Gabrielle Giffords and the art of the stereotype

In this edition of The Week's Editor's Letter, Francis Wilkinson ponders the folly of typecasting

One thing I think people like about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is her capacity to confound stereotypes. A Democratic woman who champions gun ownership, she represents a polarized district in a red state, yet was adamant in support of health-care reform. In other words, she's a unique individual with views resulting from unique experiences.

Lots of people can surprise us. A few weeks ago, my accountant called, which usually happens only when April 15 draws dangerously near. "I’m retiring," Nicholas informed me. While I congratulated him on his good fortune, I silently lamented what was, for me, bad news. I'm not too anti-tax — I like my bridges in one piece — but I'm vehemently anti-tax-preparation. Because Nicholas knows that an IRS audit is my idea of hell, he handles my taxes very conservatively. I don't review his work — I just sign it, send the checks, and take my lumps. To take his place, Nicholas recommended a new firm, but I wasn't comfortable making a commitment. Who are these guys? What if they cut corners and I get audited and have to dig my way through documents, receipts, and confusion? What if they're not as cautious as Nicholas? So I told him I would think about it and turned the discussion to his future. "So what will you do in retirement?" I asked. "I’m going to devote myself to radical leftist politics," he responded earnestly. Somehow, I hadn't anticipated that response from my conservative accountant. But as my father used to say, in a kind of open-ended compliment to the world at large: "It takes all kinds."

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Francis Wilkinson is executive editor of The Week.