For those unfamiliar with the term, Marranos was the name given to Jews in medieval Spain and Portugal who secretly maintained their Judaism while living as Catholics in public, especially in the 15th century during the Spanish Inquisition.
There is, of course, no Spanish Inquisition in America today — no one is being tortured into confessing what they really believe, and no one is being burned at the stake. But there are millions of Marrano-like Americans: Americans who hold conservative views — especially those who hold conservative positions on social issues and those who voted for Donald Trump for president.
Millions of Americans who hold conservative and/or pro-Trump views rationally fear ostracism by their peers, public humiliation, ruined reputations, broken families, job loss and the inability to work in their field. Under these circumstances, they have decided that coming out as conservative or pro-Trump is not worth the persecution they would endure.
In terms of the percentage of the population effected, there is no parallel in American history. Coming out as a homosexual prior to the 1960s and 70s, or publicly announcing oneself as a member of the Communist Party in the 1950s would have often led to similar dire consequences in one's social, work and family life. But gays and Communist Party members comprised a tiny percentage of the American population. And Communists supported true evil.
I wish I could share all the emails sent to me from professional musicians who play in some of the premier orchestras in America. They wrote to me following the nationally publicized attempts by left-wing members of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra and the Santa Monica city government to prevent me from conducting a Haydn symphony at the Walt Disney Concert Hall three weeks ago. These people publicly called on members of the orchestra to refuse to play and members of the public to refuse to attend.
These people wrote to encourage me and tell me how they are compelled to hide their conservative views — how, in effect, they live as Marranos.
A violist with one of the most prestigious orchestras in the country (I figured out which orchestra using the internet; she was even afraid to tell me ) wrote to me last week about how quiet she is about her conservatism. While she could not be fired for it, she said, she would be socially ostracized within the orchestra for which she has played for decades.
A middle-aged professional musician told me that he wears his hair very long in order to appear hippie-like and camouflage his conservative politics. He is no more likely to tell fellow musicians that he supports President Trump than a Marrano in medieval Spain would have been to go public with his Jewish beliefs.
One musician in Minnesota wrote to me: "I was a professional musician from the age of 17. I wanted you to know that I, too, lost my career because of my views. My choice, actually; I just could no longer take the abuse."
I'm fortunate. As a radio talk-show host and columnist, I'm paid to express my opinions. As for my avocation of conducting orchestras, I'm lucky there, too. Because the permanent conductor of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra and the orchestra's board remained principled, and because so many people support me and my values, the efforts to thwart me failed. The Disney hall, with 2,000-plus seats, was sold out — a first for a community orchestra in that venue.
Of course, American conservative Marranos don't just live in the world of music. They are in every profession. We know about the high-profile cases, the conservatives whose careers have been ruined by saying the "wrong" thing, or supporting the "wrong" candidate or ballot proposition; we know about the conservative speakers who have been physically attacked and prevented from speaking on college campuses. But we don't know about the millions who are just afraid to speak up, who remain silent in a business meeting or at a dinner party when someone casually expresses a view with which they strongly disagree. These Americans live in fear, legitimately so in many cases, that if they do speak out, there will be severe consequences — a job lost, a promotion not given or even a child who will no longer speak to them.
This is all new in our country.
Had anyone predicted that in America — the land more renowned than any other for liberty and free speech — the word "Marrano" would ever accurately characterize citizens, let alone close to half the voting population, that individual would have been regarded as a charlatan.
But given the intolerance and hatred on the left, and its dominance over almost every area of American life, that individual would have been a prophet.