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Fighting to Serve: Behind the Scenes in the War to Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" [Hardcover]

Alexander Nicholson

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Book Description

Sept. 20 2012

Discharged in 2002 from the US Army under the provisions of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Alexander Nicholson was shocked to learn there was no group advocating DADT’s repeal that was reaching out to active military or veterans organizations. Nicholson believed the repeal effort needed spokespersons who understood military culture, who could talk about DADT’s impact on those who serve to those who serve and served. Someone like him.

 

From this idea Servicemembers United, the largest organization for gay and lesbian servicemembers, was born. Nicholson and several others who had been discharged under DADT toured the United States, where they spoke at American Legion posts, on radio talk shows, and at press conferences across the South and on both coasts. Surprised at the mostly positive reception that the tour provoked, Nicholson and Servicemembers United were propelled to the forefront of the DADT repeal fight.

 

In time Nicholson became the only named plaintiff in the successful lawsuit that ordered the policy overturned, forcing the US Congress to act. Fighting to Serve gives a no-holds-barred account of the backstage strategies and negotiations, revealing how various LGBT organizations, the Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House often worked at cross purposes. But in the end, it was the pressure brought by active veterans, a court ruling out of California, and a few courageous senators, representatives, and military leaders that brought the destructive policy to an end.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 1 edition (Sept. 20 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1613743726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1613743720
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,279,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"[Nicholson] stood on the frontline of this battle and his dedicated and unflinching service to our nation was the very sort that our military needs most. He is living proof that a soldier needs no rank or uniform to fully serve his country with utmost integrity. In war, any leader needs an accurate depiction of the ground level situation. [Nicholson] reports a valuable perspective in the battle against Don't Ask Don't Tell, translating the details into priceless lessons for our civil rights movement. He was trained to translate, and this book is an example of the very best translation a leader could want."  —Lt. Dan Choi

"[Nicholson] provides a rarely seen look at how activist organizations tirelessly work to build delicate alliances in Washington. . . An intriguing look at gay activism inside the Beltway." —Kirkus


"Nicholson opens a window on the world of issue advocacy politics, providing keen insight into a realm of political operations that generally occurs out of the public view while offering a working model of a successful movement." —Publishers Weekly
 


"Former Servicemembers United founder Alexander Nicholson gives an insider's look at the multi-year effort, all in a surprisingly approachable manner. His own military story would have been reason enough for a  book, but thankfully we now have a fascinating—and important—look at history, too." — Instinct Magazine


"Don't read this if you don't want to see how the sausage is made." — Outsmart 

About the Author

Alexander Nicholson is the founder and executive director of Servicemembers United and was personally engaged with every aspect of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal fight—the grassroots, the media, the US Congress, the administration, the Pentagon, and the courts.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A look inside the DC sausage grinder. How a hopelessly misguided law died a horrible and well deserved death Nov. 21 2012
By The SkyWriter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major contribution to the history of the end of DADT Nov. 19 2012
By loyal customer Bill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is essential reading. Alex Nicholson just may be the most important person in the world who worked to end the misguided, unjust law known as "Don't Ask Don't Tell." His writing style is clear, aggressive and brusque. No doubt Nicholson toots his own horn as he recalls his march to success, but the challenge for detractors will be to write their own histories to sit side by side with his and show how, if they can, they did as much. He joined the battle early, worked on a shoestring budget from a microscopic DC office, but gained credibility all the way from soldiers still serving to high military and political chains of command to the President himself. Nicholson led a multi-front attack, and had Congress failed to act (as nearly happened), there is a good chance that his being an identified defendant in a case working its way through the courts would have led to success. It would take a reincarnated Freud to explain why homophobia has been so powerful throughout American history, but one can be sure our reincarnated founding fathers would see the end of DADT as one of the best examples of the steady but bumpy progress towards application of their original ideals to all Americans. The end of DADT followed a complex, determined, exhausting, multiyear effort contributed to by millions of Americans who gradually came to see the basic sense and justice of "open service." Nicholson's book benefits historians by documenting both his role and the roles of so many others in the campaign. Finally, even for those who care little about the DADT issue, there are other reasons to read the book. It is entertaining history. More important, as suggested above in "Editorial Reviews," it offers sterling documentation of Otto von Bismarck's famous statement "Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made." I'm certain Nicholson would agree that the battle for the law that ended DADT was messy, but the victory was worth every effort.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind The Scenes Intrigues in DADT Repeal Fight June 13 2013
By Paul Cusack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I find this book a much-appreciated honest rendering of the organized struggle to end DADT. Also, an eye opener to the pettiness, timidity and laziness of many gay interest groups who are so well known as to be household names to the community. I receive many emails from one such organization. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Alexander Nicholson, who put much of his life on hold to fight the long and at times thankless fight to a successful conclusion. He was at the forefront, and this book will help keep the historical account accurate.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The insider's guide to DADT repeal Sept. 24 2012
By Dylan Knapp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
First of all: I'm a straight Army veteran (2001-2006) who lived through Don't Ask, Don't Tell, saw many careers and lives ruined by the policy, and was thrilled to see it done away with.

Mr. Nicholson spent nearly every waking moment of 2009-2010 diligently fighting to defeat "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," while some other individuals and organizations spent most of their time (and staff, resources, etc.) figuring out how to throw galas and sell t-shirts. This book is the real deal.

If you want to know how the technicalities and deals necessary to the repeal were orchestrated, from start to finish, warts and all, read this book.

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