To Do Is to Be

It’s last on the list of Obamacare problems but, in my mind, first on the list of apt symbols for our national train wreck: the lowercase “is” in the headline of the site’s homepage. It reads, in the largest font on the homepage: “The Healthcare Marketplace is Open!” Note that this sentence is in “headline style,” meaning that each important word is capped. Ah! But that wee word “is”? It’s so short, why capitalize it? Well, it’s the foundational word of the English language, the present tense of the verb “to be,” and the philosophical subject of the most famous speech in the English language — Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech. In its graceful brevity, “is” encapsulates beautifully all the drama, joy, irony, and grief of our too-short lifespan.

And in headline style, as any proofreader knows, it must be capped! But as far as Healthcare.gov is concerned, that “is” is shown up as no more important than a conjunction. It might as well be “is not.” Maybe for another half a billion dollars, we’ll get a marketplace that really IS open.

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