I put on my dinner with three generations of my extended family: my aunt Lisa, uncle Merle, grandmother, mother, and myself. My aunt and uncle are the wealthiest people I know. They are also the only liberally minded people in all of my family. My grandmother is seventy-nine years old, and with her comes some antiquated ideals, but she makes efforts to be contemporary and open minded. My mother is the kindest woman I know, but she is very sensitive to things outside of her comfort zone. I did this project while on vacation in Naples, Florida. All of the ladies cooked sides inside, while my uncle grilled out burgers. We ate while looking out on the bay behind their home. I opened up conversation with the required question, yielding interesting results.
I did not realize that just by asking “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you,” I would learn so much about my own family. My mom brought up the point of being an educated voter as an important duty of citizenship. Her point was that just blindly voting is not constructive. You should vote for who or what you believe will best serve the country, but voting ignorantly for the sake of simply voting is detrimental as a whole.
On the other side of the dinner table, sat my uncle. It is rare that around Thanksgiving dinner, my uncle allows himself to offer up an unpopular opinion, out of respect of the peace. However, he thrived with the proper setting to share his opinions. His opinion was that the more people who thrive, the more our nation thrives, so our money should go toward lifting up those who otherwise cannot succeed. As someone who has grown up in a hyper conservative household, this was explained to me in a way I had never been exposed to before. Most of liberal views that I heard came from conservatives explaining them to me, which are corrupted by nature at the source. Not intentionally, necessarily, but the explanation of a stance that opposes one’s own cannot be told impartially.
I learned, through the setting provided in this project, that Democrats are not delusional, they just see things differently than I do. I have to remind myself that the average of my opinion and the opposing opinion is probably the best course of action. I cannot have all the best courses of action, even if it really feels like I am right. This projects reminds me a great deal about the “Shipyard Project,” a chapter we read in Better Together. Even though the concept is strange when first heard, the Shipyard Project created new space for ideas and conversations to breathe. In the same way that conversations among veterans and civilians arose out of those performances, without this project, I would lack insight into not only the mindset of a democrat, but into this taboo realm of political talk. Essentially, I feel like I learned how and where to start tough conversations and why it is important to have them.