Camille’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Camille

My Kentucky Kitchen Table meal took place in Louisville, Kentucky. My older cousin was getting married soI decided to ask the questions at her rehearsal dinner. The dinner was at anItalian restaurant called Volare. The people sitting at my table were my mother(Sarah), father (Todd), my cousin (Lindsay), and a family friend (Rich). My mother is a dental hygienist and my father is an electrical engineer for the government. Both have very liberal stances in politics and I would say are pretty accepting of people. My mom takes great pride in being an informed citizen. She watches the national news every night, has never missed an election, and volunteers throughout Louisville. My father is more moderate in his opinions and has a mixed viewpoint since he works for the government. I would say he really only does the bare minimum when it comes to being a citizen. My cousin Lindsay is a lawyer for the district attorney’s office inLouisville. She is much younger than my parents so her opinion varied a little bit from theirs. My parents’ family friend is much older, as he was a friend of my grandfather. His views are a little more conservative, but also liberal. He does a lot for his community and has done so for most of his life. He is on the board of his neighborhood association and does a lot of community service.

            I began the conversation with asking a couple other questions instead of asking what citizenship meant to them yet. Some common themes that first came up were about good morals. Sarah and Rich both stressed the importance of being a good neighbor. They both live in the same neighborhood in Louisville which is called the Highlands. This neighborhood is very diverse and is welcoming of all types of people. Rich brought up how he sponsors a refugee family through his church. The family is from Syria, I believe, and he takes them to any place they need to get to in Louisville. He teaches them English. Rich stressed how lucky he was to have been born in the U.S. so he feels that helping these refugees who came from nothing is part of his civic duty. He said that trying to communicate with people that speak very little English has had a deep impact on him. It has enhanced how he views living in the U.S. Sarah knows every single neighbor on our street. She has talked to each one, and introduces herself to any new people that move in. I think that she does this in order to keep up the community within our neighborhood. Rich is also on the neighborhood committee so it is important to him that everyone feels welcome.

            Another theme we talked about religion. Sarah, Todd, and I are all technically Catholic, but identify as atheist. Rich and Lindsay are active Catholics. My parents both stressed that people can have good morals without being active in a religion. This is how they raised me so I agree with them. I also believe that people can be morally good without believing in God. Rich, however, stresses that being active in the church is important in daily life. Most of the service he does is through his church. My dad believes that doing service does not have to be related to religion and that helping our neighbors is important regardless. Much of Lindsay’s work is dealing with people in the community who have not been “good neighbors”. They are individuals who have broken laws or caused harm in the Louisville community. I think that if people were to be informed citizens they could be better at following the law. This could relate to the ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ reading since a once normal civilized society turned into a war zone. This may not directly relate to our conversation, but in some ways it does. When people do not follow laws and do not practice good morals it is possible for a civilized society to turn in to a place of chaos.

            When I asked what citizenship meant to the table, people definitely had varying answers.  Lindsay, being a county lawyer, answered that citizenship is taking care of our community, of our homes, giving to those less fortunate, and being kind. She also said that if every single person followed the law and was a good citizen then she wouldn’t have a job as a prosecutor. I think that this is an interesting point. There will always be people within society that do not follow the law and are not respectful to others, but this is what people like Lindsay are for. They serve the purpose of protecting the community from those that cause harm to it. The leaders of the Bosnian genocide felt that they were doing some sort of good when in reality they were causing great harm to the country as a whole. There is a fine line between what people think is good for the community and what is actually good.

            Rich had a different take on citizenship. He emphasized that being a good person is a huge part in being a good citizen. This ties into his help with the refugee family. Since they did not have anything when they came to the U.S. helping them out was something he had to do according to him. He tied being a good Catholic and citizen together saying that they almost went hand in hand in some ways. Sarah had a different stance on citizenship. She is proud to be a citizen of the U.S., Kentucky, and our neighborhood the highlands. Since she has this pride in where she lives she feels that it is important to keep up the condition of where she lives. In some ways, I feel that this relates to “To Hell With Good Intentions”. Sarah stressed that citizenship starts at the local level. This relates to this article because it was all about how Americans need to fix the problems in the U.S. before going abroad. Fixing the problems that directly affect our citizens is imperative.

            Todd had a very different stance on what citizenship means to him. He talked a lot about how lately being a citizen of the U.S. has been an embarrassment to him. Being a citizen to him means that we take care of other human beings, but that the recent leadership in the U.S. is not doing this. Since the U.S. does have the resources to help countries that do not he feels that they should try to help all people in need. This also kind of goes along with ‘Love Thy Neighbor’. There was a great debate about whether or not it was the United States’ duty to help the Bosnians. I agree with one of the points Todd said. He said that it is hard to be a good citizen of a country who is not a good citizen of the world as a whole. I agree with this. I feel like many people would feel this way in the current political climate of the U.S.

            The conversation also shifted into talking about jobs and how they relate to citizenry. Todd holds a federal engineering job for the Corps of Engineers, but he feels that this has no real connection to his role of a citizen. Sarah, as a dental hygienist, feels that her job does serve her neighbors. She sees people on a daily basis that have had very little access to adequate dental care in the past, so by helping them she is helping her fellow citizens. Lindsay’s job directly relates to her role as a citizen. As a public prosecutor, she protects the public on a daily basis by sending those who have broken laws to jail. She is contributing to the safety of the community which seems to relate to being a good citizen.

            Overall I feel like one of the main themes of our conversation was about being a good neighbor. This word not only applies to our literal neighbors that we live next to, but also to other citizens in the U.S.We must respect others and help people that do not have the resources to help themselves.Being a good citizen is clearly not just about following laws. It is also about having a strong moral compass that helps others within society. I think that what side of politics someone falls on also plays a huge role in what being a citizen means to someone.  Throughout this conversation I learned that people value their citizenship at different levels. While Sarah, Rich, and Lindsay felt that citizenry means helping their neighbors and serving their community at the local level, Todd felt that we must take care of our neighbors at a global level. I think that a combination of both is vital in order to keep order in this modern society. With so many conflicts going on in the local, the national, and the international communities, every citizen must try to contribute in some way to put an end to said conflicts.

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Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Grace

My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place on November 11 at my grandparent’s home (next door to my house) in Alvaton with many members of my family. In attendance was my mother, Robin, who is a lawyer and enjoys staying up to date on current news and world happenings. It is very rare for my mom to not have an opinion about something. Similar to my mom is my grandfather, Larry, who is a retired accountant and Air Force veteran. He has very conservative views and isn’t very trusting of the national government. He always seems to have a very strong opinion about everything. On the other hand, my grandma, Deanna, who is a retired kindergarten teacher of 42 years is very much a people pleaser and doesn’t like to ruffle anyone’s feathers. Also an educator is my aunt, Shawna, who is a school psychologist at a low income, high risk elementary school. She has lived in a lot of cool places and done interesting things throughout her life and always brings a new perspective to every situation. My sister, Anna, is a junior at Greenwood High School. She plays volleyball. My brother, Brody, is a freshman at Greenwood High School and plays football. Neither of my siblings were very interested in contributing to the conversation. However, my little cousin, Kayle, who is 9 was very eager and willing to participate. She likes to act grown up.

My family has the tradition of eating dinner with all 10 of our close family members at my grandparents house every Sunday night. Everyone at the table had family dinner around a table almost every night growing up and we all love it and think it’s very important. We have always had the rule of no phones at the table and there is no TV in the kitchen or dining room. I didn’t know how much I would miss this but after eating out for every meal now, having the meal overtaken by cellphones, and eating on the run, I truly realize how much I appreciate it.

While we were preparing the food, I explained to everyone that we would be having a conversation about citizenship and community. Once we sat down at the table, I started off with the required question of “beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”. My grandma was the first to chime in with “safety”. When I asked her to elaborate, she explained that she believes public safety is becoming an increasing concern in our society, especially since 9/11. My 9 year old cousin made a very insightful point. She said that being a citizen means being informed. We all completely agreed with this. My grandpa gave the example of how important it is to be especially informed about candidates running for office. 

Next we talked about what everyone thought were the best things about our world today. My brother broke his silence to chime in that he thought brownies were the best thing about our world today. After some giggles, we moved on to some more serious answers. My grandma thinks that the freedoms we have today are one of the most important things about our world. We talked about how our personal liberties and freedoms have evolved as our country has developed. Now we have so many freedoms, including those of speech and religion, as well as those taken for granted such as choosing where to live and work. We talked about all the changes that my 102 year old great-grandmother has lived through. My mom pitched in that she thought education was one of the best things about our world today, specifically in our country. She has always stressed to us the importance of getting an education. 

My family, my aunt and uncle’s family, and my grandparents all live next to each other on a family farm. So the questions about knowing your neighbors, and giving advice to your neighbors were harder to apply to us because we obviously know our neighbors… they’re our family. However, they had lots to say about how they felt their jobs served a greater purpose and how it contributed to their role as a citizen. My mom, an injury lawyer, is very passionate about her job and the people she helps. She feels that besides paying taxes and voting, her job is how she contributes as an active citizen. My grandma and my aunt both work(ed) for the school system, and also felt that they changed the lives of their kids at school which is one of  their biggest roles as a citizen. My grandpa did not take a break from eating to answer this one. 

They also had a lot to say when I asked if they had ever had a conversation with someone who is from a very different background than them. My grandparents, my siblings, my cousin, and I all agreed that we didn’t think we had. My mom and my aunt, on the other hand, had many times. My mom told us how it isn’t unusual for her to have clients that come from cultures where all dealings must be done with the men. Even if the woman was the one involved in the accident, they want her to speak to the man (whether that be her husband, brother, or father) about the case. She also has clients who come from very poor backgrounds, and often times may even be homeless. She says it’s very much an eye opener to work with these people. My aunt’s elementary school is low income and is majority immigrants, so she deals with diversity on a daily basis. She said more times than not, she has to have an interpreter there to be able to talk to the parents of the child who usually do not speak English. She also told us that it is very common for her to have to make home visits for one reason or another. She said certain cultures will offer you food, and no matter how unappetizing it looks or smells, you have to eat it because it is considered very rude if you do not. Out of my whole family, my aunt has definitely had the most experience with diversity.

My Kentucky Kitchen Table meal went really well, although it did not go how I thought it would considering my family is very loud and opinionated. During this meal, however, they were relatively quiet by their standards and were pretty much in agreeance on most things. They did give lots of silly answers and crack themselves up, which is not one bit out of character. Even though ours didn’t get much below surface level, overall, I think the Kentucky Kitchen Table project was insightful and the conversation is one that should happen more often over a family dinner. 

McLain’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

My Kentucky Kitchen Table project took place on November 6, 2018, in my parents’ home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. My step-dad, Jody, is seated on the left in the plaid shirt. He is a developer in Bowling Green and owns two small businesses, for one of which I work. Moving clockwise around the table, next is my mom, Anne. She was a teacher for 15 years in Bowling Green, and now has her Real Estate license.  Tiffany, her best friend, is seated next to her. She is wearing an “I voted” sticker because this dinner took place on the day of midterm elections, but I’ll get to that later. Next is Christiaan, but we call him”Bubba.” He sells insurance for Vanmeter Insurance here in town. His wife Anne Marie, and Chapel, one of their three daughters, are sitting next to him. Chapel is a junior at Greenwood Highschool. My sister Emmie is next. She is a senior at Greenwood Highschool and will be attending Transylvania University next year to play volleyball. Next, Landon is a sophomore at WKU from Mayfield, Kentucky studying Finance. My boyfriend Marshall is next to Landon. He is also from Mayfield and is senior at WKU studying Business Economics with a minor in sales. Finally, there is me, but I was taking the picture. I am a sophomore studying Geology at WKU.

Sitting around this table were 10 people who happen to live in the same town right now, but did not all grow up here and some whom do not plan to stay. From highschool students to business men to mothers to college students, these different viewpoints shaped the way the conversation flowed that night, and everyone learned something new. After the food had been served, and we all sat down, I asked the required question: “what does citizenship mean to you?” It took the group a while to really come up with an answer, I think they had voting on the brain because it was election night, but I asked them to think deeper. The overall response was to simply be good people, to act in a way that will better your community rather than create more tension as we tend to see very often with such polarized political groups. This was the first question I asked, and the group answered it in a way more like I was a teacher and they were the students. Almost as if they wanted me to give them a sticker for the right answer. In class and in our deliberations we have learned and practiced guiding a conversation and asking questions to poke at those attending in hopes of getting a real conversation started rather than just answering questions and moving on. So, with this in mind, I moved on to questions I felt they would better relate to or really have an opinion about. 

”Who voted?” I asked. Almost every person at the table said “me” or showed their sticker. Emmie and Chapel are not 18 yet, so they were not able to. Landon, on the other hand, is registered to vote at home, even though he lives in a house in Bowling Green and technically could have registered here. Later on in the evening, he expressed his regret in not voting here or at home. “I couldn’t go home today, because I had class, but I guess I could have sent an absentee ballot. I probably just should have registered and voted here. I feel kind of bad about it.” he told me. Those who did vote were proud of participating, as they should be. The discussion then moved to ask how people voted and if voting a straight ticket is a good idea. Most believed the job of the voter was to be informed about those running and make a decision for each position based on what they believed rather than just choosing those in their party. 

Once the discussion died down in regard to voting, I moved through the recommended questions until one sparked interest. “How do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen?” was a major conversation starter for this group. Beginning with Jody, he owns Kenway Concrete, Llc and J. Allen Builders, , and a majority of the people working for him have a criminal record. To be an employee of his they must pass a drug test, but he will give a job to most anyone willing and ready to work hard. That is hard to come across in todays world. Citizens who have been in prison often have a difficult time finding work that pays enough to support a family, but Jody gives them that opportunity. This also brought up the discussion of immigration, and the competition for work. “Immigrants just work harder. They are here to support themselves and their families back home, so they show up to work, they pass drug tests… they want to be here,” Jody explained. He often would rather hired an immigrant with a valid visa, because it makes jobs go faster and the customer is happier. This is the struggle with blue collar jobs. “Americans are lazier,” he admitted. “The immigrants I employ don’t get all the same benefits the Americans do, so they have more to lose and more to work for.”

Anne Marie just began homeschooling her youngest daughter in the past month, and like I mentioned previously, my mom was a teacher for 15 years, so their job influences the community through the youth. They shape those whom we will see on the ballot in the future running for positions in our city, state, and country. The two women had many criticisms of the school systems in Bowling Green. “If I could change anything in this town right now I’d completely revamp the Board of Education,” mom said. Like we have talked about in class, even professors do not get paid enough for what they do, and neither do elementary, middle or highscool teachers. The subject of immigration arose again during the conversation regarding education in Bowling Green. My mom remembers a time when she had 35 students in her classroom, and 6 of them had recently immigrated to the United States. Specifically, twin boys from Africa. They spoke no English, had never sat in a classroom like this one before, and did not even know how to use a Western toilet. The situation was extremely difficult for everyone involved, and they just threw them into a classroom they were not learning anything in, because they did not understand what anyone was saying. Mom remembers getting a phone call from a mother of a student named Sarah in the same class; she was requesting her child be moved to another classroom, because she sat next to the boys and could not focus due to their strong odor. Mom had complained to the office about how strongly they smelled, but they were too afraid to do anything, because they did not want to insult them. “They said it was because they were African American; Sarah was African American too.” All teachers are not trained in ESL (English as a Second Language), and with Bowling Green listed as a sanctuary city, something regarding a change in the school systems and the way new foreign students are taught must change. “It is not that we do not want them there, they are children and we want them to learn so they can succeed. It is hard to do that when you cannot even communicate with them. Something has to change to bridge that gap.” she urged. 

The book we have been reading from, Love thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Mass, has opened my eyes to the horror many immigrants have faced. People do not just up and leave their homes because they want to make trouble for someone else. They leave because they are living somewhere they do not feel is safe for themselves or their families. As you have read, immigration issues were in the spotlight of my Kentucky Kitchen Table, and no one believed they were “rapists and criminals” as we have seen in the news. The issue is that of determining the best way to introduce them into our culture and society while also making it fair for those already here. Obviously, throwing them in with no help does not work, like in the example of my mom’s classroom, and unfortunately, people do not want to share the money they have worked hard for to pay for people they do not even know. Immigration is a wicked problem, and we were not able to solve it at one dinner, but there is hope for pressing issues such as this one if so many people of different backgrounds, faiths, a political parties can get together and discuss them like we did on November 6th.

I really enjoyed this project. Dinner with family is a part of my everyday routine, but having so many new faces around the table was a treat for everyone there. People appreciate their opinions being heard, and participating allowed them to do so while also hearing others. I know each person there learned something new and took home a new perspective on something they may have never thought of before. 

Claire’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Claire

I was so excited for this assignment all semester. I love sitting around the dinner table with family and friends, sharing thoughts and laughter as we eat a delicious homemade meal. My Kentucky Kitchen Table project took place in Louisville, Kentucky on November 16 at my family’s house. There were eight amazing people present, seven related and one not. 

The first person is my Dad, Mark. He is a Director of Research for a Pharmacogenomics laboratory as well as a professor in the department of Public Health at the University of Louisville and the best dad I could have ever asked for. Next is my Mom, Beth, not present in the picture above because she is pulling more of her famous rolls out of the oven. Beth is a biology high school teacher and the kind of person who is relentlessly encouraging and is able to make any day the best day of your life. Moving around the table comes my little sister Kate. Although she doesn’t know much about citizenship at the young age of 13, she’s always there to lighten the mood and bring a hint of joy to the dinner table. She’s never met a stranger she couldn’t talk to or a food she doesn’t like. Next, my oldest sister Ellen, a Chinese and International Affairs major with the most intense drive of anyone I have ever met. I hope to be half of who she is one day. Then Sarah, the next oldest sister who is going to someday become an art restorer and is all in all my very best friend. My brother William sits next to Sarah. He is the lead roaster for a coffee shop in Washington DC and is the coolest person I know. He brought along his new girlfriend Maggie, whom none of us know very well. Maggie is from Seattle, Washington and works for a documentary film company in Washington DC as well. The gang’s all here, and so the discussion begins.

“Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” A couple of contemplative thoughts and a few bites of lasagna later, my family jumps right in. They all seem to agree on one major thing; outside of the legal or customary status given to an individual which identifies them as a part of the larger group, citizenship comes with a common alliance of tradition and belief in common ideals, as well as communal promotion of those ideals within that community. It is the recognition by the individual that the group is bigger than themselves and they have a responsibility to that group. Outside of values and ideals, my brother includes that it is also the responsibility to participate in dialogue that has a generative nature to the laws, taxes, etc., that you hold as a nation. Maggie interestingly interjects a bit of a different view point, meaning that as a citizen you recognize that you are a steward, so to the best of your ability you must both be engaged in what’s going on and advocate for the best use of the resources and greatest care for other citizens that your conscience deems right. 

Overall, I would say there was a general consensus on citizenship, each person around the table building off of what the individual before them had said. This topic led into a conversation surrounding the question; what is the responsibility you have to the community around you? Or do you even have much responsibility outside of what our system has enacted as laws? Which led into a conversation about community in general. My mom, being from Jeffersontown, in Louisville, where we currently live, grew up in a time where J-Town was a close-knit group of people where everyone knew everyone, and the norm was to take care of and make a point to know the people that are around you. She said it was rare to see someone that she didn’t at least recognize who they were. Even in the same exact area my siblings and I grew up in a different J-Town, a place less focused on the community but the small pockets of people within the community that unfortunately, tend to not interact with one another. My siblings and I are more a part of the surrounding areas and the city of Louisville itself than my mom was. We trade a larger area for a looser community. We all expressed that we wish J-Town would one day return to more of a small-town community feel; something that is already in the process due to recent improvements. In further contrast, Maggie grew up in the wealthy area of inner-city Seattle. A place where it is almost impossible to know everyone around you. Her idea of a close-knit community relied on her next-door neighbors and church family. And my dad grew up in a heavily catholic community in Pennsylvania, a stark contrast to the conservative Baptist area of my mother. 

Religion of our respective communities and childhood led us into the obvious differences we have found in our own travels between areas considered to be in the “bible-belt” and areas that are not. Eventually I brought up our readings and discussions in class that were related to mission work and the article “To Hell with Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich. My brother, one who devoted most of his undergrad and graduate studies to sustainable development, and my older sister who has a deep interest in world cultures, and Maggie who has had an intimate view of special communities around the world through editing documentaries, and her own travels, jumped at the chance to discuss their viewpoints on the subject. Around the table we discussed the importance of knowing, as much as possible by an outsider, the intricacies of the culture you are hoping to aid, and ensuring that through the aid, you stay true to the culture’s beliefs and values and provide a manner in which the community can maintain and eventually develop further whatever improvement methods that have been put in place.

William brought up a good example. He told a story about methods of development within the coffee industry and the importance of ensuring that development is sustainable without outside support. Often times companies will send in people and materials for farmers in South America to start up a coffee bean plantation. At first the farmers are doing well and make use of the materials provided. However, eventually, it often becomes apparent that the coffee plant seeds sent to that area are unable to grow in that climate and so the farmers now have an entire industry full of workers, buyers, and supplies without a product they were able to maintain. This leads to the farmers becoming worse off than they were before the outside help came in. Not much argument followed that evidence.

Religion of our respective communities and childhood led us into the obvious differences we have found in our own travels between areas considered to be in the “bible-belt” and areas that are not. Eventually I brought up our readings and discussions in class that were related to mission work and the article “To Hell with Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich. My brother, one who devoted most of his undergrad and graduate studies to sustainable development, and my older sister who has a deep interest in world cultures, and Maggie who has had an intimate view of special communities around the world through editing documentaries, and her own travels, jumped at the chance to discuss their viewpoints on the subject. Around the table we discussed the importance of knowing, as much as possible by an outsider, the intricacies of the culture you are hoping to aid, and ensuring that through the aid, you stay true to the culture’s beliefs and values and provide a manner in which the community can maintain and eventually develop further whatever improvement methods that have been put in place.William brought up a good example. He told a story about methods of development within the coffee industry and the importance of ensuring that development is sustainable without outside support. Often times companies will send in people and materials for farmers in South America to start up a coffee bean plantation. At first the farmers are doing well and make use of the materials provided. However, eventually, it often becomes apparent that the coffee plant seeds sent to that area are unable to grow in that climate and so the farmers now have an entire industry full of workers, buyers, and supplies without a product they were able to maintain. This leads to the farmers becoming worse off than they were before the outside help came in. Not much argument followed that evidence.

Further conversation followed surrounding themes of responsible stewardship of the things in which you have been given, social obligations, general life advice, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. Although there was only one person at my Kentucky Kitchen Table that I didn’t know well, I feel like I gained a deeper understanding of how those closest to me view the world we live in. It gave me a new perspective on what these particular members of society expect from others; a willingness to engage in society and be an active participant in things that affect the whole. I think this conversation relates to the entire theme of the class, answering the three questions; how can we live better together, how can we have more of a say over our own lives and contribute to others having more of a say over their own lives, and how can we solve problems? All of the topics that we have discussed thus far in class have contributed, albeit in a small way, to solving those wicked problems. 

All in all, I learned that by asking questions and listening to those around us, we can all learn a little bit more about one another and about our differences, uniting us all into citizenship under one nation, and one people all sharing the same planet. Maybe through this greater understanding, we can learn to live better with one another, and be better stewards of the world we live in.

Good people, good food, and good conversation. That’s a Kentucky kitchen table.

Harrison’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

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On November 10th, 2018, I did not have my Kentucky Kitchen table. I went on a trip to Gatlinburg and planned on doing the activity on the aforementioned day. However, I completely forgot to have the conversation and was left scrambling for a way to host the event somewhere in Bowling Green. I’m from Louisville and finding a venue to carry out the activity was going to be difficult. Needless to say, I was stressed. However, I have a group of friends who live here in Bowling Green in a house off campus and they were kind enough to let me host the event there on November 14, 2018. Those in attendance from left to right are Hunter, Hunter, Jackson, and Alex. For the sake of clarity, the second Hunter will be referred to as Ricketts. Hunter is a Freshman who is an amateur body builder and wishes to go into seminary after college. Ricketts is a WKU Junior with hopes of going into Med School to be a surgeon. He also works as an EMT in the Bowling Green area. Jackson is also a Freshman at Western who did Cheer and Gymnastics growing up and describes himself as a listener. And last but not least, Alex. Alex is a nontraditional student who has come back to Western finish the last semester to get his degree in creative writing. Jackson, the cook of the group, was nice enough to cook a stir-fried vegetables and pasta meal for my Kentucky Kitchen Table. I would like to point out that while my table had 5 people of extremely different backgrounds and beliefs, we were all men 18-21 years old. Therefore, there is lots of overlap in our thinking and a very possible bias. However, I believe that the night was mostly objective and still led to extremely productive and enlightening discussion. Anyways, to start off the night I asked the only required question; Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizen ship mean to you? The general consensus right of the bat was freedom and patriotism. We talked about Patriotism and Freedom of the press and freedom to own guns and pursue life, liberty, and happiness for a couple of minutes. There was quite the “Merica” vibe to the conversation.  However, the group soon realized that we were talking about citizenship from the perspective of an American and only an American. From there, the conversation moved to a more universal sense of citizenship that was defined as abiding by a specific set of cores and values that your home country holds dear. In addition, we also saw citizenship as a way to identify with fellow citizens. Being in a citizen now gives everyone in that country a common identity. However, my favorite view on citizenship came from Hunter. He said that citizenship varies a lot for different people, but to him, citizenship was a sense of pride in one’s country and a desire to see it succeed and improve. We compared it to the marriage vows of in sickness and in health. No matter what state the country is in, you will stick around and do your best to improve it if you see citizenship as more than just birthright or words on a paper. We brought up an example that showed this divide between those who think that citizenship is just words versus representing something more. That example was the 2016 election. Many people threatened to leave the country if Donald Trump won the presidency. In the way that we defined real citizenship, those who threatened mutiny didn’t see citizenship as anything more than words on a paper. If they did, they would have stuck through a period of time that they disagreed with and done everything they could to make the best out of the situation.

From there, the conversation took a huge turn when someone brought up the Kavanaugh hearing. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the appointment of Kavanaugh as a justice, we decided that him being found not guilty was a very important moment in today’s world. With the increased prevalence of the #metoo movement, many people lost sight of innocent until proven guilty and the importance of due process. It’s impossible to know the total truth behind Dr. Ford’s allegations, and it’s possible that the jury got the verdict wrong. However, it was important because with many of the alleged rape trials, defendants were often seen as guilty until proven innocent which is completely backwards to how the United States law system works. This isn’t to say that women shouldn’t be believed. However, it is still important that regardless of the situation due process is still carried out the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty. From this conversation, we turned to rape culture and what can be done to combat the very real problem. We started the conversation by doing our best to define rape culture. What we came up with was that rape culture could be defined as a culture that largely ignores rape and attempts to treat the symptom of the culture -rapes- and not the actual disease which is the culture itself. Many people say that the way to treat said disease is to teach boys not to rape and rather than teaching girls not to get raped. While this may seem like a totally reasonable and simple solution and it probably works a little bit, we discussed how it might be harder to do than it seems. I asked the question “how many rapists premeditate a rape versus those who do it once in a lapse of thought. How many of those rapists lost consent after having had it and then just keep going?” Although none of us knew the actual spread between one-time rapists versus serial rapists, Ricketts used his background in the medical field to give us a real reason why people can sometimes “rape on accident.” He talked about how when someone is in a situation where things are getting “intense”, dopamine floods the brain which greatly suppresses the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is what makes decisions and understands social norms as well as the part of the brain that would be taught not to rape someone. It is also a large part of what differentiates humans from other mammals. So, even if that man had been taught not to rape someone, if in the moment they lost consent, the rush of dopamine would suppress the frontal lobe making it much harder to realize that what they were doing was wrong because the frontal lobe is suppressed, and the more animalistic tendencies would come out. To be clear, we all acknowledged that rape is always a choice that the man makes, and it is always possible to say no. We were just discussing the medical reasons why it is harder to say no in that situation.  So rather than teach boys not to rape, we proposed teaching boys to stay out of situations where they might make a mistake. I proposed this idea because it was one that my mom always taught me. She must have realized that the standard “teach boys not to rape” wasn’t the best way to teach boys and that there was better advice to give. She always told me to never get drunk around girls because being drunk around drunk girls is the perfect recipe for accidental disaster. After sharing this idea, the group liked it a lot and agreed that parents should not only teach boys not to rape but should also teach them how to stay out of situations that would lead them to do something they would regret.  However, we conceded that this idea would only work for men who rape once “on accident” and not for the serial rapists. Sadly, we couldn’t come up with a solution to stop serial rapists other than teaching boys how to stop them. The discussion was wrapped up at this point because of our limited time frame. However, although our discussion was relatively short, I was extremely pleased with the result. We all learned that the issue of rape culture requires a much more complicated solution than simply teaching boys not to rape. However, we also learned that there is still a lot that we can do as individuals to help cut down on as many rapes as possible. This conversation was really interesting because of how well it related to the elephant versus the rider reading we discussed. In the reading, it talks a lot about how people make decisions with their emotions and not their reason. That reading perfectly describes the issue with trying to teach boys not to rape. You can teach to their reason/rider all day not to rape and they may listen and agree. But in the moment, that elephant takes over and the reason gets lost. It is for that reason that teaching boys to stay out of situations is so important. If men can know not to put themselves in bad situations and there is never the decision of, “do I keep going even though I lost consent” the amount of rapes could possibly decrease drastically. Sadly there is no guarantee that this approach will work any better than the other, if at all, but we decided that this would be the best way to approach an extremely difficult and important problem in our culture today.

Addy’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

I had my Kentucky Kitchen table on November 12, a little bit later than I was supposed to due to the Minton Mold Move Out. It took place at my boyfriend’s mom’s house in Franklin, KY just 30 minutes down 31W. Even though my Kentucky Kitchen Table was belated, I still go to have a homemade dinner with insightful conversation on citizenship through the eyes of people other than myself.  I think that a homemade meal around a diner table is something I took for granted before college, because for the last few months I have been eating fast food in an overcrowded cafeteria with dime a dozen conversations about projects, exams, or university events. This project put into perspective the importance of a traditional meal around a dinner table uninterrupted by text messages or snapchats. I decided to put in place a rule that banned phones from the table so that there wouldn’t be any distraction from the conversation, and I think that it aided in focus while we were talking.  

Sam is my 19-year-old boyfriend of almost 4 years now, has one sister, and divorced parents. He attends the University of Alabama in Huntsville studying Aerospace Engineering. What he does is rocket science. Not in the joke form. I asked each person around the table how they would want to be described in three words. Sam’s are as follows: chill, old man, and cute. I guess I’m dating a cute old man.  

Also, in attendance was Sam’s mom, Kelly. She is 48 years old and just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer. She has lived in Franklin for basically her whole life and works at the family business, B&B tire, in Bowling Green. Kelly’s three words were caring, strong, and Christian. 

The next guest is David, Kelly’s boyfriend. He was Amish until he was 18 and then left to start his own construction business, Miller builders. He and Kelly met through their church, Church of Christ. I don’t know David that well. In fact, I just learned that he was once Amish while talking at the table about how they wanted to be described. The words he picked were hard-working, Christian, and humble.  

David’s daughter, Hannah, was also in attendance and is a nursing major here at WKU. She commutes from home in Glasgow, KY where she has been for 14 years now and is a freshman. She was adopted from Romania by David and came to America 4 years old. I have only met Hannah once before my Kentucky Kitchen Table, so I really didn’t know her very well. Hannah’s words  

My last two guests were Abby (Sam’s sister and Kelly’s daughter) and Lula, Kelly’s miniature poodle. Abby is 21 years old and works at B&B tire. Abby describes herself as determined, hard headed, and caring. She has always lived in Franklin and just moved to Bowling Green six months ago. Lula would just describe herself as hungry, tired, and cuddly.  

Overall, I think I had a pretty diverse group of people in attendance. Conservative and Liberal opinion different religious backgrounds, and different cultural backgrounds. I think that this was essential to the diverse answers that I received when having a conversation about citizenship. One thing that we all had in common, though, was the fact that we all relate our citizenship to small towns.  

When I first asked the question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I could tell that they weren’t expecting such a hard question. It took a few moments for anyone to speak up but soon enough, Kelly did. She said that citizenship, to her, meant belonging to something that is bigger than yourself. I thought that this answer was insightful and true. It made me think that there is always somewhere for you to belong. Sam said that citizenship to him means learning and looking at our history and trying to find ways to make it better for ourselves and other citizens. I think that these two answers stuck out the most to me because it relates to two of our central questions of the class:  how can we solve problems and how can we live better together?  

The next question that I asked at the table was “What is the thing you love most about living where you do?”. I picked this question because the people that are from Franklin/have a connection to Franklin take a lot of pride in it because is such a small, but mighty, community. Abby answered quickly and she talked about how when her best friend from high school died, the whole community supported each other in their time of grieving.  She emphasized how instant the feeling of support was. I can attest to this– there is no sense of anonymity in Franklin. Which is both a blessing and a curse, as Sam said. David had an interesting perspective on this question. He said that when he got out of the Amish, he had all of this freedom that was overwhelming at first. But even though it was overwhelming, it is what makes “America feel American”- this sense of opportunity. He also talked about how he loves the opportunities he has as a self-employed, small business owner and how Glasgow and the surrounding areas support him. I chose this question because I feel a special feeling of citizenship to Franklin and recently, WKU. Hannah talked about her connection to WKU as well. She said that even though she is a commuter, she feels like she is a citizen to WKU. I think that this question was essential to this project because I feel like a lot of the things, we discuss in class are things that we don’t do well as citizens, and this question is a more positive way of looking at our citizenship in the United States, colleges, and small towns. This question relates to the “Love Thy Neighbor” reading to me because it has similar themes of how we should involve ourselves with those around us that need help. It is easy to think to ourselves “Well it’s not my family, so why should I concern myself with it?”, but that kind of thinking is what extends problems for years and years to come. But if we were all to feel the same way about our responsibility to other people and were to act on it, I think that we could make a real change in our society and as citizens.  

The next question I asked was if they thought they had an obligation to the other people in our community or country. They all had a unanimous decision- yes. They all had the same answer and it was that we all have a responsibility to be kind to each other. Kelly is also very involved with habitat for humanity and she says that that is one of the main reasons why she stays involved with it- because she believes that every person should have a warm and dry place to sleep every night. This idea very directly relates to a central question of the course- how can we help others have more say over their lives and how can we live better together. Sam brought up an interesting point about how when we pay taxes, we are helping other people afford housing, food, and clothes for them and their children. Kindness and respect for other’s needs seems to be the overarching theme here. While we were talking about this, we went on a tangent about the effect that social media has on kindness and their idea of citizenship. We all agreed that due to the anonymity of social media, there seems to be a lack of respect to other people. Even though we have increased communication with each other due to social media, we have somewhat lost the ability to relate face to face. We then started to talk about how, especially when elections come around, we forget how to be civil and talk about politics. Social media allows for a platform to say whatever you want on the topic. So even though we have a platform to speak up for what is important, the anonymity causes ugly conversation. When we were talking about this, it reminded me of our deliberations and how important it is to talk in person about social and political issues.  

I learned that even though people come from different backgrounds, there are similar themes throughout the answers here. A lot of it boils down to just wanting to be better. Better people, a better society, a better citizen. We related to all the central questions while eating banana pudding that day. I thought it was interesting that almost all the answers related to at least one of these questions, and they didn’t even know about them beforehand. They stretch to all areas of life, to all backgrounds, to all people.  

Overall, I think I learned a lot from this assignment. I loved getting to hear from all of the different perspectives and backgrounds and compare them to my own. I think it adds sincerity to the overarching themes of citizenship when multiple opinions from differing backgrounds participate in the discussion. This has been my favorite assignment of the year and I think that I will remember back to this dining room table and to these discussions often. Even though I have known some of these people in the picture for a very long time, I still learned something new about each and every one of them. It’s amazing what can happen at a Kentucky Kitchen Table. 

Dylan’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Dylan

            This Kentucky Kitchen Table was held on November 11, 2018 at my house in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The people who participated were myself, my mom, Courtney, my dad, Scott, my little sister, Sydney, my younger brother, Logan, and my mom’s friend, Michelle. My dad works at WKU and is the Head of the Department of Music. My mom works at the Presbyterian Learning Center as a preschool aid is a very caring person who takes care of the house. My little sister is always full of energy and is a second grader at Briarwood. My mom’s friend, Michelle, was a very fun person who was a really great participant in our discussions.

            The first topic we talked about was the question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Everyone at the table had their own response to this question. My dad, Scott, said that citizenship means everyone in a community working together to make the community that they live in even better than it already is. My mom, Courtney, is a very strong believer in Christianity, so her answer was one of the commandments, in which citizenship means that one should love thy neighbor. Logan said that it was difficult for him to come up with a specific answer outside of voting, paying taxes, and following laws, because those are the things that he usually uses to describe citizenship. Next, we all talked together to come up with more things that could make up citizenship. We said things like being a democracy and everyone having an opinion, the background and history of the cities that citizens live in, as well as recognizing and appreciating each other’s differences, were all things that had to do with citizenship.

            The next topic we talked about was about the disrespect that high school teachers were receiving lately. I decided to make this a topic of conversation due to something I recently saw on the news. A teacher at Maywood High School in California asked the student to leave the classroom because he was not wearing the proper uniform. However, instead of leaving the classroom like he was told, he started hurling racial slurs at the teacher. The teacher than got so angry that he started punching the student, and it turned into a huge brawl until they were separated by the students and staff. This is probably the best example ever of how high school teachers are disrespected. On the news, various students and family members were on the side of the teacher, and everyone at the kitchen table said that they agreed. Regardless of the reason, that student had no right to act the way he did and we all said that he got what he deserved. Teachers are trying their best so that they can give us the skills we need so that we can have a more successful future. Everyone agreed that teachers deserve the respect of their students, and they should be treated that way. We thought that the teacher had every right to retaliate in the way that he did. Now, although I agreed with everyone else at the table, I said that I still thought the teacher could have tried to solve the issue in a more peaceful way. So while I think that the teacher should not have been disrespected in such a way, I still said that I thought he should still be charged for his actions against the student.

            The next thing we talked about was the question “What kind of person do you want to be?” My dad, mom, and Michelle are already adults in their mid-40’s, so they’ve already become the people they want to be. I never really heard what Michelle’s occupation was, however, she did tell me that she helped out with a lot of volunteer work for the clubs at Greenwood High School. She was someone who was willing to take her spare time assisting others rather than for herself, and she said she was really proud of herself for it. As I said before, my dad, Scott, is currently the Head of the Department of Music at WKU. Although playing the drums is what he is best at, he at least knows the basics to most instruments you can think of. Since my dad said he has always loved music for as long as he can remember, and that he has already become the kind of person he wanted to be. My mom is the same. When responding to this question, she said she has already become what she wanted to be. Although she left college early in order to marry my dad, she was trying to become a teacher. She now is a preschool aid working at Presbyterian Learning Center and is also a loving mother. She has also already become who she had wanted to be. For me, I said that I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I have always enjoyed math as well as putting things together, and since it also pays well, I thought mechanical engineering would be the perfect profession for me. My brother, Logan, said that he was looking into music education. Just like my dad, my brother is a drummer and can also play the guitar a bit, so he said that was the thing he wanted to major in when he goes to college. Right now, my little sister, Sydney, says that she wants to be a dancer because she is currently taking dance classes and she seems to really enjoy it.

I thought our discussion was quite similar to one of the central questions for Honors 251 “How can people live better together?”. Just about everyone at the table thought of citizenship as a way for everyone in a community to live well together, and the topic we discussed about high school teachers needing more respect from their students helped to show one of the many ways people could live better together. Just like mentioned in “How We Talk Matters” written by Keith Melville and others, if we talk and work together, then we can solve problems better. I think that when people who do not know each other and talk to each other, and if they are able to embrace each other’s similarities and differences, then that would be one of the prime examples of citizenship.

During this Kentucky Kitchen Table, I learned just how important it could be to talk to people you have never spoken too people. When you talk with someone you’ve never spoken to before, you are reminded just how similar or different someone else’s opinion could be. There were sometimes when Michelle had a lot to say, and other times when she barely spoke compared to everyone else. I also learned that there are times when people can be a lot more passionate about a certain topic than one would originally think. For example, when we talked about how high school teachers deserved more respect, my brother, who usually doesn’t talk much, spoke much longer than anyone else did. He is currently in high school, so it makes sense that he would have a lot to say about it, but I was still surprised when I saw just how passionate my brother was on the subject. I was also surprised with how mature I was being. I interrupt people a lot because I often get caught up in my own worldview and shut down contrasting opinions as incorrect, but sitting at dinner with these people allowed me the opportunity to connect with them like they were family, thus opening my mind to why people believe what they do. With this, I think I will be much better at listening to what others have to say from now on.

In conclusion, this discussion turned out a lot better than I had expected it to. In my experience, forced discussions were always very awkward, and since I usually eat dinner silently on my own, I was quite surprised with how naturally everyone was talking. I think that having a good discussion with others is a lot more fun than eating all by myself while I watch videos on the internet.