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The Perils of Groupthink

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There's a certain je ne sais quoi that Americans have in spades -- a we-can-do-anything spirit that makes so many things possible for all of us. We're rugged individualists, aspirational in nature, and we like to think for ourselves.

Who we are as individuals, however, is often quite different than who we are as a group.

Whether it's because of television or the Internet or whatever other factor, we seem to have a Groupthink mentality these days. And that Groupthink is so easily manipulated by media images. Those images seem to overwhelm the nonsense detector otherwise working for us in our private lives.

As individuals, for instance, we're very clear that we don't like to be controlled, manipulated, lied to, or treated unfairly. As a group, however, we're acting as though we don't mind.

National Defense Authorization Act, giving the government the ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens?

Nah, we don't mind.

Drones on their way, with the technological capacity to track everything from our sex life to our log-in information?

Nah, we don't mind.

Multi-national industries having more influence over our government than we do?

Nah, we don't mind.

The highest mass incarceration rate in the world, with huge numbers of inmates either non-violent drug offenders or mentally ill?

Nah, we don't mind.

A permanent war machine, with the President handed year after year the authorization to do whatever he wants wherever he wants, as long as it even vaguely fits the "fighting terrorism" label?

Nah, we don't mind.

And the list goes on. As individuals, we're as spunky as ever. But as members of a larger society, we've become "Stepford citizens." We just allow things we wouldn't in a million years allow to happen in our personal lives. Lying to me, manipulating me and ripping me off isn't okay if you're doing it to me personally, but if you're doing it to me as a member of a group that I'll just magically figure it won't have consequences in my life.

And there's the rub. When it comes to politics today, the devils' not in the details; the devil's in the big picture, more often than not just hiding in plain sight. His minions are wearing a business suit and a smiley face. He is selling us ruin and calling it progress. He is selling us destruction and calling it security. He is dismantling our democracy and saying it's just the way things are.

But the biggest problem is that we're buying.

We seem to think it's not so bad, we don't have to worry, it's paranoia to be concerned, it's just negative to mention anything unpleasant after all. But that is not the spirit of who we are as individuals, and it isn't the spirit of who we should be a group. A threat to our freedom is a threat to our freedom, whether from a terrorist or from a trade deal. I suggest we become as a nation who we are as individuals: not so easily fooled, alert to danger if danger appears, and ready to do the job necessary to respond to it and ward it off.

Marianne is currently a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, California District 33. www.marianneforcongress.com