Originally published in the San Antonio Express-News, September 12, 2004
by Susan Ives
So a bunch of us are sitting at Starbucks when there’s a lull in the conversation and I pick up a copy of Al-Madar that’s lying open on the table.
It’s not like I can read Arabic, but a girl can look at the pictures, can’t she?
I let out a whoop. What’s a photo of the Texas Jewboy doing in a Houston Arab-American newspaper?
Before you jump all over me for calling someone a Jewboy, remember that Kinky Friedman calls himself just that. The Hill Country singer-songwriter-author gave up on political correctness sometime around 1968.
And it was, indeed, the Kinkster in the paper, posing with the guy he calls his Palestinian hairdresser, Farouk Shami.
Now, if I were Kinky Friedman’s hairdresser I would want to keep that as our little secret and not go parading the fact around in a newspaper. I suspect Farouk made him wear that big old cowboy hat to cover up what Kinky claims was a misguided straightening job that makes him look like Adolf Hitler’s cousin, crooked little bangs and all.
Friedman recently launched a campaign to put himself in the Texas governor’s seat in 2006, running as an independent against Rick “Good Hair” Perry. “He ought to consider joining the Whig Party,” someone cracked in between sips of chai latte.
Shami is Ralph Nader’s biggest supporter in Texas. Another bad hair politician. Another lost cause.
But they’re not pushing Shami’s hairstyling salons or his Farouk Enterprises, a $400 million-a-year business that develops and markets a line of hair-care products. They’re not pushing Friedman’s gubernatorial bid.
They’re selling olive oil under the label Farouk & Friedman. Now that’s a name you won’t find in the Tel Aviv phonebook.
And that’s the whole point.
“We aim to show Arafat and Sharon how it can be done when we work together,” Friedman said.
The two Texas “oilmen” have established the Farouk & Friedman Charitable Association for Peace, which is marketing first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil from the Holy Land, from olives grown on Shami family land south of Jerusalem. All the profits will go to charities that support Palestinian and Israeli children.
Their goal is to light a candle in the darkness of the conflict, their ad says, and to promote peace and tolerance among all faiths and all races.
When all is said and done, it’s down to guys like Farouk and Friedman, two unlikely friends, to make the world a better place and have a heck of a good time along the way.
If we can learn how to make peace one by one, we can learn to make it nation by nation.
Four days later.
So a bunch of us are sitting at Starbucks, different friends in a different city, and this time I don’t have to grab the paper to read the headline. The 1,000th U.S. soldier has been killed in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called this appalling death toll “relatively small.” Tell that to the families. Tell that to their neighbors and friends and fellow soldiers. Only a small man would dismiss as small the death of even one American soldier.
As Friedman is fond of saying, the ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals. The professionals have got us into this endless war, this cycle of death, fear and hatred. Maybe its time to turn it over to the amateurs. Amateurs like Farouk and Friedman. Amateurs like you and me.
There’s a better way to make the world safe. There’s a better way to make the world free. A way that celebrates life and friendship and cooperation. A way that transcends hatred.
I’m going to find some of that Farouk & Friedman olive oil and toss it with my salad, drizzle it on my hummus, dip my bread into it. And with every drop, I will be pouring oil on the troubled waters of the world and reminding myself that peace is in my hands, in your grasp, in our power.