I write about 150 columns a year. But this isn’t a column. It is a parable. There was a time in a town in Oklahoma when a civil war broke out. Is there anything more divisive in a small town than how a school district spends its money? In this civil war, everyone had to pick a side. No conscientious objectors were allowed.

I write about 150 columns a year.


But this isn’t a column. It is a parable.


There was a time in a town in Oklahoma when a civil war broke out. Is there anything more divisive in a small town than how a school district spends its money?


In this civil war, everyone had to pick a side. No conscientious objectors were allowed.


The issue at hand was not whether there should be master’s level teachers in mathematics or English. The argument did not even revolve around sex education or whether evolution should be taught alongside creationism.


It was far more important than those minor issues.


The issue at hand was sports funding. Upstart soccer supporters became locked in a battle with perennial power football supporters in a battle for funding equality among local athletes.


The superintendent, whose daughter just happened to be a state-record setting goal scorer, and a couple of members of the school board – who coincidentally also had a couple of soccer players in their minivans – fired the first shot over the bow of the ship of the school board.


It wasn’t long until the battle on the board spread to the general population. Like most fights in this arena, name-calling and stereotyping took over.


The soccer players were all suddenly the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers who ate every meal at a country club or had their servants prepare the meal at their lavish homes.


All of the football players became either the sons of blue-collar workers or impoverished minorities.


Of course, the students were all friends who had grown up together, and many of them would be riding in the same cars to the prom.


But you wouldn’t know that from the parents’ portrayals at the school board meetings and in letters to the editor of the local paper. (I typed a lot of letters at that time.)


The situation quickly spun out of control as situations often do. Soon, there were school board meetings that had to be moved to different venues to accommodate the crowds. Meetings ended quickly after key votes because whichever side got the short end of the stick screamed and yelled at the board members who had failed to support them.


No one was happy. The winners didn’t really win.


The situation finally calmed down when the leaders of the opposing sides laid down their arms. The football coach stepped down and the superintendent retired when his daughter graduated.


During the civil war, the school system needed funding for major school improvements. The football side turned the bond election into a referendum on the soccer side since the superintendent and the school board were pushing it in addition to supporting the soccer spending, as well.


I had several people from the football side “visit” me in my office after I wrote a column predicting the measure would pass easily because the people of the town always supported education. It had been more than two decades since a bond issue had failed.


These on the football side could not understand how I could not see how the bond issue was going to fail miserably. In their minds, the bond issue would get about 50 votes in favor and more than 1,000 against.


As a reporter, I had spoken with combatants on both sides. More importantly, I had spoken to people who were less involved and knew how much significance they were giving this issue. Yes, as many as 400 people had attended school board meetings and raised their voices.


But in a town of 16,000, that number is only impressive because of the general apathy surrounding the board’s activities.


I explained to my friends who fought the good fight for the football faction that I believed they suffered from an insulated opinion. I thought they had only spoken to each other. While there were several hundred of them, I didn’t think they understood how many there were who refused to pick sides and supported all of the children in the district – regardless of whether the ball they kicked was round or oblong.


On election day, they all went to the polls expecting a huge turnout as voters sought to send a message to the evil administrators that their soccer support would cost them the passage of a bond issue.


In the end, the turnout was typical. The results were as well. You could see the impact of the group, but it was more a ripple than a tidal wave.


The bond issue passed. That loss led to an end to the active civil war. Both sides learned to co-exist. Soccer players are huge football supporters and football players fill the bleachers for soccer games.


The battle was never really about the kids and it certainly never involved them. But soon, ever parents began attending contests and cheering for a team they sought to defund or at least reduce.


That is a happy ending that I don’t know that we will see on the national stage.


But I think the Republican Party may be suffering from a similar version of that insulated opinion. There are radio and television programs that all of the good soldiers listen to and watch. They host each other as guests on each other’s shows. They share guests like Sarah Palin, Karl Rove and Ann Coulter. All of them cross promote each other’s books, and they all get rich as a GOP audience comes back time and again for more red meat.


They talk to each other and listen to each other, but they never go off the reservation to see what other people think and believe.


Outside of twisted soundbites, they never see or hear any other arguments. They don’t even really care about those who don’t belong to either party. They serve each other by keeping their closest supporters close.


That is a good business plan for marketing books. but it might not work out in an election cycle.


Hopefully, in January 2013 when another cloud of electoral dust settles, we can move on from the hyper-partisan politics of the past four years.


This country and economy need the undivided attention of our leaders.


Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.