Frank Harris III: Trump's Helsinki Summit Offends True Patriots

Frank Harris III: Trump's Helsinki Summit Offends True Patriots
President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shake hands July 16 Helsinki, Finland. Critics say Trump betrayed America by praising Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Dear Mr. President (and all Americans):

Crispus Attucks here. Having followed your presidency, I am acutely aware that history is not your strong suit, so to save you time from asking, or daresay, the trouble of consulting a book on just exactly who the heck I am — I was the first to die for America’s independence.


I gave my life for this country, though at the time I was not considered a citizen.

How so? I was a black man. In fact, a slave who used his feet to protest slavery by running away to freedom. I was a free man when I protested the tyranny of the British on that fateful morning in March 1770. That day when the Redcoats opened fire. That day when I and four others died in what became known as the Boston Massacre.

I was a true patriot, Mr. President. As such, I think I am uniquely qualified to speak on false patriots, which brings me to you.

I saw you sink to your knees in Helsinki, Mr. President.

It was quite a sight seeing you do the Helsinki Sink — kowtowing to a foreign dictator, blaming your own nation and indeed putting another nation’s interests before your own.

I saw you sink to your knees in Helsinki, Mr. President. I saw you show more loyalty to Russia than America. Then a few days later you tweeted that NFL players who protest racial injustice during the national anthem should be severely punished.

You again questioned the patriotism of these predominantly black players and others who protest racial injustice.

It is sheer gall, Mr. President, that you, who sank to both knees in Helsinki to Vladimir Putin, should dictate patriotism to anyone in America.

It seems to me, Mr. President, you have no moral or ethical authority to question anyone about patriotism. This is particularly true of my black descendants who choose to protest racial injustice during the playing of the national anthem.

How can a free nation compel its free citizens to stand in obedience under the flag of patriotism? Is it not the tyranny that I fought against? The tyranny I sacrificed my life to oppose?

Mr. President, I saw you sink to your knees in Helsinki.

I saw you operate in secrecy from your own staff. And before this, I saw how you avoided military duty during the Vietnam war. I saw you denigrate the war hero John McCain. I saw you disrespect Gold Star parents Ghazala and Khizr Khan. Now you wish to remove the security clearances from those in government who criticize you.

And you question others’ patriotism for exercising their constitutional right to protest?

I gave my life for this country and the irony of this has not been lost on me in the years since. I placed myself on the front line in the fight for America’s freedom in a country where the majority of my fellow brethren of African descent were themselves not free.


Over the years, indeed, over the centuries of this country we call America, it has been a recurring theme in American history: black people putting their lives on the line for their country for rights they did not completely have only to have their sacrifices quickly forgotten or denigrated.

It takes a heck of a lot of faith to put forth a supreme effort in support of one’s country in the face of being treated as less than equal.

Mr. President, there are many ironies in life. One of them was that a black man was the first to die for America’s independence at a time when most blacks did not have their own freedom.

Another great irony are those false patriot supporters of yours who question the patriotism of NFL players taking a knee in protest during the anthem, while still supporting your unpatriotic behavior when it comes to Putin and Russia.

To my fellow Americans: I was a true patriot. But I am dead. It is time that living true patriots stand and remove the false patriot and would-be-dictator known as Donald Trump.

Stand so that he does not sink America the way he sank to his knees in Helsinki.

Frank Harris III of Hamden is a professor of journalism at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. His email address is Follow him on Twitter at fh3franktalk.