King Midas: The Price of the American Dream

By Aleksey Bashtavenko 

Academic Composition


Once upon a time, in the early 1970s, there was a young Vietnamese emigre named Huy who set foot on the shores of the United States. Huy was a conflicted soul, torn between his resentment towards the American invasion of his homeland and his disillusionment with the communist way of life. The grinding poverty he had experienced back in Vietnam was too much for him to bear, and he yearned for a better future.

Driven by a desire to escape subsistence farming and the harsh realities of his past, Huy became enamored with the allure of the American Dream. He began learning English, embracing the language of his new home, and even read a story about the mythical King Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold. Little did Huy know that this mythical tale would serve as an omen for his own life.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Huy found solace in the Vietnamese community. He started working as a chef at a restaurant specializing in Pho Soup, a taste of his homeland that had now become a cultural treasure in the land of opportunity. With dedication and hard work, Huy quickly rose through the ranks, becoming known as one of the most competent restaurant managers in the community.

By the mid-1990s, Huy had achieved his own version of the American Dream. He owned a thriving restaurant, and the Midas touch that he had unknowingly acquired turned his ambitions into reality. He expanded his empire, purchasing more restaurants, acquiring his own home, and even venturing into the realm of real estate with several rental properties. It seemed that everything Huy touched indeed turned into gold.

However, the price he paid for his success was steep. The pursuit of wealth and the American Dream consumed him, overshadowing his relationships and his sense of self. His son and daughter, once close to him, became distant figures in his life. They barely spoke to him, and family gatherings were mere formalities, devoid of the warmth and connection that should define such moments.

His daughter, seeking to distance herself from her father’s obsession with money, denied her Vietnamese roots altogether. She moved to New Hampshire, as far away from her father as possible, and embraced an American identity with fervor. The Vietnamese language, once spoken in their home, became a distant memory, lost in the pursuit of assimilation.

Huy’s son, on the other hand, rejected his father’s path entirely. He became an ardent activist for the far-left, vehemently opposing the pursuit of wealth and capitalism. His rebellion against his father’s values led him to support Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, embracing a misguided ideology in search of purpose. He returned to Vietnam independently, immersing himself in communist culture, and rumors even circulated that he experimented with the ascetic Buddhist way of life, rejecting the material excesses he associated with his father.

As Huy looked around at his acquired wealth and success, he realized that his life had become a reflection of the mythical King Midas. Everything he touched had turned into gold, but at what cost? The trade-off between national identity, traditions, social mores, and interpersonal relationships for money had left him isolated and alone.

Huy had achieved the American Dream, but in the process, he had lost the essence of who he once was. The mythical Midas may have had gold, but he also lacked the warmth of human touch. Huy, too, found himself surrounded by wealth but devoid of the genuine connections that give life its true meaning.

In the end, Huy’s story serves as a cautionary tale, a reminder that the pursuit of material wealth should not come at the expense of one’s identity, relationships, and the values that define us. The American Dream, like the touch of King Midas, may turn everything into gold, but it’s up to us to determine whether that gold is worth the price we pay.

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