Here are some reflections on the protagonists of One Plus One.
TOPAZ. Monica was raised in a Mexican-American household in the far suburbs of Houston. Her family is from southwestern Texas, a bilingual region bordering Mexico, with its own political culture. Her family moved to the Houston area before she was born and felt strongly about being “American” and middle-class. She and her sister do understand Spanish and speak both it and English without accents, but they only speak Spanish with family.
She was a very ordinary kid. Her sister Tina (two years older) was the more intellectual and pretty one; Monica’s main achievement in high school was to be a cheerleader. She graduated in 2007 with low-average grades – and surprised everyone by immediately enlisting with the U.S. Marines. This decision was partly because her father had been a Marine during the 1980s, mustering out to be with his family while the girls were born, and is also tied to the extensive military recruiting directed at high schools in the U.S.
When Monica was deployed in Afghanistan in 2008, her family considered itself successful. They had bought a new home and made new investments in the family business. When she returned in 2011, disillusioned and with a bad attitude, the financial disasters of 2008-2009 had destroyed them: all the money was gone, all the assets foreclosed, and her father had died. She realized that the “American dream” she’d fought for was a lie at home as well.
Monica is characterized by:
- Insight. She easily and quickly sees “to the heart “of things, without complex intellectual analysis. There is a core honesty underlying this, as she is willing to accept it when she is wrong.
- Wrath. She is pissed off. Like many former soldiers she struggles with shame and pride about herself, and is full of rage. Her rage has a direction: as far as she’s concerned, the existing government, law, education, media, social structure, and anything else like them is a truly evil system of lies, even for those who are idealistic within them.
- Curiosity. Like many adults who had thought themselves “not too smart” as children and teens, she has realized that she is in fact quite bright and never misses a chance to learn something. She is especially interested in others’ viewpoints because she only trusts individual honesty.
- Directness. This is the most military thing about her – achieving clarity of purpose, setting limited objectives, and carrying out the necessary tactics. She always prepares and then strikes suddenly with maximum planned force.
- Warmth. She likes people. She values the way they have different experiences and views from her, and as long as someone shows vulnerability or willingness to connect with her, she will respond to them.
Topaz is a warrior: she wants to fight, and she needs something to fight for. In looking at her, one should be excited about where a person with this much potential and drive might eventually go, and also fear her, because she will never compromise or quit.
THE BANDIT. Paul was raised on the northern California coast, mostly in the Bodega Bay community. This region is perhaps more “foreign” to most of the U.S. than any other, not due to specific immigration, but to isolation. He is Polish-American but has little connection or sense of community about it, unlike (for instance) a similar person raised in the Chicago area or New York. His teenage years during the 1970s were close to some radical social movements and perhaps his most formative moment was the Patty Hearst trial.
Going through his career in detail isn’t easy, so briefly, he started robbing banks around 1980, and the media called him “the Bandit” because of a popular movie from a few years before. (He’d wanted to call himself “Nemesis” but that didn’t happen.) He is the single supervillain known ever to have defeated a superhero in face to face combat. His work for the banks is connected with the famous Savings & Loan scandals of the late 1980s, all of which laid the groundwork for many of today’s problems.
One of the reasons he switched to working for banks in the mid-1980s is that he’d fallen in love and started a family, including his son Andreas, born in 1984. His wife knew all about his “real” job as the Bandit and helped him maintain his personal secrecy. She died unexpectedly to a sudden-onset disease in 2004. He and Andreas, then only 20, did not get along well, and the latter moved to Europe, eventually to settle in Norway, where he is now a citizen. He has a successful career as a fantasy-fiction writer. They stay in touch and recently have tried to re-connect emotionally.
After the crash of the late 2000s and his actions in it, he was rightly concerned that some very powerful people might come looking for him, so he relocated from California and moved to Texas in 2010. He’s stayed low-key since then and had considered “retiring.”
Paul is characterized by:
- Patience. He feels no hurry and knows that timing is everything. If a goal is time-sensitive, he merely schedules his efforts accordingly.
- Ruthlessness. He cares deeply for certain people and certain goals, but literally nothing for anything else. Whatever he needs to do to protect or achieve the former, he will do, and if he decides you or anything is part of the latter, he will either disappear forever or eliminate you. In either case, without a second thought or bit of remorse.
- Humor. He is often sarcastic but never mean, and the way he says things tends to make people laugh at themselves, especially when they realize he’s often joking about himself. He often sees the funny side of otherwise difficult situations.
- Freedom. He is probably the single person on earth who is truly financially independent, and he doesn’t genuinely want or need anything he doesn’t have. If he had nothing he would be the same way. He asks nothing of anyone and if anyone wants something from him, they have to ask.
- Flexibility. He never expects anything to be the way he thought, and is therefore never surprised, to a degree probably not achieved by anyone else. He is truly “living in the moment,” deciding what to do next without any disorientation.
Paul is an anarchist: he wants things to be better, but sees no higher good. In looking at him, one should be impressed at his intensity and experience, but also a bit nervous because frankly, the only thing that determines what’s right and wrong for him is him. And now he’s rediscovered motivation.
As a parnership. Neither of them wants to “get rich.” They want to get money in a way which keeps them and their loved ones independent of the system they live in. They consider the world to be ruled by thieves and have no compunction at all about truly robbing the global financial system. They also want to demonstrate their power to do so.
You probably noticed that I had a little trouble staying out of the gender issue when summarizing the high-Church conflicts across the 300 issues of Cerebus the Aardvark Read the rest of this entry