Working on a Mystery: Optimism in Dark Times

October 4, 2017
3 min read
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Ask anyone who knows me—my capacity for optimism is off the charts. As a newborn I had a “baby bottle half-full” frame of mind. And yeah, there’s a substantial feedback loop in my career that has nurtured and supported that. Who would want a pessimistic venture capitalist, even if such a thing were possible? Especially when there’s so much to be excited about.

It’s been my great privilege to ride the exhilarating VC risk-reward cycle with my partner, team, investors, and, most importantly, the Founders we support. These men and women are concretely changing the world with progressive innovations. They improve the care of Medicaid patients, give teenagers a positive place to communicate, keep batteries out of landfills. When crises like earthquakes and hurricanes arise, they send drones to help refugees. The list goes on.

We talk to thousands of forward-thinking people like this a year. This is VC and tech startup culture: There’s a lot of risk, and plenty of failure when you’re running down a dream. But you go wherever it leads. You keep optimistic.

Today, in spite of what seems like a full-on cascade of human-made catastrophes (we know where climate change comes from, right?), I am still that optimistic man. But I also have to admit that today I am angry, sad, and mystified. We lost 59 people (and counting) in the 521st mass shooting in the last year and a half. A single person had at least 23 firearms in one hotel suite. According to the reports I’m reading, these, and the 19 more found at his home, were legally-owned weapons, many of them war-grade, automatic weapons. Not for hunting. Not for taking down an intruder in your bedroom in the dark of night. Suitable only for killing large numbers of human beings from a safe and tidy distance.

The Las Vegas shooting was a nightmare wrapped around a tragedy rolled up in a scene from hell. And there have been 521 such nightmares, big and small, in 477 days.

The White House has issued a statement that discussing gun laws is “premature.” Like many statements coming from the current administration, this is absurd. It is also phenomenally cruel. Our only hope is not just a discussion of gun laws but a complete reformation of those laws. I believe in the rule of law, but I believe in it because I believe that mostly, American laws are built on, or for God’s sake at least nod to, some kind of moral purpose. How can legal gun ownership of an unlimited number of long-distance murder machines have any remote moral purpose?

I’m an optimist. I’m running down a dream of a world without mass shootings. It is hard to see how that can be when the bullets and the bullshit fly, but I know it’s there. Keep working on the mystery. And RIP, Tom Petty. “There’s something good waitin’ down this road.”

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