The Good Eye: Happy Thankswishing! Here's Your Jardigan.
You can't fit these wishes in a jar
With Thanksgiving behind us, we've officially entered that time of year when the word "stuffing" assumes a ritual importance in public discourse. What things will we buy this December, and where will we buy them?
The overworked seasonal employees at the Amazon fulfillment warehouse will thank you for considering local options first. Independent bookstores like BookWoman and Malvern don't charge a dime for shipping – you walk right out of the store holding them in your hand. The handmade wooden toys at Rootin' Ridge Toymakers are sturdy, gorgeous, and toxin-free, and profits benefit Travis County wildlife. And let's not forget the annual bumper crop of December art fairs, starting with the Art From the Streets exhibition this weekend at the Austin Convention Center, where you can support homeless and formerly homeless artists by purchasing artworks starting at $35, the Cherrywood Art Fair the weekend after that, and, throughout December, the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, where, if you shop on Mondays, 10% of proceeds go to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Perhaps you prefer the DIY route. In case you forgot to start infusing your pumpkin-spice vodka early this year, or, even worse, did not leave adequate time for the curing of a decorative gourd bottle holder, think about giving the DIY experience itself. Try making a jardigan, a DIY cardigan-in-a-jar that takes minutes to assemble and even less time to slough off on a lucky family member who needs to learn the joy of crafting. You'll need yarn, knitting needles, and the largest size Mason jar –
Oh, forget it. Look, I don't want to sound ungrateful. This Thanksgiving, I had so much to be thankful for: my husband, our fat cats, our house, our health; the novels of Henry James and the essays of James Baldwin; the short stories of Kelly Link and Claire Vaye Watkins; the articles of Roxane Gay and the plays of Sarah Ruhl. I'm thankful that books still exist in paper-and-ink format, and that The Austin Chronicle does, too. I'm thankful for women-directed horror movies like The Babadook and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. I'm thankful that I live two minutes away from not one, but two independent video stores. I'm thankful for friends to watch movies with and family to FaceTime with and artists everywhere for creating things despite how hard it is to make a living that way.
But there's a lot I'm not thankful for. Or, to put it another way, there's a lot I'd like to be thankful for, that I hold out hope someday I will be thankful for. This year, the holiday season kicked off with a barrage of truly upsetting headlines. It's hard to think about clever gift-wrap ideas when you've got the triple-whammy of Ferguson, the Cosby allegations, and high school and university rape scandals dancing through your head. So this week, I've been thinking about a few things I'd be thankful for, if they came true. Think of this as a Gift Guide for a Less Shitty World, or the institution of a new holiday: Thankswishing.
1) Body cams for every police officer. Body cameras aren't a panacea, but if used correctly they do promise more transparency in police practices. Over the summer, challenges to the 1033 program, which sends surplus military equipment to local police departments, thereby encouraging police to think of their own communities as war zones, fizzled under police push-back. Nobody wants their toys taken away! Handing out more toys is a much more palatable concept around this time of year. And thanks to photographer Jim Young of Reuters, we already have a great card to send along with the body cams: that image of police in riot gear lined up under a Season's Greetings street decoration.
2) Paid medical bills for rape victims. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about sexual assault exams, otherwise known as "rape kits." The term itself should be jettisoned – it sounds like something that comes in a Mason jar. Despite expert nurse examiners trained in trauma-informed care, the sexual assault exam is invasive and can be difficult to undergo for someone who's been recently assaulted. It can take up to four hours, after a legal approval process that can itself be lengthy. Given all this, the decision to request a sexual assault exam, aiding the police in prosecuting a criminal, should not be punished with an astronomical bill. Travis County pays for the forensic part of the exam, but the victim pays for the medical portion of the emergency room visit, with only a possibility of collecting Crime Victims' Compensation later on for a portion of the bills up to $700. (Just as a reality check, the prescriptions alone for STI and pregnancy prevention written from inside emergency departments can easily exceed $700.) Let's hope that expansions under the renewed Violence Against Women Act cover this in 2015, and that Texas doesn't find a way to weasel our way out of paying. In the meantime, let's find a way to make sexual assault exams free in Travis County.
3) A listening ear for people without power. The common ground among the three nightmare stories of November, the ones that have kept me awake, is our resistance, as a culture, to hearing things we don't want to believe. Whether it's the law enforcement officers we want to trust, the beloved entertainers we want to keep on revering, or the traditions of a school, we tend to listen to those in power more than those without power. In the coming year, pledge to listen even when it upsets you. Write the following on slips of paper and hand it out to everyone you know, tape it on your bulletin board, and yes, stuff it in your stocking: If something is hard to hear, it's often even harder to say.
Merry Thankswishing, everyone.