PEOPLE SAID you'd be okay, but I knew better. They said, sure, she'll have a bad case of sibling rivalry -- her older sister, Eighty-nine, was one of the great beauty years of the century -- but Ninety has compensations. She's the start of a new decade and that will make it up to her. But I knew we were in for it. I knew the fall of the Wall was eating you up with envy and spite.
Since big sister did the Wall and all, Ninety (she wanted to spell it Nineti, of course) would have to show how little it mattered. She churned up all those ethnic jealousies and rivalries: Slovaks against Czechs, Poles blaming non-existent Jews for their troubles, Serbs and Croats tearing each other apart.
Anyone else would have stopped there, but not you. You set Republicans against Republicans. They fought over the budget like Democrats. They are still at it. They are snarling and growling at George Bush, who a year ago they thought was Ronald Reagan redux.
What made you even harder to take was the airs you gave yourself. You knew you couldn't match your sister's glory, so you talked in an affected way about a "new world order." Don't make me laugh. You couldn't think of anything better to do than to resurrect the oldest cliche in the books, your standard-issue Middle East potentate, blowhard-strongman, human-rights violator, price-gouging bully.
And you made George Bush think he could deal with him peaceably. To be fair to you, Bush thinks he has a touch with tyrants, so it may not be all your fault that when it counted, he all but told Saddam Hussein to go ahead and invade Kuwait if he felt like it. Only Saddam went too far, as his type always does, something that may be understood by just about everybody but George Bush, who still thinks he can make house pets of the machine-gunners of Tianenman Square.
And now we have 400,000 Americans sitting in the sand, far from home and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and a raging argument over whether they are ready to fight or not. Just about every day we get something different from someone in authority. The president's men took the peculiar position that this was a question of the president's manhood, not the troops' survival. Two days after Christmas they outdid themselves and leaked a story that he would order the troops into battle ready or not. Only a vixen like you, Ninety, would put out stuff like that.
When you write your memoirs, Ninety -- and be sure you profit from the horrible example of William Bennett, the short-lived Republican chairman who dallied too long at his writing table and spent his advance too well -- kindly tell us what you thought you were doing to Mikhail Gorbachev. First you gave him the Nobel Peace Prize, then you wouldn't let him go to Oslo to pick it up. He was afraid they'd change the Kremlin locks while he was gone, I guess. Other years had suggested that he was a much bigger hit away from home; you, fiend that you are, had to rub his nose in it.
Nobody was amused, either, by your dismissal of Eduard Shevardnadze, the only Soviet foreign minister who didn't wear a wooden overcoat and say "nyet." People liked him right away and trusted him. You had him stand up in the People's Congress and say he wasn't going to participate in the restoration of a dictator. He named no names, but Gorbachev took it personally and "condemned" his old friend for not telling him what he was about to do.
Here's what else you did overseas. You brought back Nelson Mandela and then you let loose some of the worst violence South Africa has ever seen.
Violence was your signature. Your biggest movies celebrated it. Lots of bashing and broken bones and blood. Television was as bad. And real life was worst of all. One afternoon in December, you shot five children on a daylit street in Washington. You had to compete with Eighty-Nine's awful homicide rate, 437. By December 27, you had more than surpassed it. You're probably pretty proud that you got it up to 473.
Little children watched the teenage mutant Ninja turtles on the home screen and thought they should take a baseball bat to their brothers and sisters. The human equivalent of the turtles turned up at a local theatre showing the gory gala, "Godfather III," and 50 of them stormed the line of waiting patrons. The manager let them in. He explained, "We tried to do the right thing and unfortunately in this instance, we eventually had to just let them in."
So you brought us blood and backsliding. And verbally you were insufferable. We're having a recession in this country; people are losing their jobs, their homes, their cars, their hopes. And what did you come up with to describe it: "a meaningful downturn."
Give me a break. Or better still, get out of here. And don't come back.
Mary McGrory is a Washington Post columnist.