Fighting to Serve-Behind the Scenes in the War to Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell
by Alexander Nicholson
Most men and women enter the American armed forces so they may say they served to fight. Our LGBT brothers and sisters entered the armed forces and discovered that they had to fight to serve. Or they did until the U.S. Congress, the Pentagon poo-bahs and President Barack Obama finally matched their own public rhetoric and behind-the-scenes machinations. They finally did away with the utterly ridiculous DADT law that forced LGBT Americans to lie about who they were in order to serve the country they love. And they acted because people like Mr. Nicholson and others deployed smart, savvy troops on the ground in DC to make it happen.
Alexander Nicholson does a superb job of dissecting the often ugly process of repealing a law. In explaining that process he turns over more rocks, exposing more shady dealing, hypocrisy and outright mendacious behavior than a modern-day Machiavelli. The exposure also reveals the fascinating desire of our legislative leaders to right a powerful wrong, an impulse that's often hard to see, but always an undercurrent. Legislators want to do what's right; it's up to average Americans to make them do it. Democracy truly is a spectator sport.
This is Washington expose' at its best. Nicholson seems to channel his Hollywood namesake, insofar as he dives in and talks about his subject disregarding the fanciful line from A Few Good Men--"You can't handle the truth!" Well this Nicholson handles his truth quite well, thank you very much, even at the risk of pissing off the powerful.
There are hints inside the covers of Nicholson's book that he's beyond frustrated and into strident, but not many, and not without reason I'd suggest. The man has, after all, been dismissed from the military simply because he happens to be a gay man. For my straight readers, imagine being shown the door because you happen to have blue eyes, or you're left handed. It's easy to imagine that by discharging him from the Army the Army discharged a powerful weapon on itself, a former soldier with the savvy and determination to take down those who oppose him, and make it better for those who come after. There are hints inside the book that Nicholson crosses the line, as I say, but we find ourselves forgiving him for calling out fellow advocates for their often politically-correct behavior and actions that border on the obsequious.
The final product that exudes from Nicholson's sausage grinder is not the fashioning of a law, but the repeal of one. DADT is history, and about time. But the bigger and perhaps more important product of this work, in my estimation, is the template it provides for future assaults on certain laws and regulations that have no place in modern America. Federal DOMA comes to mind. Civil marriage equality looms across this great land, and reading Fighting to Serve-Behind the Scenes in the War to Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell we come away with a sense that the LGBT community might well use the book like a military map going forward. Unless I miss my guess, as long as they have fighters like Alexander Nicholson, it's only a matter of time and enough cranks on the sausage grinder before all Americans, regardless of who or how they love have access to marriage. Great read, full of detail well explained and a worthy addition in the collection of writings that journal this countries progress toward its stated ambition of liberty and justice for all.
B Edgington--author of The Sky Behind Me, a Memoir of Flying and Life.The Sky Behind Me: A Memoir of Flying & Life