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Professor lets tattoo “do the talking”

September 30, 2003

With a quick push on his shirtsleeve, Dr. David von Palko says all he needs to say about Sept. 11, 2001.

There, on his upper right arm, an eagle clutches a banner emblazoned with the word Justice." The date of the attacks is inscribed below.

Tattoos are a way to express something the individual feels strongly about. In this case, how Sept. 11 personally affected me, says von Palko, who has a number of tattoos. [This tattoo says] 'I am an American. And when you mess with my country, you mess with me.' Plain and simple.
September 30, 2003

With a quick push on his shirtsleeve, Dr. David von Palko says all he needs to say about Sept. 11, 2001.

There, on his upper right arm, an eagle clutches a banner emblazoned with the word “Justice." The date of the attacks is inscribed below.

“Tattoos are a way to express something the individual feels strongly about. In this case, how Sept. 11 personally affected me,” says von Palko, who has a number of tattoos. “[This tattoo says] 'I am an American. And when you mess with my country, you mess with me.' Plain and simple.”

Clinton Sanders, author of “Customizing the Body: The Art and Culture of Tattooing,” notes that, like von Palko, many memorialize an event or mark a life change by getting a tattoo. Others may choose body art to represent belonging, express the way they want to be viewed, snub conventionality or make a declaration about their personal style.

“I have a friend who lost a parent, and he had a tat done for his mom," von Palko says. "Other people I know get one just because it looks cool. I think it's an individual thing as to why they do it."

Whatever the reason, “getting ink done” has become more acceptable in mainstream American culture during recent years. Many who viewed tattooing as deviant behavior now see it as a form of self-expression. The increase in popularity is evidenced by data that suggest tattoo shops are one of the nation's fastest growing businesses.

Clarksville's Midnite Tattoo artist Matt Monroe credits media outlets like MTV with increasing the public's exposure to and understanding of body art.

Monroe, who has a skull with wings of spider webs and fire tattooed on his neck, says, “The younger generation looks at [tattoos] and think they're cool.”

Von Palko, who sports cowboy boots and a ponytail along with his tattoos, concedes that his appearance can be problematic occasionally, because he doesn't quite “fit the mold” of a mass communication professor and attorney.

“Having tattoos can limit some of the things you can do," he says. "Young people, especially students, should consider what industry they want to work in and to what extent [tattoos] can affect hiring decisions."

“It is something permanent and deserves wise consideration."
Terry Stringer