The Dossier–Thoughts from the Editor

February 2019

Keeping Up With the Cardassians

Of late, the Board of Directors at Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary has been conducting what many of my peers have been referring to as a “kangaroo court.”

I think that’s unfair to kangaroos. Kangaroos no doubt enjoy generously subsidized educations in law, which, upon returning home, they can practice in the outback, serving the rich Australian fauna. Everyone knows that many creatures are litigious: a solid client base of cranky koalas is enough to make a kangaroo rich. Yes, they’ve clearly got it going on: I double dog dare you to take on an Ivy League kangaroo in front of a judge.

Even before he has gotten his diploma framed and exchanged exchanged his cap and gown for a business suit, this newly-minted Kangaroo Lawyer looks pretty tough, doesn’t he? Graduate Kangaroo by Hansa

The term “kangaroo court” also implies complete chaos. Yes, there’s plenty of chaos in this rotten situation at Four Quarters, but there is a sick kind of order to it as well.

And a couple of days ago, while binge-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I realized what kind of a court we’re up against:

It’s a Cardassian court.

Most people have at least heard of Star Trek. They may not have seen it, but they have heard of it. And they’ve heard of “Trekkies” (or, as the fans would have it, “Trekkers”, which I’ve never thought sounded nearly as engaging as “Trekkies”.) So we’ll dispense with descriptions of the USS Enterprise, Vulcans, scantily-clad green women, William! Shatner! Acting! (or at least trying to), and, of course, tribbles.

Yes, I’m a geek. I admit it. Don’t worry, I’ll make this quick.

The later Star Trek spinoffs provided fans with a rich crop of new alien species, including the militantly xenophobic Cardassians. In many ways, the society created by these grey-skinned, long-necked , almost reptilian beings is admirable: for them, loyalty to family is paramount. Men and women are equal, though the genders do tend to gravitate towards different professions. Art and learning are encouraged.

Cardassian super rat-bastard Gul Dukat, as portrayed by Mark Alaimo. Source: Wikipedia

Sounds great, huh?

The flip side of this panacea is a military dictatorship, supported by the strong arm of the Obsidian Order, which makes the SS look like…amateurs. They are masters of smoke and mirrors, of fabricated information, and of torture. I could go on and on, but it’s the Cardassians’ legal system that I’m interested in for the purpose of this article.

The most important thing to remember about Cardassian criminal law is that you are not only guilty when you walk into the courtroom, you can’t be found “not guilty.” If you get as far as a Cardassian courtroom, you’re toast.

So in the episode “Tribunal,” a member of the crew is captured and accused of crimes against the Cardassian state. About halfway through the episode, David turned to me and said, “Look! It’s Four Quarters!”

I found the script online and read the trial proper–and then I changed the names and gender pronouns (as well as crimes–stealing photon torpedoes seemed extreme, even for me!) You’ll also see snippets from my letter of censure, just for comparison. But what came out of this exercise is what I believe to be a fairly accurate description of what would happen if I met with the Four Quarters Board of Directors.

THE LETTER: …you have shared privy material of the Board of Directors with at least one third party, outside of the board room…We understand that since at least shortly after July 19th, 2018; you have with intent acted to damage the reputations of specific members of this church, and to undermine this Board’s governance of this church.

And now…the script…

BOARD MEMBER: Sophia has been found guilty of aiding and abetting seditious acts against the Board. The sentence is perpetual banishment. Let the trial begin. 

BOARD MEMBER: Sophia, you can spare your family and the Church further humiliation by dispensing with this proceeding and confessing now.
SOPHIA: No, thanks.

I TOTALLY get this.

ONE OF MY FRIENDS (sticking their head in the door of the Board Room, because they were not allowed inside): We have new evidence to prove Sophia’s innocence.
BOARD MEMBER: New evidence?
FRIEND: If Sophia is accused of being a drunken, angry, militant blabbermouth, we can prove that she didn’t do it.
BOARD MEMBER: Of course she did it. She’s been found guilty, hasn’t she?

MY LETTER:  We have sufficient documentary and witness evidence to completely satisfy ourselves of these facts.

FRIEND: Someone manipulated the evidence. I can produce the proof here.
BOARD MEMBER: No evidence can be submitted after the verdict has been reached. You should know that.

FRIEND: But if the Board refuses to bring up new evidence …of another person who actually did what Sophia is said to have done, divulging privileged Board information to a third party, outside the Board Room, that would prove her innocence.
BOARD MEMBER: You are out of order, sir!
FRIEND: what else am I supposed to do?
BOARD MEMBER: You are supposed to respect our judicial procedures. Wouldn’t you ask that we respect your rules if we were in your court?

(a few lines later)

BOARD MEMBER: As for new evidence, yes, I fully expected Sophia’s friends to come up with remarkable new evidence in an attempt to free her. I’m sure you Facebook junkies can create all sorts of evidence to confuse the issues. That may work in your courts, but not here. There will be no new evidence considered. Call the first witness.

IN OTHER WORDS, YOU COULD HAVE THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE ROOM AND IT WOULDN’T MATTER.  AND BELIEVE ME, THE REAL CULPRIT IS IN THE ROOM.

MY LETTER: We now require that you formally meet with us to discuss these matters, as is provided for under the Church Constitution.

BOARD MEMBER: Court will resume. The offender will step forward and testify.

SOPHIA: I have nothing to say to this court.
BOARD MEMBER: Under the Church constitution, you are compelled to testify. Step forward.
BOARD MEMBER (to FRIEND, who was hiding behind the filing cabinet): This would be a good time for you to advise the offender.
FRIEND: Advise her to do what?
BOARD MEMBER: To confess. To throw herself on the mercy of the court, of course.
FRIEND: I never heard of this BoD showing mercy.
BOARD MEMBER: That is not the point. Think of the Members! Allow them to see a glimmer of enlightenment as the offender realizes that the end is near. Let her use her last breath on the Land to show remorse.

(Quick note: Cardassian trials are also apparently considered to be prime-time entertainment. And we’re not talking Judge Judy.

Onward…

BOARD MEMBER: Sophia, were you abused as a child?
SOPHIA: What?
BOARD MEMBER: Were your parents especially abusive? Were they alcoholics? Did you hate them very much?
SOPHIA: I loved my parents.
BOARD MEMBER: I see. Spousal abuse, perhaps? Was your husband causing you severe psychological stress Perhaps he is an alcoholic?
SOPHIA: My husband is the most wonderful, supportive person I’ve ever known–and no, he’s not an alcoholic!

The assumption of alcoholism and mental illness is a thread running through Board accusations against the current crop of banned 4QF members.


BOARD MEMBER: Excuse me for asking. I’m merely trying to establish why a fine woman like you could turn against us. Perhaps you could help me.
SOPHIA: Sorry, no, I can’t help, because I didn’t turn against you.

A little further on..

BOARD MEMBER: Tell me, Sophia, now that we are talking civilly, do you have a warm place in your heart for your Board of Directors? Or are you deeply prejudiced against the Board of Directors? Do you not, in fact, hate the Board? Have you not on several occasions publicly stated your opposition to the Board’s latest actions because, and I quote, ‘the bloody BoD can’t be trusted’? ‘
SOPHIA: I decline to answer.
BOARD MEMBER: There are no grounds in the Church constitution which permit you to decline. Answer the question. Is it an accurate quote or not?
SOPHIA: It is.
BOARD MEMBER: At this time, it seems the offender’s guilt has been clearly established and I see no other alternative but to concede to the verdict.
SOPHIA: I do not concede.
BOARD MEMBER: You may stand down, Sophia.
SOPHIA: I am not guilty. I have committed no crime, and I do not concede to this court or the Board of Directors.

BOARD MEMBER: Return to your seat. Once again the Board of Directors’ system of jurisprudence has worked to protect its people. A guilty woman has been brought to justice. . .

Now that that’s over with, I leave it to you, Gentle Readers, to decide the following: is the Board of Directors at Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary following the Episcopal Model….or the Cardassian Model?

Star Trek, The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise; as well as all proper names pertaining to characters, alien species, starships, planets, or technology having to do with the Star Trek franchise are all registered trademarks of and copyright to Paramount Pictures

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