ARE WE REALLY IN CONTROL OF ANYTHING?

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Four college graduates set out to change the world that lies before them. During their journey, they believe they are in control of their destiny and what they determined would be their legacy, i.e. to help create a better world for those they’d leave behind after their departure. But are they really in control of anything more than their daily activities–their experiences? Can they really make a difference in a world torn by greed, war, and the duplicitous plotting of despots and god brokers? Or is Bea Windsor the one who really understands the control issue when she asks her son, Justin: “When will you realize that control is nothing more than a blighted illusion?”

I think Marc Goldstein is the only character who understands the control issue at an early age. When Justin asks him: “Weren’t we going to try to change the world?” Marc reminds him that at graduation he had said “… make a difference.” He reminds Justin that he never thought anyone could change the world. Marc is the conscience of the group. He doesn’t take life for granted and understands that sometimes you have to work within a system you might not totally agree with. He knows he can’t control it.

Control is an important issue in Descent from the Hill. As we follow the lives of the major characters that are impacted by the historical events upon which this work is based, it behooves the reader to ask the questions: “What do we really control?” “Can we change the world?” Or is it more important to make sure the world doesn’t change us to the extent that we become its marionettes, dangling from strings controlled by those who would dictate our every action?

Separation Of Church And State

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There is much discussion today about separation of church and state. Whether there is something in the constitution about such separation is frequently discussed and even bantered about contentiously. I contend that any relationship between our government and a church or religious group ( e.g. the “religious right”, the “moral majority”), is not only against the spirit of what the founding fathers proposed for our country but is also dangerous.

Article I of the Constitution provides congress with the power to tax, regulate trade, coin money, establish post offices and roads, and maintain a militia to protect the people—and nothing more. It does not provide congress the power to establish morality, righteousness, or any other behavior that it might deem correct. Such behavior should be taught in the home, in the church, and in schools but not be legislated by politicians, most of whom do not know the meaning of moral. We must not let our government become like fatherly King George and the 18th century British parliament that purported to know very well what was best for their lowly subjects—and demand it of them.

In 1930’s Germany, the Third Reich created close ties with churches, mostly in Germany and Italy. With the help of clerics—and here is a good example of the dangers of collusion between state and church—they established a new moral order that punished homosexuals, prostitutes, and pimps but also led to the torture and murder of communists, Jews, and other groups that didn’t conform with the ruling government’s concept of propriety and divine law. The Holocaust wouldn’t have been as easy a task had the church’s moral dictators not cooperated with Germany’s Nazi party government.

The above is the opinion of the author. For more on these issues, read Descent from the Hill and make up your own mind about these issues. Are we becoming more like National Socialist Germany of the 1930’s by trying to legislate morality, family values, and propriety? Should we allow our politicians to veer from what Article I provided them? Can the people really depend upon government to help them establish a new morality? And finally, is it realistic for the people to expect moral behavior from greedy power brokers?

How I came to write DESCENT FROM THE HILL and why this history is still relevant.

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Growing up, I’d listened to my father rant that Hitler and Mussolini were the two most misunderstood leaders of all time, and to my grandmother chastise my father for being a freemason, a sin she said would damn him eternally. Descent from the Hill is fiction with autobiographical overtones, the story of a patrician New Englander and his enduring friendship with three college roommates of different social and ethnic backgrounds. By graduation, Justin Windsor’s roommates have joined the story of his life, a journey replete with intrigue, murder, and duplicity.

To write the novel I explored my father’s associations with members of P2, Propaganda Due, the Italian Freemasons. This secret society was not typically Masonic in that it was not anti-Catholic as my grandmother feared. Instead, P-2 pretended to be Masonic so as to distract attention from its plan to re-introduce fascism and Vatican hegemony to Italy.  Along with extensive research, I communicated with Robert Katz, author of The Battle for Rome, a historical account that helped me integrate my story line with the Ardeatine Cave Massacre and the little known history of Italy’s Jewish community, during and after WWII.  Additionally, Katz provided me with information about several members of P-2 who presently reside obscurely in Italy, where Katz also makes his home.

When I learned in 2005 that one of my father’s business associates was one of 5 individuals indicted for the murder of “God’s Banker,” Roberto Calvi, I developed the plot for my first novel.

Then on September 21, 2010, news broke that Italian prosecutors were investigating the Vatican Bank for violations of anti-money-laundering regulations. Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2021194,00.html#ixzz15Z3whuEF

So the question arises: Is history repeating?

There is little doubt that Vatican Bank officials were somehow involved in the demise of the Banco Ambrosiano in 1982, but whether or not they were involved in the death of its president, Roberto Calvi, has not been decided. Several books have been written about a possible link between the Vatican and Italian Freemasons (Propaganda Due) who wanted to re-instate fascism and Vatican hegemony in Italy. Very interesting indeed, but when we read stories like this we tend to forget how many lives are touched by such scandals and how far away the effects of such duplicity can be felt.

The Banco Ambrosiano scandal and Vatican involvement are major elements in Descent from the Hill, a saga (1960-1989) about the post-WWII Baby Boomer generation. During a journey in the lives of members of this generation, the reader sees how the characters’ lives are touched by current events as well as historical events and the prior acts of their parents-acts committed in the name of survival, but acts that will haunt them and their children until all family members confront them.