Peter Pearson

Dateline Hong Kong August 18, 2019

Protestor March, 5:03 PM

I am standing in front of a mall in the middle of Hong Kong as thousands of marchers parade by me in the rain.

No violence. No threats. No police brutality. Some chants in Chinese but not too much or too loud.

Some marchers are couples holding hands.

Some couples are pushing strollers with babies and toddlers getting an early taste of what it means to march for freedom.

They walk past me by the thousands. It seems like a never-ending stream of peacefully moving humanity. So far this parade has been 45minutes long and still no end to it.

Watching this flow of frustrated freedom seekers, I feel as safe as I would on Sunday afternoon in quiet Menlo Park, California. 

But this freedom march triggers in me reflections of what would I march for. 

What am I willing to risk for beliefs that I take for granted?

What hill am I willing to die for if pushed to the limit?

Am I willing to bring my children at a young age to give them a visceral experience of marching for freedom?

How do I communicate to my friends, my family, my children that there are certain freedoms worth getting off my comfortable couch for, or missing the next football game or neighborhood BBQ? Skipping another Sunday afternoon adult beverage and hauling my carcass to take a stand for important freedoms? 

Too often I take for granted my illusion of democratic privileges. Thousands of people marching and chanting in the rain with their young children snapped me out of it today.

What would you march for?

Sacrifice for?

I hope you’ll share your thoughts. I look forward to reading them in the comment section below.


Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples

Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Ellyn Bader.

Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple.

Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

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  2. I’ve been in London taking action for Extinction Rebellion. So many caring concerned people. Demonstrating their concern for the environment and how it affects all of us on this planet. We cannot live as if we’re disconnected from one another or from other species. The beautiful way people behave on these occasions of protest is a demonstration in action of a better way of being together.

  3. Thanks Pete for your comments.

    As an African American woman, I went to the 1963 March on Washington which was a way of taking a stand with my parents who were afraid for me to participate. I have continued taking stands against racism and poverty and sexism. Currently, I am opposing the states who are making abortion illegal, opposing mass incarceration of black and brown people and opposing the Trump administration. I take these stands by supporting financially these causes ,by speaking about these issues in workshops I organize , as well as in member organizations.

  4. Thank you all for your inspiring examples of standing up (marching) for what you care about. The regional newspapers around Hong Kong all remarked about the greater effect of peaceful marches over aggressive/violent marches.
    Peaceful marches do not equal passivity!

    We all lead busy lives. participating in marches is such a powerful reflection of our important values. I learned in that Hong Kong march about strength in numbers. The estimates were about 1.5 million participants were there. They walked for hours past where I was standing.
    Their presence really confronted me. I could not help but reflect on what the heck do I care enough about to change my life inertia. Witnessing that march touched me more deeply than any series of therapy sessions could.
    I deeply respect your examples of descriptions of what you care about and what you value. And how you publically stood for your beliefs.
    I feel differently now (quite pensive) as I march to the kitchen to make dinner for Ellyn and me.
    with a great deal of respect,

  5. Aloha, I am a certified Master Teacher of the Tao Academy. I am a healing practitioner and a student of Dr. and Master Zhi Gang Sha. The students of Master Sha hold serving others as our life mission, including bringing Love, Peace and Harmony to the world (see My march is a spiritual one. It is not an easy journey as some question our practice that includes ancient wisdom and must be understood with soul, heart and mind. In quantum physics, the soul is defined as information. We are information systems that contain positive and negative information. Many misunderstand and view what we do as a religion instead of a practice with a goal of transforming negative information to positive information. We invite all to discover and nourish their spiritual journey and find more health and happiness in all aspects of life, including relationships.

  6. Thanks so much, Pete, for your post and the photo. I have been inspired reading about the disciplined protest in HK, and it is wonderful to get a first-hand account from a colleague.
    I have been a marcher since the 1960s, first with civil rights, and then Vietnam protests, anti-nuclear protests, and more recently gun violence, protecting the environment, migrants. I will continue to march for democracy, justice for all, activism regarding climate change, etc.
    I have always felt safe on peaceful marches. It feels like this is what we are here for—to support each other in creating a more equitable, safe and peaceful world.

  7. I wholeheartedly echo what Eileen said. The vitriol on both sides of the aisle often reminds me of my hostile angry couples and I’ve often wished we could teach them the I-I process! And as with fighting parents we see distressed kids, the same is true of our political leaders and their constituents. It seems as if no one is really listening effectively and willing to negotiate and compromise for the good of the whole. I can only hope to influence my couples in the I-I way and trust they take that into their worlds influencing others to be better humans. Thanks to you & Ellen for being such champions for developmental growth for all of us!

  8. Marching, whether in protest or support, is valuable, both for oneself and others.
    My marching began with anti-war protests during the Vietnam War, marching through Boston with my baby on my back. It began my political awakening, leading to numerous marches, progressive political activism and way too much reading of news.

  9. Thanks Pete for this – great reads by all above.
    When I thought about marching in protest, I also though about marching in celebration. This evening I stood by to watch the later-100 year march in celebration of our community, the businesses, the organizations, clubs, the cultures and those that have something to say. There was the climate change group, the anti abortion group, the left, right and centre of politicians and the local bee keeper with his hives.
    Easy for me to cheer on marches I agree with, so
    much harder for me to hold steady be tolerant of protesting I don’t agree with. Now that would require me to be more differentiated and adopt an “inquiring” stance! Haha
    Van Jones writes about this challenge in “Beyond the messy truth” proposing that positional stances don’t lead to changing a country. Instead, he proposes that meaningful change will require a willingness on both sides to see beyond the position and an honest desire to listen more to the other side. Only then, he says, can each side come together and heal the country.
    Sound a bit familiar!
    I wonder if marches inspire such difficult conversations between parties.
    I hope so.

  10. Pete, It should be pretty simple for any American citizen to answer your question. The answer is “I would march In defense of the US Constitution and the rights it affirms.” Yet, especially here in Ca. what we see is people who profess a belief that we have the next Hitler in the White House yet in their next breath demand that we surrender our right to own guns !!! I’m sure they don’t know enough history of the socialist countries where people were first disarmed before they were enslaved and murdered by the tens of thousands. In every case the guns were all registered before they were confiscated and then the people had no way to stop the genocide. The same people who want universal gun registration next complain about police violence. Then they want Congress to pass a federal Red Flag Law (ERPO’s) which gives police the power to violate our 4th, 5th and 6th Amendment Rights. All in the name of ‘Do Something” about mass shootings. But none of it would, nor will it ever, stop any mass casualty shootings by criminals or lunatics. By definition neither of them obey laws. Did you see the Hong Kong marcher who carried the American flag? I saw it on TV. That guy understands what he’s marching for….. his rights and freedom.

  11. Thank you for this Pete,
    At dinner last night my husband and my brother in law were debating strongly their differences of opinion regarding the New Zealand prime minster’s stance on climate change.
    I turned to my 16 year old great nephew and said ‘what do you fell about having a strong opinion on things’, his reply, ‘ I don’t care, my life won’t change who ever is prime minister’!
    My reply ‘ do you have sting opinions about anything’?’ ‘Ugh, I don’t care’.
    I think I need to have another chat with him!
    Maybe some of our young people have it all too easy and hide behind an illusion that life will always be ok or is it fear of change if, as you say we get out of our comfort zone to create change and hold onto our beliefs?

  12. I would march for an end to all the political mudslinging that continues to divide our country. I am disgusted with the politicians in both parties. It seems to me that their main goal is to get people to vote for them – they don’t seem to care at all about the negative consequences their constant attacks on each other have on the people they are supposed to be working for. I have had countless clients who feel unsafe, afraid for their children and grandchildren’s future and who have lost all confidence in our government “leaders” to actually work together to find REAL solutions to the many problems they have to deal with on a daily basis (ie soaring medical costs, crime, opioid deaths and addiction, skyrocketing property taxes and fears about their own freedoms being taken away). I would march with the hope that we can stop this political polarization that is undermining the optimism about the future that is so vital for mental health.

  13. I have marched, many times, beginning in the Vietnam War era. In recent years I have stood beside Hawaiians in their protection against further desecration of their sacred Mauna Kea which is also an ecologically fragile area. This is an historic time for Hawaiians and it is reverberating through indigenous peoples around the world.

  14. Thank you for the inspirational description of the HK protesters! I march in the woman’s march in Seattle, it is the feel good event of the year for me. I want to also join those marching on Martin Luther King Jr. day. There’s a lot of things I would gladly get out there for!

  15. I bow in awe and gratitude to so many of you commenting so far. Your fearlessness and dedication is inspiring. In college I participated in protests against US involvement in Central America. It seemed like a fairly pedestrian activity just listening to speeches until I noticed the many SWAT team members atop various buildings with guns on the protesters. In social work school, I went to my first of many Pride Marches in Washington DC – that one was special as my first and upon arriving home, the conversation my partner and I had with a reporter was on the front page of the Ann Arbor News. Turned out to be a very efficient way of coming out to my school and facilitating important conversations. I experienced a pride event where neonazi/skinheads were present and threatening and police were in riot gear. I, who was not in riot gear, was selling books and rainbow things and felt a profound sense of necessity to be standing with the symbols of LGBT culture in the face of such hatred. Thank you Pete for sharing your reflections from Hong Kong and opening this conversation.

  16. I marched from 1964 to 1968 against the Viet Nam war, for civil rights, and for the farm workers. When my first daughter was born I stopped marching, hoping that being the best parent I could be would help make the world a better place. I marched again in the Women’s March in 2017, with that same daughter pushing my wheel chair through bumpy streets. Taking turns at the task were my grandson and my granddaughter. The spirits of hope, of love, of peace, of justice for all, and for democracy will live on in our children; and we must never give up. Power to the people!

  17. We marched for Climate change in NYC in 2016. I don’t know if it made a difference – in the prior week we saw Bernie Sanders & other environmental activists such as Naomi Klein & Bill McKibben talk on a panel about what we needed to do to save life & maintain harmony on our planet. I was disappointed that more people didn’t show up, tho I think they said 400k did. It seems the next march won’t be as relaxed, but rather more of a pots & pans clanging & demanding change on so many fronts. Mandatory vax in NY; toxic chemicals in food, ending up in our water, heavy metals falling from the sky… these issues are escalating – all worth attention. Right now I’m focusing on providing community support. I’m ready for more if it feels it will make a difference. I’m talking about the things that need to change. A lot of people seem too overwhelmed to do more than survive. A lot are too disgusted to care. I’m encouraged by the new blood in the government. We must band together. The next few years will be challenging more than likely. ?

  18. I was at a sit-down protest at ICE, protesting the detention of the families/kids at the borders. And I’ve paid to help refugees get bail bond, so they can make it to their appointments with the courts for citizenship status.

  19. Most recently I’ve marched for the end of patriarchy (pink Pussy hat anyone?) and the need for gun control after the high school shooting in Florida. So uplifting to see hundreds or thousands of like minded people walk by your side.

  20. I’m touched, Pete, by not only what you said, but that you were willing to share your responses with us. I’ve been marching since we were trying to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed in IWY 1975, up through more recent peace marches, nulti-issue environmental and human rights marches (HKonJ) with Rev. William Barber, pride events, the Women’s March in Washington, DC, vigils for immigrants’ basic human rights, etc. Sometimes, especially when ignored or minimized by mainstream media, it’s hard to keep up these efforts, as I doubt any single one of these results in legislation or policy change. But they are nevertheless empowering reminders of not being alone. I feel tired just thinking about planning and getting to & from the next one, but I’m always glad I went. There is really nothing quite like being in the midst of dozens or hundreds or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of others who share similar deeply held convictions, rather than just venting with friends or family. I also sometimes make connections for future support and networking, not to mention coming back with great photos of inspiring floats, T-shirts and posters. I come home with more hope for future change, even if it’s not as quick as I would like it to be.

  21. i did all of that during viet nam ….one of 3 couples who organized a march and silent nonviolent vigil in port chicago when napalm trucks were going thru town in open crates and where 95% if the munitions were loaded on ships to viet naml….and the civil right movement……now, i’m too old to march and there’s too many people between me and the nearest toyette…, i get callouses on my fingers signing petitions and talking to the people in my life about Duty to Warn

  22. Thanks, Peter, for these observations. Unfortunately, for many of us, it probably would take an experience like the one you recount here to spur us to ask those questions of ourselves. I’d like to be able to answer with confidence; but (in)action speaks louder than words, and I haven’t gotten off the couch yet, despite the many outrages that have occurred in the past few years. Maybe a good follow up question would be, why haven’t I/we been marching? I’d guess the most common response would be something like, “I didn’t think my voice would make a difference.” But that’s a pretty lame excuse, isn’t it?

  23. Back in 1992 I went on strike for 23 days from my job as a Child Welfare Social Worker, partly for better pay, but also for improved working conditions that would benefit the children in my care. I was a divorced mother of 2 young children, and I risked my job and income for this. I also marched around my city every single day, and attended frequent meetings to discuss this process as a strike captain. I brought my children to the protests when they were not attending school. This through rain, snow and blazing sunshine. I stood up for what I believed was right. I’m sure that CSIS has a file on me and my peers.