OPINION COLUMNS

Time to stretch our eyes

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, January 26, 2013

My cell phone, a hand-me-down that used to belong to one of my sons, is the last non-iPhone in my family. It works just fine, but the screen is teeny-tiny.

(Ironic, isn’t it, that about the time my eyes started to go, cell phones started getting smaller?)

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

I’m okay with that. I can dial without looking, and the fact that I can’t text without putting on reading glasses and giving it my full attention prevents me from texting while driving, which is good.

The only time the tiny screen really bothers me is when I play Scrabble.

(Yes, I downloaded the game a couple of months ago and really enjoy beating the living daylights out of my phone, as opposed to my son, who routinely beats those same daylights out of me.)

But because of that tiny screen, when I finish a game and take off the glasses, I walk around and bump into walls for several minutes while the eyes adjust back to normal.

In fact, anytime I spend more than an hour at the computer, reading or watching TV, I need a few moments to readjust my vision – “stretch out” the old eyes if you will. Soon they get used to looking farther out, and everything’s OK again.

Getting outside helps.

Sometimes all of us need something farther out to focus on – a sunset, clouds, a flock of egrets looking for the nearest pond. We need to look down a road until it disappears around a hill to be reminded that our eyes were designed for distant horizons, not flickering screens.

I think the good folks up in Washington might benefit from that same approach.

We’re always on them to work harder, earn those salaries, solve the country’s problems. We want them to burrow into the minute details, do the math, hammer out complex solutions to our complex problems – when maybe what they really need is to get out of the office and stretch their eyes.

So, go ahead. Take a moment. Stand on the front steps of the Capitol and look down the National Mall. Stand where President Obama took that “one last look” on Monday. Note the monument to Washington, take in Lincoln’s seated, sober stone visage at the other end, gaze across the Potomac to the neat rows of crosses at Arlington National Cemetery.

Stroll that direction, past the Smithsonian where the Wright brothers’ plane and the Apollo lunar lander share the same space, the Archives where Fort Sumter’s “Star-Spangled Banner,” still full of holes and powder burns, is stretched out for all to see. Look across the pond to Jefferson’s memorial – the guy who wrote about “self-evident” truths.

Pause at the World War II memorial that commemorates a time when Americans fought not with each other, but with an enemy bent on world domination.

There’s a time to put your head down and work, and there’s a time to get your head up and remember why you’re working.

Everyone in this country – both the leaders and the led – needs to have their vision stretched. We need to pause, look back at what made this country great and look ahead to what she still can be. Whether or not we always like each other, or always agree with each other, we are all heading into that future together.

Or apart, depending on where our vision takes us.

If we stretch it out, maybe we can remember what brought us here – what made us the United States – and choose to go together.

Bob Buckel is executive editor of the Wise County Messenger.

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