‘‘People are now coming out of the closet on the word empire,’’ said the
conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. ‘‘The fact is no coun-
try has been as dominant culturally, economically, technologically
and militarily in the history of the world since the Roman Empire.’’
The metaphor of coming out is striking, part of a broader trend of
appropriating the language of progressive movements in the service
of empire. How outrageous to apply the language of gay pride to a
military power that demands that its soldiers stay in the closet.—Amy
Kaplan, ‘‘Violent Belongings and the Question of Empire Today’’
introduction:
homonationalism and biopolitics
Both Krauthammer and his critic, the American studies scholar Amy Kap-
lan, highlight the confluence of American sexuality and politics.∞ The com-
ing out metaphor, which Kaplan later states is invoked incessantly by U.S.
neocons to elaborate a burgeoning ease with the notion of the United States
as an empire, is striking not only for its appropriative dissemination, but for
what the appropriation indexes. On the one hand, the convergence marks a
cultural moment of national inclusion for homosexuality, alluding to a par-
ticular kind of parallel possibility for the liberated nation and the liberated
queer. This sanctioning of the lingua franca of gay liberation hints that the
liberation of American empire from its closets—an empire already known
but concealed—will and should result in pride, a proud American empire. In
this incisive piece, Kaplan astutely points to the necessary elisions of Kraut-
hammer’s pronouncement, but unfortunately enacts another e√acement of
her own. From a glance at the demographics, one could deduce that those
most likely to be forced into closeting by the ‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ policy,
given their disproportionate percentage of enlistment in the U.S. military,
are men and women of color.≤ Thus, any a≈nity with nonnormative sexual
subjects the nation might unconsciously intimate is vigilantly circum-
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