Before Monday, Anna Callahan and Michael Sparks had never met, and had they both not been standing on the west side of City Hall in Philadelphia at precisely the same time, maybe they never would have. Which would have been a shame: Both Callahan and Sparks have Bernie Sanders tattoos on their left shoulders. Real ones. Forever.
“To me, Bernie represents something that I never want to forget,” said Callahan, 46, the outline of Sanders’ persistently frazzled hair winking from her shoulder. “He represents a person who for 40 years could withstand political pressure. He could be alone as a single person saying things that no one would listen to, and continue fighting and fighting and fighting, and never give up on the people.”
Sparks, 43, cited similar reasons for this own tattoo, which in contrast to Callahan’s featured a fully detailed Sanders, complete with rumpled shirt, flapping jacket and raised fist. Both got their ink within the last month—Callahan, three weeks ago, and Sparks, only two. Considering any realistic hope for Sanders to clinch the nomination had at that point long come and gone, the timing seemed odd. Why now?
“I don’t know why then and not earlier,” Callahan said. “I was so busy with the campaign! Afterwards, I had more time to reflect on what it meant.”
Sparks, on the other hand, has a self-imposed tattoo waiting period.
“I always have a rule with tattoos, and the rule is I have to wait a year if I come up with an idea,” he said, adding that his ink was a gift for a year of volunteering with the Sanders campaign. “The reason I wait for a year is you need to make sure it’s something you’ll always believe in, and I will always believe in these ideals. I always have believed in them.”
Sparks got his tattoo in Indiana in a shop filled with Trump supporters. In the hours it took for Sanders’ form to be etched into his shoulder, he told me he’d managed to convert them all.
“I said ‘Hey, the reason you guys all like Trump isn’t because he’s a racist,” he said. “I said you probably like him because you think he cares about the working class, and that’s why I like Bernie. Bernie cares about poor people. Bernie cares about me. Bernie cares about LGBT rights. Fifty years from now, I’m still going to care about those things.”