Chevrolet ran this ad for a while. They should keep running it. I loved it, partly because it had pictures of Chevys from my younger days when I was a die hard Chevy fan, but mostly because it had Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful. They just didn’t let it finish. They should make a three minute version of the commercial so they can play the whole thing. Great music. Heartfelt. Brings tears to your eyes. I don’t know why I didn’t have a copy of it. I had to go on iTunes and get it.
But here’s the thing about that version that Ray Charles sings. He doesn’t begin with the first verse. He begins with the third. Here’s how it goes:
- O beautiful for heroes prov’d
- In liberating strife,
- Who more than self their country lov’d,
- And mercy more than life.
- America! America!
- May God thy gold refine
- Till all success be nobleness,
- And ev’ry gain divine.
We have our favorite songs. We sing them. We listen to them. It’s the first verse that’s repeated over and over, but for many songs it’s the second or third verse that has the greater message. It’s that way with America the Beautiful. Because America is not purple mountains or fruited plains or alabaster cites. America is an idea, an idea worth fighting for.
So what is the idea? Freedom, liberty? You can look those words up and get a clear definition but that’s not living them. For over two hundred years we have been living those words. At times it’s been ugly, messy, even a little scary. It’s not easy to be free. To live free you have to let everybody else live free too, even those who don’t see things your way.
Freedom, liberty, America is something like the Christian life. We have free will. We get to choose how we will live. Sometimes we choose the wrong path. We mess up. It would be so much easier if we were told what to do every hour of every day. No choices to make. No conflicts with those who choose contrary to our views. But that would be prison. I don’t want that. Messy as it is, I would rather be free.