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The Power of the Pin

January 8, 2015 2 comments

An Arabic “N.” A single letter in red on a white background, graces a round, button-shaped pin that has been on my desk for the last several weeks.  The intended message of the pin:  “I am with you.”

The Arabic “N,” pronounced either “noon” or “nun,” is the letter with which ISIS marks the homes of those who follow the Nazarene (Christians) after overtaking a town.  The mark tells the marauding militants that everything and everyone within,  including the elderly, women and children, are there for the taking.  It doesn’t take much of an imagination to know what that means.

The pins are the project of a Colorado businessman who uses his own resources to produce them.  It’s his goal to raise awareness about the brutality occurring to those he calls “our brothers and sisters” and to promote solidarity with them.  I learned about the “N” buttons several weeks ago when Mike, the businessman, was making them available at the back of the church I attend. I made a donation and asked him for several to give to friends and family.  Handing the pins to me,  Mike said, “All I ask is that you wear the button and explain what’s going on when people ask.”

That should be the end of my story, but it’s not. As I headed for the mall the next day and started to put on the pin, I stopped.  What if people don’t ask and instead assume that this Arabic letter means that I’m a sympathizer with Islamic radicals? Or–and possibly more worrisome–What if by wearing it I make myself a target  for some faceless radical? 

An oldest daughter, I grew up with the expectation that I would do what is right, be an example for my younger siblings. Now suddenly, I was having to ask myself some uncomfortable questions. Am I willing to forego the comfort of anonymity by taking even a small, personal yet visible stand against violence? I remembered the quote usually attributed to Gandhi, “The only thing worse than violence is cowardice in the face of violence.”

Yesterday Paris and much of the western world was shocked by the brutal slaughter of journalists by Islamic radicals.  The journalists, writers, editors, and especially cartoonists had used the power of the pen in ways that made them targets.  Today newspapers around the world, government officials, and tens of thousands on the streets of Paris and the tweets of social medial are finding ways to stand together for freedom of the press – to prove that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

I don’t know if the pin can also be mightier than the sword; but it is one, small personal way I can stand with those whose very lives are threatened.  A pin is personal.  It says  something about what is valuable to the wearer.  Today I pinned the “N” to my jacket and headed for the mall.

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More information about the “N” project is available through nazarenenun@comcast.net .

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