Ashley Juddís Heart Of Darkness
Oct 29, 2008 8:00 PM EDT
The actress on her experiences in war-ravaged Congo, and the personal aftershocks of exposure to so much suffering.
I wonder about the girl, the very little girl, in the tattered pink tutu. It's been a little more than six months now since the American actress Ashley Judd caught a glimpse of her through the mud-streaked window of a battered car rattling toward Goma in eastern Congo. Today the headlines, mostly in the news-roundup columns, the "also in the world today" segments, say that tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing toward Goma, which already had so many. They are the miserable survivors of one of those wars the world hasn't quite forgotten, but just doesn't really give a damn about. Have a million people been killed there this decade? Actually, many moreóbut faceless people, African people, victims bereft of significance in a 24/7 news cycle that fixates on Sarah Palin's wardrobe.
That Judd fixated on that little girl's wardrobe struck me as much more important when I read the description in Judd's diary of a brief trip into Congolese hell published recently on the TheCommunity.com. And then I met Judd in New York a few weeks ago. I've talked to any number of stars who've adopted causes, but she was the first I'd interviewed since Audrey Hepburn back in 1992 whose descriptions of what she saw made me see the suffering for myself. Both were incredibly vulnerable to what they experienced, Hepburn working with UNICEF, Judd with Population Services International. The difference is that Judd is just so American, so Southern, so earthy, in fact.