SHAMBOLIC: highly disorganized, in shambles

Talk about reacting to the moment.  Our word for today is shambolic, a word I heard for the first time an hour ago.  David Brooks, who I consider to be one of the most thoughtful, intelligent conservative commentators on television, was a member of a panel convened by David Gregory, the host of Meet the Press.   The panel was reacting to the interview Gregory had done with President Obama.

In the midst of his commentary, Brooks made the point that the situation in Washington is shambolic.  There were twittering and smiles among the panel members, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian, finally congratulated him upon the use of the word.   I quickly grabbed my cellphone and noted the word, recognizing that my delay in writing this posting had been for a purpose.  I was meant to explore the word shambolic.

It turns out that the word shambolic is of fairly recent lineage, having been born in 1970 in British media usage.   It is a colorful term which refers to something emerging from the shambles, whether it be a physical shambles like a dorm room (seen above) or an institutional setting (such as Congress.) The Urban Dictionary quotes a sports report which may have been one of the classic examples of its use.

In a strange, unintended and utterly shambolic way, Beckham’s embarrassing absence in his first year has actually prolonged his honeymoon period.

It was, of course, the second definition to which David Brooks was referring.   His point was about the current state of the United States Congress, which has been in stalemate for the past two years.   The nation’s most prestigious legislative body is being held hostage by 55 members of the House of Representatives who ascribe to the principles of the Tea Party, which includes some of the most fringe representatives of the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

This block of Representatives are living proof of what one prominent member of the Republican Party has called “the dumbing down” of the party.   The principles espoused by these Members of the House are not intelligent and thoughtful.   They are simplistic and eligible for the term “dumbing down.”

For instance, the issue which has prevented forward movement for Congress is that of the so-called Fiscal Cliff, a term that has become so popular that it probably has lost its sense of urgency.   If, within the next 36 hours, there is no agreement reached between the House, the Senate, and the President, the United States will enter into a taxation period which will dramatically increase the taxes of every American citizen who pays taxes.   The bill before the Senate is to continue the tax reductions for those understood to be Middle Class or Working Class. (The line in the sand making that determination is one of the battles being fought.)  The intent is to continue the benefit to those who most need it, but to allow the taxes to go back to their Clinton-era levels for those who are the 1 or 2% of the wealthiest Americans … those who can most afford such an increase without it being a disaster.

But the Tea Party representatives refuse to pass such legislation, claiming that they refuse to raise taxes on anyone.   Only the most simplistic of thinking allows me to follow the logic of that refusal.   Somehow, in their thinking, “no tax increase for the wealthy=no tax increases for anyone.”   But tell the people who earn $25,000 a year that they will survive the tax increase they will receive if this bill (or one similar to it) fails.

This is clearly a perfect example of David Brooks’ application of the word shambolic to the U.S. Congress.   If it were not so serious a situation, I might be tempted to say that the workings of Congress are a joke.


Photo Credit:  Wellington House, Barcelona

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