The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on July 14, 2011.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of King Solomon, and by his wisdom – in those Biblical times before DNA testing was available – in determining who was the real mother of a baby that two women were fighting over. With both women claiming to be the baby’s mother, Solomon called for his sword and declared that since there was no way to determine who was lying and who was telling the truth, he would simply slice the baby in two so that each woman could have half.

“Okay. That’s fair,” one of the women responded. The other one said, “Are you nuts?!” –I’m paraphrasing here, by the way – “Never mind. Let her have the baby.”

But instead of doing that, Solomon gave the baby to the woman who was willing to give the baby up. He knew that the woman who was more concerned for the safety and care of the baby than she was for her own desires was the baby’s true mother.

The only thing in that story that I’ve always found totally unbelievable is the part about the woman who was agreeing to let Solomon resolve the issue by killing the baby. I could never accept that someone would really do that, even metaphorically.

Until now.

The reason I believe it now is that I see it actually happening. Right here, right now, in modern times and in real life. And the baby being fought over has a name – Minnesota.

There are some major differences that must be noted in comparing our current government stand-off and shutdown to the story of King Solomon. One is that there is no equivalent of King Solomon – in terms of power and authority, let alone wisdom – who has the final say in the matter. And while many of the services and resources people in the state need to survive are being held in limbo as the two parties fight for control of them, and with both sides refusing to yield on principles they claim are non-negotiable, the baby is suffering more from broken bones, internal injuries, and neglect than it would be if either side were granted custody and given sole decision-making power.

“Custody,” in fact, may be a better way of looking at the issue and trying to determine the best way of caring for this seriously at-risk child, Minnesota. After all, the situation in our government seems to me to resemble a couple with irreconcilable differences. When such couples divorce in real life, their main thoughts are often about hurting each other and about getting everything they can from each other in the settlement, while giving up as little as they can get away with. When kids are involved, the children often become their parents’ weapons, pawns, and bargaining chips. They are the victims who suffer the most. Sometimes irreparably. Sometimes fatally.

I wish I had more answers than insights, and could offer suggestions and solutions rather than observations. But I don’t have King Solomon’s wisdom or power. And we don’t, at the state or federal level, have the equivalent of divorce lawyers or social service agencies who are skilled in custody cases, or who have the experience and authority to determine and act in the best interest of the child. We also, it seems, don’t have the kind of “parents” who realize the overall and long-lasting harm being done to their children, or who will acknowledge their own responsibility, insisting instead that it’s all the other parent’s fault.

I wonder what King Solomon would say if he were put in charge of the situation in our government today. I suspect that all he would be able to do is shake his head in sorrow. And ask for a bigger sword.

© Betty Liedtke, 2011