From the confines of my phone screen, it might be framed—a black and white photo with an Otterbox for its vignette. Eased along a changing table, apart from any dissonance, a one-month-old panda cub sleeps.
There is little in him to suggest the prefix “giant.” Inexpert front paws clink against a snout sculptured as a sock puppet. Like silicone on window frames, his eyes are still sealed. Weeks will pass before they are sentient; until then, the cub is blind.
Even sightless, the bear is secure at the National Zoo in Washington; One Hundred Acre Wood itself couldn’t offer more attentiveness.
His name—and its donors—taps him as one cherished. The nomen, Bei Bei, means “precious treasure.” It’s a title from two worthy estimators, first ladies Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan.
This christening of a bristled, unseeing animal reminded me that the president of China, Xi Jinping, had arrived in the United States on a state visit.
For the most part, suits and diplomatic meetings have hung behind news of the pontiff’s doings. But on Friday, as Jinping uncreased napkins and meetings, his wife and Michelle Obama popped into the zoo.
Grade-school students wended after black and pink skirts, assistants to fairy godmothers. There, the small bear’s name was unveiled to all but himself.
This event is only a blink of China’s official visit—and perhaps a trivial blink at that. With a glance at my smartphone, I can rattle on Bei Bei’s dedication. However, without a grooved forehead, I cannot tally any policies spread out by either president. Real issues are not blurry—but perhaps my vision is.
Gao Zhisheng supplies what drops I need. Until 2014, the lawyer from Shaanxi province was wrapped under arrest as a penalty for clear sight.
An advocate for human rights, he spoke by his eyes; seeing groups in his country squeezed, he stood as their voice in court. Zhisheng believed his work was God-scripted in serving the marginalized of China.
The response to that vision first stripped his practice, closed by the government in 2005.
It later bashed his face, in and out of police custody. Human rights lawyers of Zhisheng’s tradition face this treatment still. These are topics for recognition—in diplomacy, and in scroll-through newsfeed.
It’s easy for me to nod at curled paws. Certainly, there is nothing evil in appreciation of small things. Yet, when issues stalk, I wonder if my retina can be trusted to pronounce light from dark—or if cataracts and phone screens will distract me from what matters first. It is out of cracked eyelids that I hope our first treasures would be weighty things.