"Questioning... may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks..."
- Justice William J. Brennan Jr.
Do I have a job opportunity for you!
Title - varied
Professional requirements - experience in law, finance, human resources, international relations, politics or corporate administration helpful, as long as no paper trail exists
Personal qualifications - pleasant demeanor, good health, superior intellect, thick skin, compliant spouse, angelic children and an unblemished record of behavior since elementary school; must not be politically extreme, overly or anti-religious, or strongly opinionated on any topic; must be able to survive intense job interview from those who are politically extreme, overly or anti-religious, or strongly opinionated on any topic the interviewer believes is contrary to his or her own
Benefits - nominal salary, adequate health care, car and driver when available and reduced rates at company bank, gym and cafeteria; legal fees not included
Advancement - unlikely
Housing - fish bowl
Hours - 24/7
Holidays/vacation - not included
Job security - until first slip-up
It should be obvious by now that the above description is a mixture of truth and parody on applying for a position with the U.S. government. Like millions of other Americans, I'm incensed at the attack-mode atmosphere surrounding these individuals who agree to exchange their private lives for public service.
Where on earth have our politicians, and those who report what they do, stashed their civility? When did it become fashionable to treat a government job interview like a collegiate debate tournament where the only object is to dismantle the opposition? When did manners cease to exist?
Surely our enemies are watching. But as bad as that scenario could be to our security, the group of observers I'm most concerned about is the still-maturing generation from which our next round of leaders must come. How do we advertise a job description with perks like that?
Differences of opinion, the constitutional formula of checks and balances, and the need for careful screening of those who hold the delicate reins of leadership in their hands I can understand. What I can't understand is the twisted order of priorities that goes on during interviewee cross-examination today.
Why, for example, must we ignore a mountain of good works but embellish the trivial word or deed? Why hammer one point ad nauseum in an attempt to trip up a tiring interviewee or subject a willing public servant to a line of questioning usually reserved for the interrogation room of the county jail?
And, please, why must every point be run through the "supreme," "extreme" or "mainstream" ringer, when only the interviewer is allowed to define what these terms mean?
And, once the applicant passes the smell, speech or endurance test, what then? Will the critiquing subside? Hardly. Those who didn't succeed in running the applicant away during the interview process seem to think they have a solemn duty to ignore any positive contribution the new employee makes, and plaster "Don't blame me; I voted no!" signs across all their bumpers. "Aha, I'll get him yet!" say the political bloodhounds.
Aha, we say in rebuttal, the unending negative chant by post-collegiate debaters will continue to create more harm for this country than the occasional less-than-qualified individual who slips through the interviewing cracks by mistake. Good critiquing continues on the job, too. Even duds serve at the pleasure of "the boss," and those occasional "resignations" are a far more civil way of turning a job applicant down than the shameful spectacles we've witnessed from the Senate chambers in Washington, D.C., for longer than most of our regurgitating stomachs can stand.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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