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In San Bernardino, A Tragically Ordinary Tale

Two stories dominated my feeds yesterday, and by two I mean mostly one: United Airlines managed to cause even more outrage than it had with its leggings ban, this time by having a man physically dragged off one of its planes after he’d refused to volunteer to leave the overbooked aircraft. Everything about the story was horrifying, as anyone who watched the viral video can likely attest.

Then there was that other story: In San Bernardino, California, reports the Los Angeles Times, a man named Cedric Anderson shot and killed his wife Karen Elaine Smith, then himself. Smith was a special education teacher, and because the husband showed up to commit this act at his wife’s workplace, he also wound up shooting and killing an 8-year-old and wounding a 9-year-old. According to Smith’s mother, she’d been planning to divorce her husband. The most chilling detail of all might be San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan’s explanation of how Anderson was able to enter the workplace: “‘That’s not uncommon for a spouse to be able to gain access to a campus to meet with their spouse.’” Because family is safe, or, in an ideal world, would be.

I juxtapose these two stories not to shame anyone who found the former more noteworthy than the latter. It was more worthy of note! The United story was both deeply upsetting and utterly bizarre, and (as the bloody-faced flyer’s image attests) involved physical violence. My point is precisely that there’s nothing remotely surprising about the latter story. Not the gun violence, not the domestic violence angle, and not the fact of a child being shot dead at school.

There’s an impulse, when confronted with two such stories, to use the more startling one as an opportunity to address underlying problems, and to respond to the latter with a resigned shrug. It’s the shrug that I have issues with.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at [email protected]. She is the author of “The Perils Of ‘Privilege’”, from St. Martin’s Press. Follow her on Twitter, @tweetertation

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