For a magazine article on alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners, I opened with this paragraph:

Like Hollywood stars, the food world has its heroes and villains. White sugar is a washed-up has-been, artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup have taken a beating in the press, and now a new generation of natural sweeteners is capturing the hearts of Americans.

My editor was nervous. Or, more specifically, the team of editors and their bosses and corporate executives overseeing the process were nervous. They were afraid readers would think we were condemning sugar. I like to think that people are smarter than that, but maybe I’m giving them too long a leash.

The edited version:

Like Hollywood, the food world is a mix of familiar faces and rising stars. Table sugar is still a star performer, but a new generation of natural sweeteners is attracting diet-conscious Americans.

The cultural zeitgeist practically prohibits telling it like it is. Never mind that the average American eats 60 pounds of table sugar a year; we don’t want to offend people by saying they’re fat and they need to quit drinking 44-ounce sodas from McDonald’s. Preachers are vilified if they call us sinners from the pulpit. Teachers dance around the real issue–that the kid is a brat–by saying things like, “Davie is trying so hard to fit in with his friends.” Politicians tell us what we want to hear, and they don’t always do what’s good for us. They’re afraid to do otherwise, even when being unkind is sometimes the kinder thing to do.

I’m always shocked and amused to read Luther, who never minced words. He’s the guy who called the Pope the Antichrist, after all. He’s called others jackasses, dolts, fools, and more, when they deserved it. Even today, stark differences in frankness of communication exist across the pond. Watch the British version of The Office and then the American version if you don’t believe it. The Brit version is doubly cringe-inducing. We can’t imagine such un-PC happenings in an American office, even though they’re shockingly funny.

As a middle child, I’m a natural peacemaker who doesn’t like to make waves. But sometimes I just want say it straight.

People, you eat too much sugar, okay? Cut it out!

 

 

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