What to give the contra who has everything -- or at least the latest in antiaircraft missile launchers? The conservative Eagle Forum has a smart holiday idea. Not available in stores, it's called the "Freedom Fighter Friendship Kit."
Yesterday, some of Phyllis Schlafly's gadflies gathered around a dining room table in a wealthy suburb of St. Louis and assembled about 50 of the kits -- in Army surplus camouflage pouches -- for later shipment to the battle zones of Nicaragua.
"It's just a little pouch with a couple of medical and nutritional items -- a few little things that can help the freedom fighters over a difficult period," Schlafly said from her Illinois headquarters.
"The Russians are probably supplying the Sandinistas with even better kits," she added. "Then again, maybe the Russians don't have the little necessities of life that are really minor in America."
Elaine Middendorf, Schlafly's Missouri state director, helped with yesterday's pouch-stuffing along with a dozen other Eagle Forumers in Ladue, Mo. She said each Freedom Fighter Friendship Kit contains a Spanish-language Bible and a heartfelt greeting to a "dear Nicaraguan brother: The chapter of the Eagle Forum in St. Louis, Missouri, made and filled these pouches with loving care for you. God bless Nicaragua."
Beyond that, each kit contains a veritable cornucopia.
"There's a toothbrush and toothpaste -- Crest, Colgate and I think a dental brand," Middendorf said. "There's aspirin. Bayer and Anacin. Insect repellent, water purification tablets, Life Savers, Doublemint Gum -- I guess to 'double your fight' -- shaving cream and disposable razors, and an aluminum mirror that you can prop up and shave with. It's not breakable -- veterans would understand that kind of thing.
"We didn't have enough Band-Aids for all the kits," she elaborated, "but we did put in a sewing kit with heavy-duty thread and needles. I assume these are the kinds of things that men need in battle but I really don't know what kind of situation would prompt that. Then there's a comb, like a pocket comb, some Mentholatum for aching muscles, and a bar of soap. These are important things. It's part of man's dignity to be able to keep some semblance of being civilized in battle.
"And there's foot powder," Middendorf added. "When their feetsies in their bootsies start hurting, I guess it does give them some relief."
She said the kits will be sent off to the Phoenix headquarters of the United Council for World Freedom, a group founded by retired major general John Singlaub, for delivery to the front.
"This is not something where you can say, 'Oh dear, we're a shallow bunch of rich women, what shall we do?' No way!" Middendorf said. "We're not idle rich ladies. We're all busy, involved people."
As to how the kits will be delivered, "I'm not going to tell you," Marsha Heath of the United Council for World Freedom said from Phoenix. "We have our ways. We don't need to advertise to [Nicaraguan President Daniel] Ortega how we do things."
The Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, meanwhile, was unimpressed by the gesture.
"I think they can clean their rifles pretty well with those toothbrushes and get down to the fine parts," said Cultural and Labor Affairs Counselor Roberto Vargas. "If they look into the mirror long enough, I don't think they'll really develop a conscience about what they're doing."