Paul Greenberg
I've never been much of a believer in historical theories about the Indispensable Man. There may be some examples -- Washington, Lincoln, Moses -- but they are few. But the indispensable woman, I believe in. Call it Greenberg's Law: Women are the innately superior sex. My theory may not be backed by any scientific evidence, but it's something every man has surely felt. At least if he's got a lick of sense.

You might even call it a prejudice -- in the sense of Edmund Burke's definition of prejudice as the body of judgments passed on as received wisdom from generation to generation, and that need not be proven anew in every age. The word for it in these fecund Southern latitudes is mother wit. Note that nobody ever called that kind of inner knowledge father wit.

When it comes to great truths, each generation shouldn't have to work them out by itself. They don't have to be written down, any more than the English constitution is. Every boy soon learns that women seem to know intuitively what the weaker male sex may grasp only by effort and education. Which is why it requires marriage and family to civilize the male animal. He needs a woman's tutelage.

Brighter boys learn the lesson of female superiority early; dimmer ones may never catch on. A story: It was homecoming weekend many years ago in Pine Bluff, Ark., and a clump of us stood on Main Street waiting for the black college's high-stepping marching band to come striding by, drum major and majorettes and 76 trombones and all.

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A venturesome little boy in the group stepped off the curb to look way up the street -- where the little girl on the Sunbeam Bread sign, a local landmark, still swings endlessly to and fro. Way in the distance, the boy spotted the prancing majorettes throwing their batons high, higher, highest, catching them on the beat. "Wow!" he exclaimed, returning to report what he'd seen. His conclusion: "Girls have to know so many things!"

Here's another story about the natural wisdom of women, or at least their instinctive suspicion of grand-sounding male plans. It must have been back in early 1974, when Watergate was just a trickle in the news rather than the flood that would sweep away a president and all the president's men.

I was at my desk at the Pine Bluff Commercial when the White House called. I know, I know, buildings don't make phone calls. But I was younger back then, and so naive that when the presidential aide-to-an-aide called, I was much impressed, especially with myself.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.