Michael Eddington is either loved or hated. Many (perhaps most) feel his betrayal of Starfleet as an agent for the Maquis was an emotive betrayal corresponding to matters deeply entrenched in the outlaying ethics of Starfleet ideas, goals, and the fight against oppression in the larger galactic equation. However, Eddington was not wrong when he tells Benjamin Sisko that the reason he is being hunted down is not because of his ideas, but because he left the Federation.
“Why is the Federation so obsessed with the Maquis? We’ve never harmed you. And yet we’re constantly arrested and charged with terrorism. Starships chase us through the Badlands and our supporters are harassed and ridiculed. Why? Because we’ve left the Federation, and that’s the one thing you can’t accept. Nobody leaves paradise. Everyone should want to be in the Federation. Hell, you even want the Cardassians to join. You’re only sending them replicators because one day they can take their ‘rightful place’ on the Federation Council. You know, in some ways, you’re even worse than the Borg. At least they tell you about their plans for assimilation. You’re more insidious. You assimilate people and they don’t even know it.” (“For the Cause” 1996)
Eddington is correct that his perceived dishonor is mostly cast upon him because he left “paradise.” What does it mean to leave behind a futuristic utopia? Certainly, we cannot say that it means one is unable to comprehend or carry out the orders of Starfleet under such guiding principles. Chakotay is proof of that. He left Starfleet to fight for the Maquis and due to the unexpected events that led Voyager into the Delta quadrant he became the First Officer, a Starfleet Commander, helping – successfully – to get the crew of Voyager back home. So, no, the argument that Eddington is a traitor, unable to appreciate the values of the Federation, is false.
What both Chakotay and Eddington prove is that the Federation is a form of assimilation. True, it would be wonderful to live under such a banner of freedom like that of the Federation, but is it truly Free when one is required and expected to agree to terms like the treaty with the Cardassians that left so many at the mercy of totalitarian overlords? Eddington was wrong in his characterization of Sisko and he certainly underestimated him, but he was not wrong about the Federation. He understood the greater message of what the Federation intended to stand for even when it did not live up to those values. I would argue that Eddington understood and bravely carried out the ethics of the Federation even when it wouldn’t. Chakotay did the same and no one questions his conviction for what is right, true, and just.
A primal question that Eddington forces us to ask ourselves is if utopia indeed requires assimilation. I address what advances must be made to work towards a society that functions closer to a utopia on my longform post written as an Introduction to Interdisciplinary Violence Studies. While it is true that there must be a consistency in how education reform is carried out to work towards post-violence societies, that idea does not work towards assimilated masses. This is where Eddington is misunderstood. When he states that, “Nobody leaves paradise,” he is clearly not referring to the ideas of the Federation, but instead to how the Federation compromises and falls away from its own declared values as it did with the treaty with Cardassia. Eddington is actually standing up for Federation values. In that Michael Eddington is a hero. His virtues were also prophetic as can be seen later in the war with the Dominion when Cardassia became the central ally and homefront for Dominion forces. Eddington was right. With that in mind, in the future when viewers watch Eddington leave Starfleet for the Marquis, let us think of his foresight, his convictions, and his passion for justice, rather than his perceived crime of simply play-acting for Sisko.