On April 14th, I attended a Kentucky Kitchen Table dinner in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I was unable to do a dinner in my hometown, but I was beyond happy to meet new people. Lauren was the host for our dinner. We ate at her house in Bowling Green. We had five attendees for our dinner. These included: Lauren, Tenley (Lauren’s daughter), Kaleb, Nicole, and myself. For our dinner, Lauren insisted on cooking for us, so it was agreed that the rest of us would simply attend. We enjoyed cranberry chicken salad sandwiches and spinach salad around a comfortable dining room table in Lauren’s house.
Not long into our dinner, I realized how much diversity we truly had at our table. Everyone came from a wide range of backgrounds and even age ranges. Lauren was the oldest at our table. Tenley was by far the youngest at the age of two. The remaining three of us were around the same age. Lauren had grown up in New York and moved to Kentucky shortly after meeting her husband. Tenley had been growing up in Bowling Green and seemed to love it. Nicole had been raised in a moderately small town in Northeastern Kentucky, not far from my own hometown. Kaleb grew up in a town in central Kentucky named Somerset. I grew up in a quite small town in Northeastern Kentucky named Flemingsburg. Though we were all mostly from Kentucky, we all came from different regions of the state.
Seeing three of us attend Western Kentucky University and one of us teaches at the university, the question was brought up of why we chose to attend Western Kentucky University. Kaleb chose Western because it was a nice university that was moderately close to home for him. Nicole explained that she chose Western in order to get far from her hometown, which she was not very fond of. Furthermore, Lauren told us that she simply chose to teach at Western because it was the closest university to where her and her husband chose to settle. I told everyone that I chose to attend Western Kentucky University so that I could get away from the small town I was raised and experience life. Nicole and I both stated that living in a small town can give you the feeling that you are stuck there.
The first question that was brought about in our discussion was the question of what citizenship means. Lauren began by clarifying that citizenship, aside from the obvious things, means to have compassion for the society you live in. She stated, “You cannot help everyone, but you can do your part.” Every member of our dinner agreed with this statement. This is when we decided that all of our answers for this simple, yet complicated question al revolved around having compassion for your society. The most relevant thing we discussed within this question was the election and everything that Trump has put into action since being elected. Nicole stated that the American Health Care Act removal would have only benefitted rich white Americans, but those who had true passion for their society noticed this and came together to degrade the idea. After discussing the topic of the election and how compassion related to it, we began discussing the “American Dream.” Lauren showed her disgust for the label by saying it was all fake and unachievable, which was very much agreed on. This brought us to the topic of welfare. Kaleb and I both shared personal experiences with family difficulties.
We then moved onto the second question of what we thought the best things in our world were today. Lauren stated that her favorite thing about the Bowling Green community was being part of the fairness ordinance. Nicole stated she had attended the first meeting of the fairness ordinance, as well. Both Nicole and Lauren feel very strongly about having fair rights and equality for those of different sexual orientations. After this being brought up, we soon agreed that sexuality is not a lifestyle. Lauren explained her own experience behind this statement. At a fairness ordinance meeting, she had a man tell her that people of different sexual orientations did not need discrimination laws to protect them. He said that their choice of any sexual orientation was simply a lifestyle, only being what takes place in the bedroom. All of our attendees at our meeting agreed greatly that such a statement is untrue. The world is changing and Bowling Green must evolve to keep up. Nicole made it clear that without passing a fairness ordinance, Bowling Green is going to lose a lot of its diversity, which has been worked very hard for. After analyzing our opinions on equal anti-discrimination laws for those of other sexual orientations, we concluded that the key to fixing our world’s issues is to have compassion for your society.
As our discussion moved on, I came to think of the elephant and rider metaphor that comes from the Jonathan Haidt reading The Righteous Mind. This came to my mind as we discussed the abortion photos that had been posted all over campus for the past week. The week that these photos were being shown was Passover. Having “genocide” photos posted was very hurtful during the Jewish holiday of Passover. We all agreed that the pictures were very harmful to those students who very not Jewish, also. I related this to the elephant and the rider metaphor because it was clear to me that no one agreed with having these photos shown to try and persuade people to be against abortion. The presenters only showed upsetting pictures. They were attempting to speak to everyone’s emotions and bring them to the side of pro-life. Seeing people get very upset and angry with the presenters for telling them they were wrong if they believed abortion should be pro-choice made it very clear to me. They were failing to speak to anyone’s “elephant” (their intuition), which is the leader. They were only speaking to the “rider” on the elephant which is the rational and logical self, and were failing to do a good job at doing this. At this moment in our dinner, it became clear to me that the elephant and rider metaphor is very real.
I learned so much during my Kentucky Kitchen Table dinner. I first learned that though people come from different places and are different ages, they can still share very similar experiences. I also realized that our weekly class readings were more applicable to life that I thought. The readings must simply be looked at from a wider perspective to relate them to our own community. Shortly into our discussion, I realized the importance of acknowledging and not degrading the ideas of others. Lauren stated during our dinner that “you can be against someone, but it doesn’t entitle you to force your ideas upon them.” This was by far my favorite quote from our dinner. My dinner also greatly related to our class question of “How do we work well together?” Throughout our dinner, it became more and more clear to me that we were working so well together to discuss options for wicked problems. We were not struggling to discuss because everyone was open-minded and accepting. This proved to me that the central idea of working well together was being achieved during our dinner. Our dinner also related to the questions of “How do we help others have more control of their lives?” and “How do we have more control over our own lives?” Midway through our dinner, I began thinking about how to possibly relate the discussion to these two questions. It was obvious that we were answering them both, however. We discussed spreading and evoking compassion for one’s society to help others change their community to be better for them. We also discussed becoming more active in our own communities and doing our part in order to help ourselves have more control over what is going on in our lives.
Overall, the Kentucky Kitchen Table Dinner was a marvelous experience for me. I learned so much from the dinner and the people I attended it with. It was a great opportunity to meet new people in Bowling Green and have a civilized discussion with them. This project definitely felt more like a choice and less like homework. I enjoyed this project very much!