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So, the US economy is in the dumper, there’s no exit strategy for Iraq, the Democrats are self-sabotaging their chances of occupying the White House, again, and the issue of race has everyone ping ponging between self recrimination and defensiveness about their own prejudices. 


What does the media do?  Remember when President Clinton finally admitted to having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky and said he did it for the worst reason: because he could?  That’s how the media’s acting now—they’re going to keep playing YouTube videos ad nauseum and speculating about politicians’ intentions rather than doing the hard investigative work of getting to the answers—simply because they can.


Video of Hillary and Chelsea arriving in war-torn Bosnia in 1996 not under sniper fire (as Clinton misremembered) is replayed over and over again to demonstrate that Clinton is manipulative and desperate.  A radio clip of Obama using the phrase “typical white person” is repeated on an endless loop to show that Obama really does think like the Reverend Wright; after all. Staffers in all three presidential campaigns are let go on a fairly regular basis, sometimes because they blurted out things they believe that are simply un-PC to say aloud. 


In this environment, there’s no room for just saying what you think because everything’s considered fodder for the media machine.  This got me thinking:  What would happen if I were to run for public office and I ranted publicly about a stupid thing I rant about privately to my friends?  What would it be like to have my words parsed and my actions analyzed to the nth power?  Let’s see, shall we? 


First, here’s the rant; the imagined media response will follow:  I believe that fruit is evil and should be banned from the United States.  That’s right:  no growing of fruit, no importing, no distribution, no selling, and especially no eating. 


Allow me to explain.  What offends me about fruit is the same thing that offends people about Eliot Spitzer: the hypocrisy.  No one wants to be made a fool of.  And just as we were led to believe that Spitzer was a model of righteousness, we’ve been brainwashed our entire lives into believing in the goodness of fruit.  Oranges contain anti-oxidants that boost the immune system.  Bananas are an excellent source of potassium.  Apples build strong teeth (Warning:  not jelly apples; you can break a tooth on those).  And on and on and on.  But, oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The Spitzer scandal’s got nothing on Cantaloupegate.


Before I get into the sordid details, let me first acknowledge that any reputable dietician would most likely encourage you to eat cantaloupe.  I bet it’s got fiber.  It’s probably a good source of vitamin C so you won’t get scurvy.  Inside, it’s got a pleasing orange-ish shade that contrasts nicely with the fruits it normally hangs with:  honeydew and watermelon.  Sounds too good to be true?  It is.


The truth was revealed in this March 22nd headline:  “FDA Issues Warning on Cantaloupes”.  Turns out that, as of this writing, 50 people in the US and nine in Canada have contracted salmonella poisoning after eating cantaloupes from a Honduran manufacturer.  Fourteen people have even been hospitalized.  The remaining cantaloupes from this supplier are being “detained”.  Before you know it, the Republicans will build a fence to keep out that nasty, microbe-bearing fruit.  And kids will stop cracking themselves up by singing “Home, home on the range / Where the deer and the cantaloupe play.” (Boy, that never got old.) 


But we don’t need the FDA to warn us of the perils of cantaloupe.  I’ve been railing against this malicious melon for years!  Aside from its apparent homicidal intent, cantaloupe’s got other strikes against it—mostly, its unreliability.  Life’s stressful enough without the added challenge of picking a cantaloupe that’s going to be ripe at the precise moment you’re going to want to eat it.  You can rap your knuckles on that gourd-like surface until they’re raw and still, what are the odds of getting that right? 


And, cantaloupe’s not the only devious fruit.  On those rare occasions when I think I really ought to eat healthy, and I race to the nearest Whole Foods and I’m willing to fork over $50 for one paper—not plastic—bag of groceries (because it’s never less than 50 bucks at Whole Foods, even if it’s one pomegranate, and don’t get me started on those—must we really have fruits with names that need to be Spell Checked?), then I at least want to feel good about my misguided impulse as soon as I get home


Ours is an instant gratification society; can I really be expected to wait a day or two to eat the damned cantaloupe or to make guacamole with perfectly ripened avocados or to slice a not-too-green but not-too-spotted banana into my low-sugar, high-fiber Cheerios with skim milk?  I think not!


Finally, I resent the way fruit aspires to be something it isn’t.  Again, as with certain politicians, pride goeth before a fall.  Fruit is not dessert.  Fruit is something you eat when dessert is not available.  Like when you’re home and you’re horrified to discover you’ve run out of double stuffed Oreos and you’re tempted to take a swig of vanilla extract or bite off a chunk of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate but shame leads you to eat a Clementine, instead.  And now your fingers smell like orange and juice is dribbling down your chin and those white thingies between the slices are stuck between your teeth.  Yech.


Okay, the rant is nearly complete.  Now, let’s imagine the media response:  Whoa, they’ll say.  Let’s not go there.  That’s w-a-a-a-ay too controversial.  Before you know it, Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan and James Carville will be weighing in on my audacity in making this proposition.  How can I discriminate against one particular food group?  What will happen to farmers?  How will this affect global warming?  The economy?  Health care?


Next, there’ll be video of me on YouTube biting into a Fuji apple and spitting out a rotten potato-y part onto the shiny supermarket floor.  My facial features will be contorted into what some will interpret as a sneer, even though it’s really just a reaction to the repulsive taste and texture of an apple gone bad.


Polls will be taken and the results will show that 72 percent of Democrats believe I should never be allowed to run for public office, except in the states of Michigan and Florida where the votes don’t count, anyway.


My credibility will be questioned, my character maligned.


In the face of this media onslaught, what would I do?  Would I say I’d misspoken?  Made a mistake?  Gone too far?  Or, would I insist on the rightness of my position, despite its obvious stupidity?


The truth is, I’ll never know because I’m never going to run for public office and one of the joys of being a columnist is getting to write what you think.  So, allow me to complete my rant:  The next time you’re all pumped up to change your eating habits, and you find yourself in the produce section of the supermarket battling moldy raspberries, rock-hard peaches or tart grapes, run to the aisle where they sell Lake Champlain Five Star chocolate bars. 


To my knowledge, they’ve never been detained.  They’ve never made anyone sick (at least not when consumed one at a time).  They’re never bruised.  And they’re ready to be consumed at a moment’s notice.  In fact, the only problem you’ll face is trying to choose between hazelnut and caramel filling. 


But, then again, unlike the Democratic primary, you really can have both. 


In her "Vox Pop" column for PopMatters Meta voices her observations about pop culture, particularly as it intersects with our lives. She is endlessly fascinated by the myriad ways in which our pop culture choices reflect back on us -- our beliefs, our desires, our idiosyncrasies, our intellects. Wagner's published pieces include written commentaries, features, and profiles for Salon, Boston Globe Magazine, Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. You can visit her blog here. When she's not writing, Meta is molding young minds as an adjunct professor at Emerson College, where she teaches creative writing. She also developed and occasionally teaches a column-writing class at Grub Street, an independent writing center in Boston.


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