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Old October 15 2012, 01:35 PM   #1
R. Star
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Rugal

The latest caption contest got me thinking... I was just curious as to the various opinions everyone has on what happened to Rugal in the season 2 episode Cardassians.

While it's not up there with the best episodes, I enjoyed this one because it did present a moral dilemma but did so without the life and death planet/civilization level consequences. Yet these were very real consequences and life altering to the people directly involved.

Certainly Sisko correctly identified that Rugal was the victim of Dukat's little scheme and that he was the villain of this. But really you could make an argument and a very convincing one, for both sides of this case.

Kotran Pa'Dar certainly has every right to want his son back. I don't think anyone could deny that and he was as much of a victim of Dukat's scheming as Rugal was.

Proka has an equally convincing claim to the boy having raised him as his own.

Yet when you ask what's best for Rugal, the answer isn't very clear. He's been raised with Bajorian beliefs and a very clear prejudice towards Cardassians and likely has been and would be victim to that racism on Bajor. Even Ziyal would later point out that the Bajorians never fully accepted her there. Yet on the other hand it's also the only life he knows and going back to his biological father would literally be sending him away to live with strangers.

Ultimately I think Sisko made the right choice, but this is a hard one to say the least. Rugal's quite literally trapped between two worlds and cultures. Picard had a similar choice with Jono and the Talarians in Suddenly Human, but chose the opposite of what Sisko did. Then again Sisko didn't have Gul Dukat threatening war over the issue either.
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Old October 15 2012, 07:19 PM   #2
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: Rugal

I always felt the BEST solution would've been for Pa'Dar to accept exile in Bajoran or Federation space, to raise his son in freedom.

Personally, I consider Proka to have been a psychological abuser. Those claims were never satisfactorily put to rest on the show--only physical abuse was ruled out. But a child does NOT bite someone, at 12 years old, without being seriously disturbed. And judging from the attitudes Rugal had internalized, I think that he was indeed hearing such talk at home as well as in public.

I did not approve of sending him back to a totalitarian regime where he would likely end up victimized if not even killed by the Obsidian Order. Sending a child back into such a society after he/she has known a freer society is in and of itself abusive.

Looked at this way, both options suck (staying with Proka or going to Cardassia), since there's pretty much a 100% chance of abuse, either in the home or outside of it.

That's what raises the third option. Look at Kotan Pa'Dar. That man was desperate to have his son back, and I think he would've done anything to be reunited permanently with Rugal. I think he was even desperate enough that he would've accepted a voluntary exile to either Bajoran or Federation space (and Bajoran space could include the less racist DS9, if the Bajorans were to lay down a stipulation that he had to stay in their territory--not to mention it would make enforcing a restraining order against Proka easier).

Of course, that would mean Dukat would get his political victory, in at least some sense. But the winner (or as close as possible in this situation) would be Rugal, and that would be the most important thing.

Rugal would have to adjust to Pa'Dar, who struck me as unconditionally loving, even when Rugal was hateful to him (I do not think Proka knew how to love in that way!), BUT he would not be totally wrenched out of his culture and environment. Another good stipulation would be perhaps to require that Pa'Dar be tolerant of Rugal's religion and not interfere with Rugal going to temple services. But, again, I suspect Pa'Dar would've been willing, based on what we saw. Getting his son back seemed to be paramountin his mind.
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Old October 15 2012, 10:24 PM   #3
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Re: Rugal

It's a good episode with a genuinely complex issue, I agree. Some of my thoughts:

Rugal has a very anti-Cardassian perspective; he thinks Cardassians are something to be feared and hated. It's equally clear that he acquired this attitude from his adoptive father (Proka) and other Bajorans in his adoptive family and community. It's also clear that as far as Proka is concerned - and as far as Rugal himself is concerned - Rugal is a Bajoran. And while Proka's attitude toward Cardassians is not an enlightened one - unlike characters such as Kira, and somewhat ironically given his love for his adoptive child, he doesn't seem to learn that "Cardassian Union policy" is not "Cardassians the race" - the perspective is an understandable one. Not one I believe to be healthy or justified, but certainly (sadly) expected given what Bajor has suffered.

What the Proka-or-Pa'Dar dillemma means to Rugal's future, other than the obvious, is determining whether the issue of his status as a Cardassian is going to be forced out into the light. Hence the episode's title, I suppose. One of the problems here in determining what's best for Rugal is whether more long-term damage would be caused by forcing a confrontation of his Cardassian nature now, or allowing it to be buried for the foreseeable future. If his health and happiness is the primary concern - and Sisko identifies that it is - then the question becomes, should Rugal be made to confront what his upbrigining has clearly tried to shove under the carpet; namely, that he has grey skin and ridges and is, however you look at it, and in some ways at least, a Cardassian. Nerys Ghemor has already provided a possible answer that avoids reducing this to a zero-sum game, wherein he has to be either a Cardassian on Cardassia or go back to being a Bajoran on Bajor who is almost certainly going to suffer ongoing self-esteem issues and possible abuse due to his race. Indeed, Nerys' answer lets him remain a member of Bajoran culture in the safety of Bajoran space while placing him with a Cardassian parent who can hopefully let him build a healthier perspective on his race and, when he's ready, allow exploration of Cardassian heritage. I think she's pointed to the better solution, but since the episode didn't explore that, the question seems to be - throw Rugal in at the deep end of Cardassian identity or let him go back to denying it (and maybe - probably - dealing with shame over it?)

Uprooting him from Bajor and placing him among people he's been taught to hate - and making it clear that he is now considered one of them - is going to be destructive to him in the short term...but long-term, the case can definitely be made that it's the better choice. If it was his Bajoran family who taught him, explicitly or not, that being Cardassian is a bad thing, then the fault lies there. It'll be hard, but perhaps in the sense that forcing someone through withdrawal rather than letting them continue using a health-destroying drug is hard. Confronting that pain is better than the alternative.

So, staying on Bajor is the far less traumatizing choice...but that's short-term thinking only. After all, Rugal might be suffering considerable damage from his adoptive father's attitude even if Proka isn't being knowingly abusive. Proka can genuinely love Rugal and intend no harm, but the boy must understand himself to be Cardassian on some level. If Cardassians are bad...well, he's a Bajoran, yes, but looking in the mirror it's pretty clear that he has grey skin and ridges. Surely part of him, acknowledged or not, is going to be picking up the message that there's something inherently evil about him that he has to fight or overcome? And on top of that, he's being denied the ability to openly explore part of his heritage, because even if he came to embrace his Cardassian blood even partially, he'd have no opportunity to comfortably explore it.

I think that viewing Rugal's situation on Bajor as abusive doesn't have to mean we see Proka as anything other than well-meaning and loving. Children and adolescents can be seriously damaged regardless of intent, and without malice. It's that, I think, above all, that makes child abuse and allegations of it so difficult.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; October 15 2012 at 10:35 PM.
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Old October 15 2012, 10:52 PM   #4
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Re: Rugal

Una McCormac's wonderful 'The Never Ending Sacrifice' is all about Rugal...
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Old October 16 2012, 03:42 AM   #5
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Re: Rugal

^It is indeed wonderful. Highly recommended.
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Old October 23 2012, 04:46 AM   #6
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Re: Rugal

Nerys Dukat wrote: View Post
Personally, I consider Proka to have been a psychological abuser. Those claims were never satisfactorily put to rest on the show--only physical abuse was ruled out. But a child does NOT bite someone, at 12 years old, without being seriously disturbed.
Sure, but the boy grew up during a brutal occupation. That alone can be enough to traumatize a child and produce violent, anti-social behavior, without any need for psychological abuse from parents/guardians.
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Old October 23 2012, 08:25 PM   #7
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Re: Rugal

Sci wrote: View Post
Nerys Dukat wrote: View Post
Personally, I consider Proka to have been a psychological abuser. Those claims were never satisfactorily put to rest on the show--only physical abuse was ruled out. But a child does NOT bite someone, at 12 years old, without being seriously disturbed.
Sure, but the boy grew up during a brutal occupation. That alone can be enough to traumatize a child and produce violent, anti-social behavior, without any need for psychological abuse from parents/guardians.
I agree, without his adoptive parents saying a single bad word about Cardassians, he could easily have been exposed to a Cardassian(s) being abusive to his parents or neighbors, or general Bajorans in the street, and from that alone, gotten his hatred of Cardassians and his self hatred, for having that DNA in himself. People just jump straight to "They must've programmed this into his head" and automatically convict Proka without ay evidence of him haing done so. Imagine, in WWII Germany, a German child raised by Jewish adoptive parents, there are so many possible cirmcumstances for that child to grow up hating Nazis.
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Old October 25 2012, 03:51 AM   #8
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Re: Rugal

That's not a good example, Sindatur. A Nazi is an ideology. A German is a bloodline. To jump from despising the ideology and its practitioners to hating ALL who happen to be of the same descent is a problem.
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Old October 25 2012, 04:11 AM   #9
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Re: Rugal

As someone raised in a country that was a "Bajor" in WWII, I can tell you that the receiving end of the brutality (occupied countries) hardly ever sees any distinction. When my grandfather made the attempt of teaching his kids and grandkids that the Germans were evil, he didn't bothered to specify or to use the word "Nazi." So Sindatur's comparison isn't that much off, just his phrasing, which, I'm guessing, is an attempt at political correctness. However, I doubt Rugal was being told "Cardassian military" or "Cardassian Central Command." He was told "the Cardassians" and that's who he hates: all of them. It doesn't make it right, but it is what it is.

The problem is that in the episode no one really bothered to check why Rugal hated all Cardassians. Was it because of what he saw them doing, or was it because he was told they were evil. Or perhaps a mix of both.
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Old October 25 2012, 04:34 AM   #10
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Re: Rugal

Nerys Dukat wrote: View Post
That's not a good example, Sindatur. A Nazi is an ideology. A German is a bloodline. To jump from despising the ideology and its practitioners to hating ALL who happen to be of the same descent is a problem.
Of course it's a problem. But the kind of trauma needed to produce that kind of prejudice need not be from an emotionally abusive parent. When your entire society is abusive and controlled by people who are oppressing you, it can easily produce that kind of prejudice -- even if not everyone from those oppressors' community is guilty.
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Old October 25 2012, 10:39 PM   #11
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Re: Rugal

Nerys Dukat, yes, absolutely that's a problem, that's the point

Thanks Sci and Gul Spook, that was exactly what I was getting at, a chld wouldn't know the distinction (Heck even many adults who have been through only a single trauma at the hands of a certain race/ethnicity are just as likely to hate the whole lot of them as they are to be rational and realize not all of them are like that, let alone being through an entire years long war/occupation)
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