Penn Jillette, the chattier half of magic maestros Penn & Teller, has seen it all. This is a man — by virtue of his profession and curiosity — who is very hard to fool. After traveling the world, Jillette has come to a stirring conclusion about American freedom — it’s a real and precious thing. In an CNN editorial, the magician explains why his act performed a flag-burning trick — burning the American flag before magically making it reappear whole.
Jillette says that it’s what the flag stands for, including their very right to burn it, that makes this simple trick so symbolically powerful. Veterans, especially, respond enthusiastically and emotionally, Jillette reveals. Jillette’s editorial was doubtlessly prompted by President-elect Trump’s controversial assertion that burning the flag should be a crime — an assertion that contradicts long-protected ideas about freedom of expression. Jillette said he learned on a world tour more than a decade ago how “freedom was what other countries were so sorely lacking.” American freedom, he writes, “we must never take for granted.”