With his wide set of horns and easy gait, he led the news on several TV stations on Sunday, a divine break from reports of wars and homicides and other assorted atrocities. As I watched him jostle our sense of time and place—just a muscular farm animal whistling on a busy corner under a traffic light in North Las Vegas—a lot of things came to mind: the Wall Street bull and the defiant little girl sculptures; the smell of the livestock, dust and hay at the Clark County Fair one day earlier; and—because a bull is a metaphor for death in some cultures—the fear of a world on the brink. One hundred days into the Trump presidency, we’re dropping bombs with vile names—“the mother of all bombs”—in one war theater and ratcheting up a nuclear missile crisis in another. Even in this scenario, or perhaps more so, the ambling urban bull made me happy, as clinging to absurdity is the only rational response to an irrational world.
Last Thursday, three days before the rogue bull led police on a slow chase, 16 protestors were arrested outside the entrance to the Nevada National Security Site. It was the annual, interfaith Sacred Peace Walk and, given the Make-America-a-Cold-War-State-Again events of late, it might have been one of their most poignant protests.
Around the same time they were marching, and the bull with escapist tendencies was fleeing a meaningless existence, and North Korea was parading an array of mysterious missiles, President Trump was struggling to play nice with the Easter Bunny on the White House lawn. He’d already announced a military armada aimed at North Korea to dissuade it from performing a nuclear test. Trump, we have seen, is a master of de-escalation, never prone to rash rebuttals, a model of diplomacy.
“The risk here is that there could be inadvertent escalation based on an accident or miscalculation,” nuclear specialist Shannon Kile, told the U.K.’s Independent. Political analyst Rodger Baker added in a stratfor.com article reprinted by Forbes: “Discourse with leaders who are portrayed as illegitimate at best and delusional at worst is politically untenable.” He was speaking of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and that propaganda-filled nation, of course. Not ours.
Back at the National Security Site, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Air Force celebrated after dropping a mock nuclear bomb from an F-16. Work on this mother, a B61-12, has been going on for years, and it was time to test the deployment mechanisms. A crowd of personnel watched as the jet took its first pass over the Tonopah Test Range—but it didn’t drop the inert payload. A herd of wild horses stood in the way.
One wants to imagine the horses were protesting nuclear escalation/mutually assured destruction/weapon fetishes, as part of some organized worldwide livestock revolt. But more likely they, too, had decided the only way to deal with an absurd world is to gallop merrily out of place, interrupting reality.
They were chased away, and the mock bomb was dropped on second pass, and a little puff of dust and a small hole in the ground signaled that yes, we are prepared to annihilate the world.