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The Curious Case of Brian Grasso and the Modern Concept of "Tolerance"

Sculpture of James Duke Photo by Ildar Sagdejev

Recently, Brian Grasso, an incoming Christian freshman at Duke University, wrote a blog post for the “Post Everything” page of the Washington Post discussing the reaction to his decision not to read a book entitled “Fun Home” that has depictions of lesbian and group “sex” both in words and in pictures. The book was written/drawn in the form of a comic book with script running below the pictures. Brian explained that he did not want to read the book because he did not want to expose himself to images that would cause him to sacrifice his convictions about viewing sexually explicit images even if these images were drawn. Brian discusses the amount of public and negative feedback that he received from his classmates when he published his decision not to read the book on his class of 2019 Duke University page. However, he also discusses the private messages that he received from classmates thanking him for his post.

Grasso mentions an interaction with a Buddhist woman who described herself as a bisexual lesbian who contacted him after he wrote the post. He also writes that he and the young Buddhist woman became friends as each explained their own perspective about sexuality. Through their conversations, Grasso relates how they both gained a deeper appreciation and understanding for one another’s perspective. He then ends his post by explaining that his interaction with the Buddhist student was what college was really all about. Learning from a standpoint of mutual respect and exploring new perspectives without intimidation. From my perspective, this is a well written and thought out post of someone grappling and then learning from someone who is different from him. What Brian shared about his interaction with the Buddhist student is a real-life example of true tolerance (see link below):

From my perspective, what is troubling about our “progressive” American culture is the response that Grasso received from the Washington Post readers who replied to him. Granted, the anonymous nature of posting articles seems to influence people to write in overly dramatic ways. However, I was struck by the intolerance that I perceived in these responses to Grasso. Of course, all have the right to type what they want to in these blogs unless the words are libelous, threatening, or otherwise prohibited by law. However, in my opinion, these responses are symptomatic of what is wrong with how “tolerance” has developed in our current culture. Here are a couple of examples of the responses to Grasso’s post:

“You’re a stupid, bigoted scumbag and a liar. But that’s to be expected from someone so vocal about his immoral religious beliefs.”

“This young man is wittingly masquerading as a man and by his pronouncement, an intelligent man. Nah! He’s a boy and a featherweight at that.”

“No one forced you to go to Duke. You made the choice. If you can’t deal with the results of your choice, drop out.”

A man makes a decision not to read a book that he thinks is offensive and the reactions from “progressive” and “tolerant” bloggers tell the truth about modern “tolerance.” In particular, the first respondent is blind to his own bigotry as he labels Grasso as a “bigot.” He then compounds matters when he complains about Grasso being “so vocal” about his beliefs. Why does this blogger complain about Grasso unreservedly exercising his first amendment right to free speech? The concept of tolerance in our culture today is virtually non-existent. Only if you sacrifice belief in objective truth or any moral standard will you be tolerated by an increasingly radicalized culture bent on stamping out the last vestiges of free conscience. Even as Brian is demonized by the “progressive” and “tolerant” horde, there are those who are glad that he has chosen to express his freedom of conscience. It is my sincere wish that Brian has a great scholastic career at Duke University as he grows intellectually by extending and receiving true tolerance, and as he stands by the convictions that he cherishes so dearly.


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