The Character Assassin: Benjamin Sisko
In honour of our recent rundown of our favourite science fiction television shows, it seems fitting that this latest edition of The Character Assassin should take aim at a target drawn from the list. With that in mind, we delve into the political leanings of a man who is a soldier, a father and looks damn fine with a beard.
Benjamin Lafayette Sisko
Star Of: A seven season television series, as well as several novels and related spin-off media.
First Appearance: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine pilot episode “Emissary”
Likes: Baseball, creole cooking, Bajoran mysticism
Dislikes: Jean-Luc Picard, the Dominion, Pah Wraiths
Bio: Commanding officer of Federation frontier outpost Deep Space Nine, and reluctant saviour of alien race with funny noses.
1. Good Government
First and foremost, Captain Sisko is a leader. He’s a builder – not just literally, but figuratively as well. Sisko really shines as a community leader and administrator, using a hands-off approach that seems to work very well for him.
As commander of DS9, he rarely gets involved personally in civilian matters unless it’s a truly serious matter – usually delegating to Bajorian liaison Major Kira or civilian security chief Odo. He even wisely gets a business association together; partly to keep tabs on troublesome Ferengi bar-owner Quark, but also to build a strong sense of community on the station.
Sisko seems to appreciate a diffused form of government, deferring to the expertise of a capable team, while acting as the ultimate “decider” on all matters.
Captain Sisko also seems to have a strong belief in the democratic system – at least as it pertains to the Federation. We get a glimpse of this in the episode “Paradise Lost” when he strongly opposes an attempted coup of the government by Starfleet. He earnestly believes in civilian representative government.
2. Race Relations
Ignoring the obvious, Sisko is a man who bridges two worlds. In this case Humans and Bajorans (or more literally Humans and non-linear wormhole aliens). And this ties into his above skill as a builder of communities.
One of Captain Sisko’s duties is to ease the Bajorans out of Cardassian occupation and into Federation membership – which involves less slavery.
It’s not an easy task, but Sisko considers it a personal challenge to find common ground between the two cultures, and bring them together through understanding.
But he also doesn’t believe in assimilation.
He thinks both heritages are equally distinctive and valuable, and the Bajorans shouldn’t have to sacrifice their identity to join the Federation.
Man, couple that with his creole background, and he’d probably get along well in Quebec.
3. National Defense
Despite being an able administrator, as a Starfleet Captain, Sisko is primarily a soldier. And the series gives us plenty of information when it comes to his thoughts on National Defense.
Sisko is a principled man, yes, but he’s also a pragmatic man. And there comes a point where he’s willing to bend, or even break his own code of honour when the security of his people or his nation is at stake.
The best example of this comes in the episode “In the Pale Moonlight”, where he entrusts Cardassian spy-in-exile Garak with the job of bringing the Romulans into the alliance against the Dominion. Why? Because he has an honest face, obviously.
What Sisko becomes a party to is, essentially, murder. And in the end, he accepts that it was worth it, to preserve the Federation. Wrong? Oh yes. But worth it? Completely.
This is not to say that Sisko believes in winning at any cost – he’s just willing to weight the costs, and, ultimately, make the hard choice.
This is a sticky point for Captain Sisko – the separation of church and state. During his time as commander of DS9, it’s an issue he has to struggle with fairly often – keeping his position as a religious figure for the Bajoran people and his position as a Starfleet Captain and Federation representative separate.
A major insight into his opinions on the matter come with his relationship to the Kai. Kai Winn is ambitious and meddlesome – often stepping in and putting pressure on the civilian government to get her way, and even briefly taking the position of First Minister. And whenever she does this, it clearly makes Sisko uncomfortable.
In fact, even when Sisko himself occasionally lets his faith in the Prophets (who, admittedly aren’t spiritual religious figures, but strange cosmic aliens) guide his actions, he seems to be somewhat uncomfortable with it.
Ultimately, Sisko seems to understand that the lessons of religion are welcome in tempering politics – but that religion itself should be kept separate.
5. The Economy
Now, with the exception of the Ferengi, economic matters aren’t really touched on by Star Trek, but there’s a lot we can infer from Sisko’s history and his patriotism.
First of all, Sisko is the son of an entrepreneur. His father, Joseph, runs a creole restaurant called “Sisko’s Creole Kitchen”. This, coupled with his pushing to have a business collective come together on the space station would seem to imply that Sisko is a man who respects and supports small-business owners.
Then there’s the reality of the Federation. It’s basically a socialist paradise, one where money has little meaning and citizens are provided for with ease. And it’s a socialist paradise that Sisko is willing to kill for (see above.)
Though he lives in a socialist utopia, Captain Benjamin Sisko is a political centrist. He’s a man with many conservative values, but also many liberal values. He believes in a strong military, and a small, effective government – but also believes strongly in his socialist system and the right of the common man to have a say in his destiny. Whereas the average Federation citizens would likely vote NDP orange, we’re not talking about an average man.
We’re talking about Ben Fucking Sisko.
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