Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia


I’m in the planning stages for another long trip to Asia—Sikkim (northern India), Myanmar, and the Tibetan community in and around Dharamsala—so I’m particularly sensitive to the news bombarding us daily, about the plight of the flood victims in Pakistan and Ladakh, as well as the disturbing information that many of the products we consume, like SUV’s, mobile phones, play stations, and laptops, add to the destruction of the rain forest or the continuation of terror in such countries as the Congo. And most of us are unaware of this.

I just watched the excellent new PBS program, Need To Know, last Friday night, the 24th, and was stunned by the segment documenting the horrendous use of rape, torture, and murder as a weapon of war in the Congo. What further appalled me was the connection between these rampaging soldiers and the United States. These groups fund their weapons and, thus, continue to subjugate and terrorize women and girls, by selling a variety of precious minerals to companies in the United States (and elsewhere) for components in the above-mentioned products. Not all these minerals come from the Congo, but a large percentage does.

President Obama touched on this in his speech to the United Nations, but we need to examine our part in buying the products containing the minerals, and to insist on transparency by the U.S. companies as to where they buy these components.  Make sure that they have a supply chain that guarantees conflict-free minerals. They may be reluctant to give out such information, but by keeping the pressure up we can help eradicate the atrocities going on in this war-torn country.

I suggest that you look at this report on and make your senators and representatives aware of how pervasive the problem is (just this past summer the number of rapes in a few isolated villages topped 500), and the urgent need to write legislation prohibiting U.S. companies from doing business with Congolese warlords and rebel groups. I may sound naïve, but pressure does work.

I plan to return to Myanmar in mid-January for a month, and this time I shall write the stories of some of the people I met on my first trip, and what has happened to them in the interim. The news out of Myanmar has been grim, and I have not dared make any overt contact, myself, for fear of endangering those I met.  But I think it’s time to take my own advice and stand up and be counted. I will not use names, but I will tell it as I see it. No holds barred.

The news from the Plainfield Symphony about last night’s concert is great! It was one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve played, largely because of our new conductor, Charles Prince, and Leonard Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie, who presided over a concert of Aaron Copeland’s Billy the Kid, Leonard Bernstein’s Suite from On The Waterfront, and Charles Ives’ Symphonuy #2. All these pieces were challenging, with six tympani and assorted percussion, an amazing brass and woodwind section, and strings that played faster than seemed possible. Jamie showed the many ways that these composers “shared” each other’s compositions, and, using song and placards to the audience’s delight, traced the use of American folk music by the inimitable Ives.




Jamie Ross Interview

1 Comment

  1. Jon Pollack

    I am glad the concert went well. I am sure that it was quite an experience to have Jamie Bernstein there.

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