same question, and she answered, “It’s such a tight-knit community. I just love it.” She lives in a subdivision in the city. “Everyone can go on a walk around the block with anyone and you really get to know your neighbors. There’s no negativity anywhere throughout my little neighborhood.” Steve said his favorite thing about where he lives is that it’s close to Paula. This really showcased the importance of relationships in our lives and how it is implemented into our daily lives. Even though I live in the middle of nowhere, I have very close relationships with my very few neighbors and they are important to me—especially when I go home in the summer. These relationships make all of us happy and are important to what we like about our location of residence.

Another question I asked was, “Do you see your job as serving a greater purpose?” My mother immediately chimed in with the answer yes. She just recently retired from being a high school English teacher and is now a substitute. She said, “I know my job serves a greater purpose. I am educating the youth about how to talk and speak and communicate throughout life. I don’t think that any other job can do this better.” My aunts work at the local college and agreed. Steve said, “All I do is give rental cars to people and drive them to and from there houses. In the eyes of rental car company owners, I suppose I do.” and we laughed. Then he added, “It almost makes you feel bad about yourself if you don’t, but I don’t mind. I like my job.” We all agreed that it’s most important to like your job.

I also asked, “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?” Paula said that child hunger, especially in Appalachia, was important to her because it’s heartbreaking to see these children who can’t help it starve. She also said she tries to donate food to God’s Food Pantry and local schools to help with this issue. “I just think that no child should have to go home from school hungry because their parents can’t feed them. Children shouldn’t have to starve.” was her final statement. Pam answered next. She said, “The poverty issue that I see every day while at work really hurts me and I wish I could help.” In our county and surrounding counties, there is a high poverty rate. My mom also agreed with this statement. Since my mom worked in a high school, she saw children that ranged from very wealthy to homeless. She said, “It was so awful to see some of the brightest kids come to school and fall asleep because they had to watch their younger siblings all night while the mom was at work, or they didn’t even have a bed to sleep in.” This made me think about how we could help them—but it also seems like a problem that cannot be solved and has no true solution. Child poverty also can be the fault of the parents they are with. Poverty seems to be a wicked problem in our county. At the table, there seemed to be a common theme of helping children, who are seen as ultimately helpless.

From my Kentucky Kitchen Table, I learned a lot. I asked every question on the list but included the question’s that had the most interesting answers to me. I really thought that since there were differing political views, there would be many different ideas at my table. There seemed to be a lot of common themes throughout the answers. I really loved how well everyone got along at my dinner table and I got to know my family a little better. I am generally the cousin that seems to stay away from political or social conversations and stay out of lengthy conversations with extended family. Being forced to do it was good for me, I believe. It almost made me realize how much I don’t know about my family; these were only two of my mom’s siblings and she is one of seven. I really would like to do this project again with my whole family, all six of my mom’s siblings and four of my dad’s, along with their partners and children. I was constantly engaged in the conversation and even shared some of my viewpoints, which I tend to keep to myself. At the end of the conversation, Paula asked if we could do something like this once a month. Everyone at the table happily agreed.

Kentucky Kitchen Table – Alex

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My name is Alex and I conducted my Kentucky Kitchen table on April 1st in my hometown of Crestwood. My Kentucky Kitchen Table had eight people/two families attend. I am a freshman undergraduate student at Western Kentucky University studying physics and Chinese. My sister, Chloe, is a sophomore at Oldham County High School and often participates in drama productions. My parents are Colleen and Terry and they both work in Louisville as salespeople. The other family that attended has two daughters Elena, who participates in Oldham County High School’s band as a senior flute player, and Olivia, who is on the Oldham County High School female soccer team as a freshman. Their parents are Andrea and Damon, Andrea is a substitute teacher in the area, and Damon works at the Ford plant in Louisville.

The first thing I did after we all got our food was ask everyone the required question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” My father was the first one to answer. He talked about his military service and how being an American citizen means representing American ideals abroad. He mentioned that when he was in the military he was deployed to West Germany he was constantly told that he was a representative of America during his time abroad. While representing America abroad he thought it was extremely important to embody what he thought America stands for, namely freedom and justice for all.

Damon answered next saying something similar and talking a lot about the time that he spent in the military while he was younger. He thinks that every American citizen has a duty to be a model person for everyone else. He elaborated saying things along the lines as an American citizen it is our duty to help those who suffer from injustices both in America and abroad. He saw America as being a protector of the world in sense and thought that we should do our best to help all impoverished and developing nations. He also talked about the founding fathers and what he thought their ideal citizen would be and how we should all aspire to act like that. In his words, a model citizen would be one who is not afraid to protest what they think to be a bad government and is willing to speak their mind and encounter opposing viewpoints, while at the same time they recognize that freedom of speech allows everyone to voice their own opinion.

Andrea chimed in next saying that being a citizen meant living with everyone else harmoniously. She said that as a citizen we have to realize that we are just a part of America as a whole and have a responsibility to live with everyone else. As a citizen we should realize that what might be in our personal best interest might not be the best for a majority of people. Colleen agreed with her saying, being a citizen means that sometimes we have to put the needs of others before our self because we live together in an integrated society.

I said that being a citizen meant that you have the responsibility to try to improve the country you live in to the best of your knowledge. By that I mean the duty of all citizens is to make sure that the government is taking the best care of its citizens as possible. Whether that means actively participating in a democracy or protesting the unjust treatment of some citizens by the government, I believe that being a citizen means that you have a responsibility to look out for other citizens and yourself through whatever means are available to you. The three high school girls all thought along the same lines as me saying that being a citizen means that you should actively participate in government if possible, whether that be through running for office, voting, or protesting.

After that required question the conversation turned back into regular topics that you would discuss at a regular dinner such as, how have things been going recently, how is school going etc. School was a heavily discussed topic for many reasons. Elena is a senior in high school, so everyone wanted to know where she was thinking about going to college. Because of that we discussed the role of college in America and what the benefits and disadvantages of it were currently. All four parents had gone to college, I was the only current college student at the table, and all three high school girls had plans to eventually go to college themselves. Because of each of our different experiences, we all had different opinions on what going to college meant. All four adults agreed that in order to have a better chance at getting a good job it is very important to go to college; however, they also acknowledged that trade schools and community colleges were helpful and sometime necessary steps in getting there. The two fathers were especially adamant about needing to go to college to have a successful future and mentioned how they both went into the military in order to independently pay for the cost. As a current college student, I chimed in saying that the price of college has dramatically risen in the time since the four adults had gone to college and not only is it much harder for everyone to go to college today, it is probably more important for people to go as well. I am extremely lucky to not have to worry about my financial situation as an undergraduate currently; however, I chose to not have loans instead of going to a different university. Elena, the high school senior, echoed my sentiments saying she is currently having a difficult time choosing between what is considered a better university and a university where she won’t have to have student loans. In addition to that, in my field of study, physics, it is almost automatically assumed that I have to go to graduate school in order to eventually find a good job. Because of that I have to take into consideration that I will spend more time and more money in higher education and have to plan my future accordingly. At the end of that discussion everyone agreed that getting a higher education is some form is in a large majority of cases the best decision, but there are some situations where the disadvantages may seem too large a difficulty to overcome so not pursuing more education would be the better path.

The topic of conversation stayed with schools but shifted from universities to high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. This was because of the recent changes made to the teacher’s pensions by the state legislature. This resulted in Oldham County Schools cancelling school for the previous Friday due to teachers protesting, Andrea had very strong feelings about the changes to the pension fund because she is a substitute teacher and has many friends who are full time teachers in the local area. With the changes to the pensions almost universally hurting teachers, she vehemently opposed the changes to the fund. She mentioned how Kentucky already had one of the approval lowest ratings in the nation from teachers and little to no counties have a functioning teachers union to help teachers in situations like this. All of the kids at the table agreed with her because we all thought that teachers deserve better pay and more respect from the government, especially with how challenging the job can be. There was a differing opinion at the table. My father, Terry, is a pretty hardcore conservative and generally favors changes that can help save the state/federal government money, so for him this change made sense because it was the state government altering the budget to help save more money. He did understand our viewpoints on the topic, but still believed that saving the government money is more important than the cost of reducing teachers’ pensions. For him, the pension cuts were less about the teachers losing money and more about the state relocating funds to better help other people who may need it more.

Overall, hosting this Kentucky Kitchen Table was a learning experience because I never had a conversation like this with my family and friends in this kind of setting. I think that having a political conversation while eating dinner with people you know and are familiar with makes the conversation go much smoother than if you tried it in a different setting or with different people. Everyone feels familiar with a dinner table and if you don’t have anything to say, you don’t have to sit awkwardly and listen to everyone else talk, instead you can enjoy the meal and the conversation. In addition, talking with people you are already familiar with makes it easier to know which topics to avoid because of experiences or extreme opinions, if those exist. At the end of the discussion I felt that everyone had seen a new perspective on at least one topic that we talked about and everyone had thought about politics in a way they hadn’t before. The biggest thing that I think everyone took out of it was that, having a political discussion doesn’t have to be a scary thing that involves a lot of shouting or disagreements but instead can be an insightful conversation.

 

Kentucky Kitchen Table

by Briar

Tkkt2.jpghe dinner took place in my hometown of Hodgenville, Kentucky.  There were five people at dinner including myself.  My brother, Cole, who is a senior in high school; he enjoys the outdoors, shooting guns, and plans on joining the United States Marine Corps.  My mother, Cara, is an art teacher at the local elementary school; she enjoys quilting, and the Young and the Restless.  My mom’s friend, Laura, is also a teacher at the elementary school.  Laura is a movie buff, enjoys craft beers, and loves to travel.  Also, at the dinner was my girlfriend, Hannah,she’s a freshman at WKU; she enjoys Netflix, eating pizza, and cuddling with her dog.

We started off with the required question of “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”  This was met with a wide range of opinions.  Cole started by talking about what it means as a future member of the military.  He brought up some great points about how there are so many things that he wants to contribute with his role.  This led into what my Mom wanted to talk about; she believes that as citizens it is our job to continue to move our community and country, as a whole, towards the right direction.  She went on to talk about her job as a teacher, and how she believes that education was the most important thing to do for our country as a citizen.  One quote I thought was memorable was, “without education what this country has become will slowly go backwards.” She then went on to discuss her thoughts on the current legislation in Kentucky (that I’d heard a million times before).  Laura naturally agreed with my Mom as she is also a teacher, and Hannah, who is planning on becoming a teacher as well, also agreed.

The conversation after this went in many different directions.  When asked “What are the greatest things about the world today?”, the majority couldn’t come up with a concrete answer; this struck me as worrisome.  Out of all of them, not one could, off the top of their heads, give me an answer.  Eventually the two teachers decided that the worlds’ children were the greatest treasures we had.  My mother exclaimed, “our children will one day be the people that decide our fate.”  Cole decided that nature is the main source of good in the world, which I am inclined to agree.  This led to a conversation about the continual destruction of the few wild places we have left- both in the United States and abroad.  This topic, as always, led to a sort of hopeless ambiance over the conversation.  Hannah doesn’t believe that there is any one thing that is “good” in today’s society.  She says with the amount of corruption and lack of initiative there just isn’t anything to be very thankful for left.  She goes on to say that there is of course good in the world, but there isn’t anything left to really celebrate.

When asked what they loved about where they lived the majority said the slow, peaceful lifestyle that Hodgenville affords its residents.  It’s the epitome of a small country town, and they loved that.  Hannah made a point about how the small size allowed for a more connected community than some of the larger towns in the area like Elizabethtown or Campbellsville.  Cole likes the nature, and the ability to hunt, fish, and all of the other outdoor activities that he enjoys.  This segwayed into another question, “what would you change about our community?”  Hannah wanted to add more diversity when it came to dining options, “there are hardly any options for fine dining here.” Mom just wanted more diversity in general.  With very few people of color, or any background other than the vast majority of the populace, it is hard to gain a very broad understanding of what the world outside Hodgenville is like for many people.  Laura wished that the lives of other Latino people in the community were better than they are- telling stories of her families struggles, and the adversity that her school kids have to face that many of the Caucasian children don’t have to worry about.  Cole dislikes the education system because of the diminished diversity in classes.  With the majority of electives only being technology based, agriculturally based, or artistically based, he doesn’t think that our school has a very broad range of classes to choose from.

We then tried to figure out a solution to the worlds problems.  Once again, the teachers reverted back to their mantra of education, my brother chose a more aggressive take over the world-esque strategy, and Hannah chose a more loving/taking care of each other way.  I then asked what steps should be taken to implement their solutions- again- the table fell silent. This led to the realization that none of their options have a clear solution.  I then explained to them the idea of a wicked problem, and how that was one of the main focuses of our Honors 251 class.  I then asked if they could think of any wicked problems themselves.  Cole brought up the destruction of nature which is definitely a horrific problem. Mom talked about corruption in politics. Laura (who is Hispanic) talked about immigration. Hannah interestingly brought up Opioids.  We then discussed how these wicked problems affect our everyday lives.  Cole, as an outdoorsman, is saddened by the fact that so much thriving nature is diminishing due to things like pollution, deforestation, and development.  The corruption of government naturally affects the laws, and overall concentration of efforts in our nation; this leads to a constant struggle with what our representatives believe is the correct choice, and the majority of the population.  The immigration topic was particularly polarizing as Laura was for increased immigration and my brother against it altogether.  He admonished that while even though the majority of the United States populace is descended from immigrants, that doesn’t mean that continual immigration is necessarily the answer.  This then led to a discussion about overpopulation, which led to some extreme views from my brother, who then realized that it also had a major impact on the nature discussion we had earlier.  Hannah’s topic of opioids brought up similar questions that we discussed in the class deliberation and was one that we had all experienced in our own community.  Cole’s brutally honest quote, “The world is a messed-up place” is probably the most important realization of the night.  With this, the conversation died down a little, and the only sounds were from eating.

I learned many things from this experiment.  One thing that really stood out to me was the differences in reasoning between Cole and myself.  It struck me as odd that two people that were raised together by the same parents with the same set of moral instructions could be so different in how we see the world.  While we talked, and I realized this, it made me appreciate his part of the discussion more, because he wasn’t exactly like me; I saw things in a way that almost brought me closer to him.  I also came to realize that between us, my brother was more like our father, and I more like our mother.  Cole had a more conservative mindset, and mine more liberal.  Laura’s input I thought to be especially valuable as she is a Latina woman, her ideas, and opinions come from an entirely different place than my own.  Especially when she discussed the plights that her family had to endure to even come to this country.  I learned a lot more on the situation in our state currently regarding the future of the public education system, and the implications that legislation could have on the teachers.  I also learned quite a bit about my own family that wasn’t in attendance.  My mother told stories about my grandfather and how his work in the FBI made a difference in certain aspects of these problems.  How my grandmother immigrated from Germany, and how that part of the family faced similar things to Laura’s family in some ways.

As a whole, the assignment brought a brand-new perspective to how others view these major issues in our world.  One reading that I recommended all of the attendees to read was Exit West.  With the major topic that dominated the discussion being immigration, I believe it would provide insight to the group on the realities of immigrations, and how those that are immigrants adapt to their new homes.  Interestingly Laura talked about how her mother lost her religious beliefs after her move to the United States, and with one of the main factors that affects the characters in the book being religion I thought it would be great for her to read as well.  Out of the three central questions that we mainly discussed throughout the meal was how we live better together.  The discussion focused on improvements to the community, so this naturally is the main thing we focused on.

Kentucky Kitchen Table-Scottsville-Ty

IMG_0003By Ty

I held a dinner in Scottsville, Kentucky, which is a rather small town in south central Kentucky with a population of 4,416 people. Scottsville is a small town and is located in Allen county right next to Bowling Green. Since Scottsville is a small town, the area around Scottsville is very rural. I enjoy Scottsville because of how calm it is and my family gets along nice in our hometown.

Even though my family is mostly conflict free, there are still disagreements in beliefs in my family. For instance, during the dinner me and my mom had a discussion over a confliction in our beliefs, which I will explain later in this blog post. There is also an assortment of ages within my family which adds to the diversity. The age diversity is exemplified by the difference in age between Meg, my sister, and Judy, my grandma, whose ages are 16 and 66 respectively.

Discussing the diversity of my family brings me to talk about the specifics of my family members who participated in having a meal with me. My sister, Meg, is a rather outgoing and dramatic individual, but I suppose she balances me out since I’m a reserved person who tries not to tell people about my problems, even when I should probably talk to someone about some of the things I worry about. My sister does well in academics but seems to dislike school. She is unsure of what she wants to do after high school and has expressed dislike for the idea of going to college. My sister enjoys playing volleyball and is good at it from what I’ve seen, and she enjoys spending time with her boyfriend Levi who also participated in the meal that I was involved in.

Levi is usually pretty reserved and seems to enjoy my sister’s company considering they’ve been together for over a year now. I tried to converse with him at the dining table while we were having our meal but was only able to get him to tell me a little about his job and family. To be honest I don’t know him very well. He lives on a farm with several siblings and works at a different farm for a job. After high school he plans to enter the workforce. He seems like a good guy but I don’t know him very well as I have stated before. My mom probably knows him better than I do.

The mention of my mother leads me into my description of her. My mom, Cindy, is a kind, compassionate person but she seems to worry too much, which may have contributed to her being afflicted with constant physical pain. Despite her medical issues, she still outperforms as a mother. I think she is the single most influential person in my life. She works as a 7th grade history teacher, which I think suits her well. Normally she would enjoy her job but teaching seems to exacerbate her pain. Fortunately, she is close to retirement. She also went to WKU with my aunt who is a teacher as well.

My aunt, Christy, is a nice person and is a 7th grade history teacher in the same school as my mom. She seems tired most of the time and I don’t see her very often now. However, I spent a lot of time with my cousin since I was friends with him when we were kids. I believe that she is a pretty good person.

Keith is the boyfriend of my aunt and he has been for a very long time now. Despite him being my aunt’s boyfriend for so long, I don’t know a lot about him because I rarely see him. He seems nice whenever I talk to him.

My grandparents attended the meal as well. My grandpa is a quiet person who enjoys watching golf and car auctions. Despite my grandpa’s quiet nature, he is still able to show his family that he loves them. My grandma is more outgoing than my grandpa and is more talkative as well. She cooks almost every other Sunday at her house which provided a good time to hold the meal for this blog post. No one else wanted to cook for the meal, so my grandma cooked on her own like she normally does.

There were also two people I had never met before at the meal at my grandma’s house. There was Greta, the mom of Keith, and Roberta, the sister-in-law of Keith. They seem like good people and they got along well with the rest of the people at the meal.

When I asked the required question of “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you,” there were a lot of different answers. When I asked this question, I saw three different kinds of answers. One answer was that citizenship is about people’s personal rights and freedoms. Another answer was citizenship is about contributing to society. The other answer was simply put that citizenship is about being a member of a country. The varying degrees of people’s definition of citizenship helped me to understand what citizenship means to me. I think its more than just being a member of a country and I think it’s a mix having enough freedom to participate in a country’s politics while also being able to contribute that country’s society in a meaningful way.

There were also many conversations around the table while we were eating. One conversation was about a person at church who was unable to sing for Easter, which is abnormal for him. I later learned that this person at church was unable to sing because of his or her brain cancer. Its sad to see someone try to contribute something to their community but then be unable to do so because of something as terrible as cancer.

My sister was discussing whether or not she should get tinted windows on her car with my mom. For some reason my sister feels that she does not have enough privacy while she is driving. My mom brought up the point that tinted windows might make it more difficult for my sister to drive at night. I don’t really understand why a person would want more privacy while they were driving, and if the tinted windows do make it harder for my sister to drive at night, then I would rather her not get them installed.

There was then a discussion about the history of my grandma’s and grandpa’s lives. My grandma and grandpa got married at the ages of 15 and 16 respectively. My grandpa said that there weren’t any drugs in our hometown in the 70s. My grandma disagreed with my grandpa on his statement of there not being any drugs in my hometown in the 70s. He also said that there are a lot more drugs now than there were in the 70s, which might be true.

There was a discussion between me and my sister about how she is doing in school. My sister isn’t enjoying school because she feels like the teachers don’t appreciate the work she has done. She also complained about the amount of work they give, which she said raised her anxiety. When I was in high school, I don’t remember there being a lot of work, so I’m worried if my sister decides to go to college that she will be overwhelmed by the work. I guess she feels that if she is having complaints about the work in high school, then she will have even more problems with the work in college. I guess the dislike for the work in high school is why she doesn’t want to go college.

My mom and I had a discussion about how I was raised. For instance, I wasn’t allowed to say stupid or shut up in regards to talking about people. Not being able to say stupid or shut up in my opinion was a bit drastic, but I could be wrong. I also told her about my use of cuss words on occasion. She seemed to be a bit disappointed when I told her about this, but she said I was a man now and I could make my own choices. I don’t cuss around her and my sister since I know it bothers them.

So, after all these conversations, I think I realized that it’s okay for people to disagree and that disagreeing with someone doesn’t have to devolve into disrespectful arguing, which I think goes along with question of “How do we solve problems?” The history of a problem should also be considered when talking about it, which is what we talked about when my grandpa and grandma were talking about drugs in our hometown. Considering the history of drugs in our hometown reminds me of when the class read an article titled “Green Fire, the Still Point, and an Oak Grove.”

I learned in this meal that I need to get to know more about my relatives and that there is more diversity in my family than I expected. This diversity is due to the difference in age in my family and is due to the differing beliefs that my relatives have with one another. This meal helped me realize that I need to get to know my family better and helped me learn new things about my family. Overall, I think this meal was a positive experience and I hope it will lead to me learning more about my family from now on.

Kentucky Kitchen Table: Owensboro

By Clark

 

 

My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in the city of Owensboro, KY. The city of Owensboro is the 4th largest city in the state of Kentucky with a population just under 60,000. Five people and myself from this city took part in a roundtable discussion after a meal. The participants at the dinner where Katherine, Lisa, Debbie, Jenny, and David. Katherine is a dental student who is living in a bigger city than she is used to, a Baptist, and has conservative leaning views. Lisa is a single parent who works full time, a Baptist, and has conservative leaning views. Debbie is a grandmother, a widow, a Baptist, retired worker, and has conservative values. She also helps take care of her mother. Jenny is a grandmother, retired pharmaceutical worker, a Methodist, and has liberal leaning values. David is a grandfather, a veteran, a retired school administrator, a Methodist, and has liberal leaning values. The members of this group all enjoyed the community of Owensboro and Jenny and David who had moved to Owensboro over twenty years ago also enjoyed the community. The meal took place in the home of Debbie in her dining room, which was used to accommodating a group of people of this size. These where the individuals who participated in my Kentucky Kitchen Table and the setting of where it took place.
After everyone had finished their main meal we started the discussion on what we thought citizenship meant to us besides voting, paying taxes, and following laws. After a few more questions it became apparent that they based their answers on their life experiences and beliefs. For example, many individuals in the group based their answers on their religious beliefs and Christion values. This would go on to affect their answers to later question such as how our religious or spiritual identity relate to how we treat others and how it related to how we see ourselves as citizens. Another reoccurring theme that kept appearing throughout the discussion was past experiences that the individuals had. For example, Jenny and David described their experiences during tail end of the second world war to illustrate how it developed their thought on what citizenship meant to them and how other parts of their life contributed to their role as citizens. Another example of experience was whenever Debbie visited other nations such as China. Her experiences in China would help her develop an understanding of what it means to be a citizen and another theme that will be discussed later, rights. Also, another reoccurring theme was that even though they believed in helping others, a common consensus was that they wouldn’t openly give advice to a neighbor unless directly asked. The reasoning among the older individuals at the table was that there was an age difference between them and their neighbors, which caused a disconnect between them. Although the advice they would give to neighbors and individuals running for office would be just to have common sense and for individuals running for office was to remember the people they represent. A big theme that a majority the participants mentioned during the discussion was rights. To them being a citizen to the United Stated gave them rights that they believed were protected as citizens. The most important right to most of them was the freedom of religion. As stated earlier, Debbie developed the sense of the importance of rights from her mission trip to China. During this trip she noticed the difference between the rights of citizens in America and the rights of citizens in China. This helped me understand and create the theme that a lot of people tie in their religious or spiritual identity into how the see citizenship and how they see themselves as citizens. Another big answer to the questions was the idea of connection. Connection was one of the big things in the world today that many of groups saw as important, but to many it was also a double edge sword. We are living in an age where we have instant access to a large amount of information and individuals, but sometimes we lose the connection to those around us. An example that they gave of this was that they would see people at a table together at a restaurant and they would be on their phones the entire time instead of verbally communicating with each other. This was how connection to them was both the best and worst thing in the world today. These were some of themes that emerged throughout the discussion.
As the discussion continued on as many of the participants began to describe their own communities. The biggest change in community was with Katherine. Katherine had recently moved from Owensboro, a population below sixty thousand, to Louisville, a population over six hundred thousand, and how the communities were different. For her, she mostly only interacted with individuals and the community where she lived. In a similar fashion the others also describe how they only interacted with individuals from their community that shared similar beliefs, ideas, and characteristics. It is much easier to notice this idea of sticking to individuals who are similar to each other, where there are more people like them. This idea relates to a reading in class, Exit West, where one of the main characters wants to live closer and around people from his same background and feels out of place at the current place where they are at. This was how community contributed to how individuals saw themselves as citizen and their role as a citizen.
Many of the individuals at the discussion saw how their jobs related to their role as a citizen. The most obvious individual who saw how his job related to his role as a citizen was David. David, who was a veteran and a retired school administrator, talked about how as a veteran he served his country and other citizens, and as a school administrator gave back and helped shaped the next generation of citizens. The rest of the group also mentioned that their jobs gave back to the community they worked in and provided a good or a service to the rest of the citizens. This was how the individuals saw how their jobs related to their role as a citizen.
From this discussion I learned some things from the answers that were given to the questions. One thing that I took away from the discussion was that individuals tended to base their roles as citizens based on their religious identity, their experiences, and their jobs. I learned that it is sometimes more difficult to connect with neighbors if there is not something that both have in common. The differences that can cause this can be from age, religious identity, and others. This causes neighbors to be reluctant to get to know each other and reluctant to give advice to someone they don’t know that well. Another thing I learned was that people have similarities and generally have similar or close to the same thoughts on topics. These were some of the things that I learned during the discussion.
Also, during the discussion a few things that relate to what we learned in class appeared. One idea from class that the discussion related to was how do we live well together. The discussion related to this main idea from the class because it helped illustrate some factors that can affect how we view this question. An example from earlier can be where they don’t feel comfortable giving advice to a neighbor, unless directly asked for. These factors did not stop them from living well together with their neighbors, but they could have been living better with their neighbors. Another aspect of the discussion that related to class was how individuals developed morality and beliefs. For many in the discussion, their religious or spiritual identity was what created the foundation for what they believed citizenship meant to them. They used their religious or spiritual identity to describe how they should treat others, what should be done in the community, and what their citizenship allows them to do. This was how the discussion related to what we had learned in class.
Overall the discussion for the Kentucky Kitchen Table was very good. It gave me insight into what individuals used to determine what citizenship means to them, how they view their role as a citizen, and what they do as citizens. From this discussion the main influence for individuals in how they viewed citizenship and their role was based on their religious or spiritual identity. Even someone’s experiences can shape how they view and what should be done around the country and the community. From the discussion it was observed how some of the best things in the world can also be the worst. Another aspect derived from the discussion was on how community shaped our roles and views of citizenship. Also, what was discussed provided more insight into what was discussed during the class and gave real life experience to what we discuss in class. This was my Kentucky Kitchen Table discussion.

An Afternoon Around the Kitchen Table

By Taylor

We sat down to eat at my home in Mount Juliet, TN. We’re a family of four, a little unused to accommodating this many people around the kitchen table. With an eclectic mix of chairs, and very little elbow room, the seven of us gathered around the table. (My little brother made a brief appearance to eat before scurrying back upstairs to play video games). My dad made ribs, my mom made mashed potatoes, and I made creamed corn (well, I put the frozen corn in the microwave to heat up). I suggested the idea of a potluck, but my mom preferred for us to cook the meal.

I was a little apprehensive about hosting this dinner. Historically, I haven’t had good experiences with discussing things which people are likely to disagree about in my hometown. I tried to select guests who I felt were open-minded, but I wasn’t optimistic we would all walk away from the conversation with a deeper understanding and appreciation for each other- I thought it was more likely that someone’s feelings would be hurt. The guests at dinner included Frank, Cher, Jane, Hank, Jack, Kate, and myself.

Frank is my father, and he’s in his early forties. He grew up in Chicago and moved to Tennessee in the early 2000s. He was a little quieter during dinner than he would have been if it had just been our family, but when he spoke, it was obviously something he’d been thinking about for a while.

Cher is my mother. She’s a pastor’s kid and grew up bouncing from town to town as my grandfather was reassigned to different churches. It’s given her a unique perspective; Grandpa had a propensity for taking in those who need a place to stay, so my mom has lived with people from all different backgrounds. She isn’t very interested in politics, but she is passionate about helping others.

Jane is my mother’s old coworker, a friend from back when they were in real estate during the early 2000’s. My mom switched career paths, but Jane stayed in the business. Today, she works for a nation-wide real estate company, overseeing half the country. She’s proud of how far she’s come, but several times during lunch she expressed sadness at how often she has to travel for her job. At one point, she told us her situation is representative of the overall modern trend of putting work ahead of family.

Hank is… Jane’s husband. I define him that way only because he didn’t give me anything else to go on. He remained silent for almost the entire lunch, despite several enjoinders to share his opinion. Eventually I relented when I sensed my petitions were being met with increasing annoyance. Overall, I got the sense that he only came because Jane wanted him to.

Jack is the pastor at one of the local churches. He had a lot to say, and there were times I wondered if I should cut him off to give someone else the opportunity to speak. In all fairness, he did have a lot to contribute, and at the very least he kept the table from devolving into an awkward silence.

Kate is his wife. She was also born and raised in Illinois, where she married and had four daughters and later, half a dozen grandchildren. She was a little quieter during lunch- she didn’t volunteer her opinion- but when I asked her about her perspective, she provided me with thoughtful answers. She does a lot of work at the church on behalf of her husband, sort of the “behind the scenes” hero. She’s passionate about helping people, in whatever way she can.

One interesting theme that I observed during our discussion about citizenship is that everyone viewed it as a serious responsibility. They viewed it as not just a responsibility but also a privilege to be a part of a country that is greater than the self. Another generally agreed-upon aspect of citizenship that came up was the obligation to help others within the community. The guests agreed it was an obligation, but they seemed to contradict themselves in regards to enforcement. “Yes, everyone should help others, but they shouldn’t be forced to. Don’t take money out of my taxes for charity- let me give on my own, if I want to.” It reminded me of Jane Addams’s “The Snare of Preparation;” like Jane, they believed that people have an obligation to help others. However, they were adamant that charity should be voluntary- I imagine Jane might be more inclined to require people to give.

Overwhelmingly, the group voiced that the best thing about our world today is freedom. Religious freedom was a big part of this, which was unsurprising since we needed to schedule lunch to be after church that afternoon. However, the guests also freedom of opportunity. A few of the guests grew up at a time when a college education was relatively rare, rather than the default option for most students after high school. They expressed that the wealth of opportunities for people in this country was one of the best things about it.

A major social concern the group echoed was what they termed the “breakdown of the family.” A large portion of the conversation was spent on today’s youth: “They expect everything to be handed to them, they don’t want to work hard…” The group had concerns that young people place less value in familial relationships, and they touched on the idea that young people are less moral than older generations. This reminded me of the David Brooks article, “If it Feels Right” in which he asserts that young people lack the ability to articulate moral reasoning as well as a shared moral framework. However, they were a little more optimistic than Brooks; the group acknowledged that each generation does things differently, which isn’t inherently negative. They even went a step farther to say that if our generation lacks certain skills/values, it’s probably our parent’s fault for not instilling these in us.

This naturally led into a discussion of how several of the guests used to eat with their families around the kitchen table frequently. Most of them expressed nostalgia over those experiences, and a little regret that they didn’t continue the practice. Sitting around the kitchen table and talking with each other gave them a stronger sense of belonging, cohesion, and understanding; they felt much more involved in each other’s lives. Today, most people are too busy to take time to eat together at the table- or it’s not as big of a priority for them as other things. Coming away from the conversation, several of the guests expressed that they might like to be more intentional about eating with their own families around the kitchen table and talking about their lives.

When the conversation turned to what advice they would like to give to politicians or someone running for office, everyone expressed a desire for increased respectful conversation. Instead of demonizing alternate viewpoints, politicians should listen to different perspectives and learn from them. This surprised me a little because of how much it directly relates to what we are learning and practicing in class. We deliberate weekly about different issues and readings, and we are learning to listen and consider the views of others. In a way, this consensus along with the overall meal renewed my faith in the value and practicality of deliberation. Sure, deliberation can work in the classroom when everyone wants to talk so that they get a good participation grade. But if others have a sincere desire to practice these skills in order to solve problems, then maybe deliberation really does have practical applications in the real world; maybe we really can solve problems in this way.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the meal went, and that it did not turn into an argument at any point. I think part of the reason this did not happen is that several people in the group did not know each other well, and they were too polite to disagree as they might have with someone whom they were close to. Still, it was nice to hear from different people about their viewpoints while maintaining a respectful atmosphere.

I think if I did another project like this in the future, I would be quicker to intervene and steer the conversation in the right direction when it started to wander. There was a period of ten minutes or so where the group discussed the merits and drawbacks of our current president and the discussion was derailed pretty severely. Still, I learned that it’s important to hear people out; the longer you listen, the more likely you are to find common ground. For example, while I was unsurprised to hear that abortion was one of the social issues the group was most concerned about, I was surprised to hear that some of them thought the best way to combat abortion is to expand medical treatment and contraceptives, as well as increasing programs and services for new mothers. We might disagree on minutiae, but when it comes down to it, as human beings, we have more in common than things that divide us.IMG_8522