On Christmas Eve, a family of four closed down our bakery at 5 p.m. They stayed on the patio without anywhere else to go with their two small daughters. Mom played a  holiday mix from her phone. Dad cocked his hat to the side and began shimmying and shaking to “Feliz Navidad,” twirling the daughters until they were dizzy. Mom checked her phone periodically, sipping her coffee, and crunching a cookie from a paper bag.

It’s in times like these that I have learned how to love the small crystalline moments that distill community into a fine spirit. A woman steps from our bathroom and into her expectant partner’s arms waving a pregnancy test strip and crying joyously. A homeless man teaches me about the wondrous eschatology of vaccine conspiracies. A senior who grew up in Germany is moved to tears by the beauty of our basket of egg-glazed challah braids.

That is why it is so hard for me to admit that 2020 will be known as the year we learned how to hate. As an affirmed white liberal of the most insufferable sort, my capacity to turn the other cheek and withstand suffering and ignorance was seemingly unlimited. With snarky superiority, I moved through Madame Bovary, then Tolstoy, then a tower of unread Harper’s Magazines, piddling and poking in my garden, avoiding mixing pods, donning my mask while running, evaluating the dignity of black squares on Instagram, and phone banking for the election.

But every soul has a threshold whereupon it bends, and then breaks. The evidence was stark. Hate unchecked would end with a knee to the neck, a bullet in the back in the night, and a pardon for evil. Hate could not be met with hate, but this hate I felt could not be squelched this time and could not be excused for emotion. It was what it was.

The climax came when my mother, my own dear mother who has never so much as finished a glass of wine, told me in reference to Trump’s presidential pardons and clusterblock of the stimulus relief bill, “I hate him. I couldn’t imagine I could hate him more than I have these past four years, but I do.”

My mother curses out no one.

It was then that I realized that in my own abdication of hate, I had become prideful. We embrace it now, not perhaps as the Emperor asked Luke Skywalker to embrace it to inhabit evil, but each in our own way to refute the reality that so many could be so ignorant, that 70 million could have punched Trump’s ticket.

This new understanding of hate is powerful, and rather than remain cloistered in our gated communities and ivory towers and academic medical centers, let us hope this hate motivates the strategy and tactics in this New Year that can remake America anew and rejoin our families and communities to embrace joy with abandon and dance with our daughters and sons, partners and lovers.

Ari Berenbaum is the owner of Ninth Street Bakery in Durham. 

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