- Text Size +

Chapter Notes: In addition to "Tribunal", also recounts events and dialogue from "Emissary", "The Siege", "Cardassians", and "Profit and Loss".

Blending Opposites

“Jesus recognized the need for blending opposites.” Martin Luther King, Jr. in Strength to Love (1963)

 

When I requested an assignment to the old Cardassian mining station in orbit of Bajor, I was looking at a chance to lend a hand to the now-liberated planet. I never expected that Deep Space Nine would become one of the most strategically starbases in the quadrant. I was in charge of the operation to move the station the terminus of the first known stable wormhole.

Being around a lot of the natives, I had a better understanding of the kind of suffering the Cardassians inflicted on the Bajorans. It brought back a lot of memories of the casual brutality of the Cardassians. And Bajor was just one of many subject worlds at the mercy of the Cardassian Union. Having seen the atrocities committed against civilians, hearing firsthand accounts of POW’s being tortured by them, Bajor was lucky to be rid of their oppression after a half century. I knew the importance of not letting Bajor end up under Cardassian rule again, especially with the Wormhole becoming a valuable asset to Bajor and the Federation.

That was never more clear during the attempted military coup on Bajor earlier this year, secretly funded by the Cardassians. When the fighting escalated, the Circle demanded all non-Bajorans vacate the station. We did officially give in to that demand, but many of us stayed behind. I saw off Keiko and Molly. She couldn’t understand my decision to stay behind. Who could blame her? She wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about my transfer to some worn down outpost at the edge of known space. I told her, “We can’t just let the Cardies have the Wormhole.” I had a personal stake in this crisis just as much as any Bajoran.The coup failed; we got the station back. Then an even bigger defining moment happened a few weeks later.

One of the abandoned Cardassian war orphans visited the station with his adopted Bajoran father. Garak, the Cardassian tailor, went to say hello to the young man. He bit him on the hand. Based on rumors that these Bajoran foster parents were using these orphans to exact vengeance against their former oppressors, Commander Sisko arranged to have the boy stay with Keiko and me. “No big deal,” I thought. That was until Keiko was getting dinner ready. I assumed from just three place settings that Molly was staying with one of the other families on the station. Actually she and Rugal played together all afternoon. Keiko assured me that the boy was very gentle with my daughter. But then I just said, “Gentle was bred out of these Cardassians a long time ago.”

Naturally, Keiko was quite taken aback. I tried to explain myself. I was just as surprised myself having said it. She said she didn’t want to hear it twice, and that was the end of it. Keiko replicated a popular Cardassian meal. She certainly enjoyed. Me, not so much. Rugal didn’t even touch his. We both slid our plates aside and they both touched. A common ground. It got me thinking how close-minded I was. That comment I made just a few minutes earlier was very stupid. He’s just a boy. He’s not responsible for his people’s crimes.

Rugal and I ended up talking while I was catching up on paperwork in the middle of the night. His foster parents hated other Cardassians, he said. I said to him, “Well, you can't judge a whole race of people. You can't hate all Cardassians or all Klingons or all humans. I've met some Cardassians I didn't like, and I've met some I did. Like you.” We all know that to be true in the abstract sense. In my case, who besides Rugal did I genuinely respect?

Maybe “plain and simple” Garak is a spy. Maybe he isn’t. He and Julian have developed an interesting relationship. I imagine he’s an excellent source of mealtime conversation. He’s an intriguing character; I’ll say that. And in a manner of speaking, he’s like my competition. (Computer, delete last sentence)

Back to this story, Rugal’s birth parents were soon identified. He wasn’t an orphan after all. As it turned out, Dukat was seeking to discredit Kotan Pa’Dar, one of the civilian leaders who ordered the withdrawal from Bajor. Pa’Dar stopped by my quarters after he came aboard. I came out of our conversation having a better understanding of his people. I told him how much humans value their children and he said the same was true of Cardassians. He was devoted to his son as much as I am to Molly. More to the point, Pa’Dar’s political career would be over if the general public learned he had lost Rugal the way he did. I found myself hoping that didn’t happen. He was a decent person willing to do the right thing. Cardassia could use people like Kotan Pa’Dar.

I guess my point here is I haven’t completely overcome my own preconceived notions. No one truly overcomes ones prejudices overnight. With the strategic importance of the Wormhole, we should expect a few more less than friendly dealings with the Cardassians. My time here on DS9 and having met Rugal and his father did help me realize my prejudices. We all prefer to think other people are prejudiced— in my case, Captain Maxwell, the Bajoran population of this station-- but we aren’t. But what we don’t know fuels our prejudices more often than what we do know.

A few months ago, these three Cardassians were aboard the station when they’re ship was damaged. They were part of a dissident group opposed to their government’s Orwellian methods. After those methods were inflicted on me, I can imagine their citizens are tired of it too.

In any case, this past year has helped me to see that the Federation was once at war with the Cardassian government and military, not the race as a whole. It’s easy to forget that though. A hundred years ago, humans were just as resentful of Klingons. Now, a Klingon is serving aboard the Enterprise. And if Vulcans and Andorians could become two of the founding members of the Federation, I can change my own attitudes about the Cardassians.

 

“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.” Martin Luther King, Jr. in Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958)



You must login (register) to review.