Should Penn and Teller Go To Jail for Flag Burning
Edited verssion of original article by Victoria McNally. This article was originally published at Revelist.
Remembering the time that time Penn and Teller burned a U.S. flag on primetime TV…and they did it in the White House (sort of)!
Burning the American flag is, to some, one of the most despicable things you can do to protest your country. It’s also, thanks to the Constitution, completely legal and entirely within your rights as a citizen of the United States.
But what if we burn a flag “not in protest, but in celebration of the very freedoms that allow us to burn a flag?” The freedoms that everyone who has ever previously worked in the White House has pledged to preserve and protect?
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a line from a television show — specifically, a 2004 episode of “The West Wing,” where magicians Penn and Teller demonstrated their First Amendment rights by burning the flag at the White House.
The First Amendment “is the one that guarantees not just everybody in this room but every single person in the United States, every citizen, every visitor, every magician, freedom of speech,” Penn Jilette says in the episode — which, remember, was aired on primetime network television during an election year.
“It’s the one that says if we want to add a little bit of spontaneous combustion to our simple vanish, we can do that. We can take some tinder and a very eccentric magic wand [a lighter] and we can do this — and it’s okay,” he continues], “because even though the flag is gone, the Bill of Rights remains.”
It should be pretty clear to anyone who’s seen a magic trick in their life that the flag was never actually burned. Regardless, the message is still the same: flag burning might shock and appall us, and it might cause a publicity nightmare (freedom of speech, after all, doesn’t mean people have to agree with you), but like it or not it’s protected under the Bill of Rights.
Note: The purpose of this site is to share magic news, not to shate political opinion. Because of that goal, this article has been edited to remove the political opinion of the original writer. To read the article in it’s entirity, PLEASE CLICK HERE.
Of course, the version of this routine that Penn And Teller perform onstage is much more complete and the statement (and the magic) is much less ambigious…or not.