Burps & Farts

In my play, The Re-Education of George W. Bush—No President Left Behind, my character Chad offers an environmental lesson. His primary point outlines how being a vegan helps the planet. In his deliciously flaming style he states that,

Gas from cars has a significantly less impact on the planet than that emitted from cows in the forms of burps and farts.

And as I say the line, I put my left hand to my mouth ( for burps) and then down by my behind (for farts) and add, “I think that’s the sign language for those.”

After last night’s performance, two women approached me and said that they knew American Sign Language. One asked if I wanted to learn the actual signs for burp and fart. Um, yeah! So next time you see the show, if you don’t know them already, you will also learn these signs. Brilliant.

The Chad environmental lesson serves as a pivotal scene in the performance because it is the first lesson that does not simply target the president. It speaks directly to the audience and their own personal practices. It forces people to look at the global outcomes of one of their daily actions. It opens the door for me to talk about other issues to examine. By the end of the play, I can state that as someone raised in the USA, I have been programmed to be racist, sexist, homophobic, wasteful and violent. I suggest that this may be true for many of us and conclude by affirming that I need to re-educate the little George W. Bush lurking inside of me.

I received an e-mail from an audience member who overheard two women commenting about my show (and the Chad scene in particular) as they exited the hall. One of the women said,

Hitler was a vegetarian so you have to be careful with that moral superiority stuff.

Um, right. He also wore trousers, drove in cars and clipped his fingernails. So should I run around in a skirt sporting Howard Hughes-like curly nails? (Although I like the idea of the skirt)

I feel pleased by the remark. I hope my Bush play provokes people, gets them to look at their lives and practices and ask, “How might I be part of the problem?” Anyone can bash George W. Bush and thus feel a little better about themselves. Looking inward takes more work.

What if we place ourselves on a continuum based on how we live our lives? On one end stood George W. Bush, and the other was say Gandhi or Mother Theresa. Based on our lifestyles and regular practices, where do we fall? To whom are we closest? Although I admire Gandhi and Mother Theresa much more than the current US president, I have to admit that I fall much nearer to Bush. In this exercise George W. Bush stands as a symbol for a particular attitude or excess. Instead we could place other folks there–Paris Hilton for instance or Joe G 🙂

None of us can ever live the perfect life or one where we leave no damage no matter how hard we try. We can greatly lessen the harm we do to the planet and to each other. The complete solution to global warming will not be all of us going vegan, but when we reduce our meat and dairy consumption, (along with an increased commitment to buying local products), we will make a BIG difference. (Besides a vegan diet improves our health and, more importantly, our skin considerably!)

I had a blast last night with the 200 plus people in the audience right here in Hartford where I live. I even got to meet Becca, who visits my blog (you have beautiful eyes!) During the talk-back time afterwards, I spoke directly to the audience, mostly progressive liberals, about the verbal violence we dish out towards other humans because they happen to be Conservatives, Republicans or Christians.

Part of the re-education process requires that I recognize everyone has some good in them even if I’d prefer to write them off as intolerant, hateful, bigots, but doing so serves as easy way out and creates further conflicts while leaving us feeling smug and self-satisfied. As a Quaker, I hear over and over about how “that of God is in everyone.” This optimistic teaching interferes with my desire to assume the worse in people, to discount their needs, and invalidate their values.

In virtually every Hollywood movie I have seen, they drum into me the message that we have only two types of people in the world–good guys and bad guys. That binary exists in fiction. And on this my 1010th blog post (a lovely example of beautiful actual binary), I feel encouraged and challenged once again to view anti-gay conservative leaders, ex-gay ministers, and even George W. Bush (oh and Dick Chaney too) as humans, fellow travelers, offspring of the divine.

That doesn’t mean they are not responsible for any cruel, thoughtless or harmful things they may say or do. It means that I recognize we are made of the same stuff, and, yes, we all burp and fart.

This post has 3 Comments

  1. Anthony Venn-Brown on March 24, 2008 at 6:35 am Reply

    Burps and Farts….well that got my attention. I enjoyed what you had to say in this post Peterson, I like your style….but probably even more important….I like your spirit.

    We all need to be reminded that we need to treat others as we would like to be treated. Even to those who would attack us, revile us and speak evil of us. hard but true. Returning the same vileness will only ever produce more vileness. We can be the cycle breakers.

    Be encouraged my friend.

  2. Muzak Box on March 24, 2008 at 7:27 pm Reply

    I have a lot of freinds that are vegetarians (Ovo-lacto) and vegans. I myself think I would find it impossible to be vegan. We are probably almost vegetarian (OL) because we only buy free range meats and fish and very little because if it’s not the hormonal anti-biotic injected with water factory farmed stuff then its REALLY pricy. But I just couldn’t live without bacon. Oh bacon. But I’m one of those unfortunates that you spoke about in your talk after about how you didn’t mention being cruel to animals because a lot of carnivores don’t care. It’s not that I don’t care. I think that factory farming is awful. But I worked on a dairy and I’ve participated in small farm animal slaughtering and there has to be a certain amount of disconnect with the animal in order to kill and eat it. If I went all Buddhist I simply could not eat meat. But as much as I love animals (I have four cats) and I feed the wild ones around me I still find them insanely tasty and still hunt deer because venison is tops.

    I think the disconnect comes when people think of meat simply as the plastic wrapped pink slabs on Styrofoam trays and don’t ever connect it back to the animal. I’ve always made sure that my son knows that meat is from an animal and what he chooses to do with that as he grows older is up to him. I don’t think there is anything morally wrong with eating meat as long as you do it as mindfully as possible.

    Had a great time at your performance. Can’t wait to see the Transfigurations show if its in the area. And thank you for the nice compliment!

  3. Joe G. on March 24, 2008 at 9:20 pm Reply

    I have to admit that I fall much nearer to Bush. In this exercise George W. Bush stands as a symbol for a particular attitude or excess. Instead we could place other folks there–Paris Hilton for instance or Joe G 🙂

    Well, at least I’m not closer to Hitler on the vegan – omnivore spectrum!

Leave a Comment