Are we still a melting pot?

“On the boats and on the planes, they’re coming to America.
Never looking back again, they’re coming to America.” – Neil Diamond

Words from a rousing anthem that induced pride in country a generation back.

The melting pot. The idea was such that a schoolkid could understand it. Take a bunch of people of different colors, ethnicities, and geographic origins, put them in a cauldron like a stew. Season with American values—individualism, freedom, and equality among them—and in a couple of generations you have a diverse society, but a singular national identity. An American nation.

Did it work? There are good arguments on both sides of the question.

Well, I’m a second-generation citizen in this country, half-Greek, half-Turk. My Jewish grandparents from peasant beginnings came to the U.S. during the huge wave of immigration in the early 1900s. They came with a dream, like the majority of immigrants do—to pursue a better future for their children and grandchildren. They worked menial jobs and insisted that their families count themselves as Americans first.

At the same time, as they got along in years, we’d pick them up on Sunday afternoons and take them to a special little park at Redondo Beach in the L.A. area. A place where people from the old country would socialize. We kids were immersed in ethnic music and served amazing food. My mom tried hard to recreate those dishes but never quite got there.

Memories I still treasure.