But I wish I could replicate the conversation that led Meade to paraphrase the quote. He said "Patriotism is the last bastion of the scoundrel." Which makes me wonder: What's the difference between a refuge and a bastion?
refugeThe dictionary man chose the better word for his aphorism. And Meade's deviation says something about his relationship with patriotism. I love the details in the etymology of those 2 words — fleeing versus a fortress. We'd puzzled some of that out before checking the wonderful Online Etymology Dictionary. Fascinating to look closely at a word and find the dead metaphor. It's easier to discover "fugitive" inside "refuge" than "bastille" inside "bastion," which shows the reward of paying even closer attention to things.
late 14c., from O.Fr. refuge, from L. refugium "a taking refuge, place to flee back to," from re- "back" (see re-) + fugere "to flee" (see fugitive) + -ium "place for."
1560s, from M.Fr. bastillon, dim. of O.Fr. bastille "fortress, tower, fortified, building," from O.Prov. bastir "build," perhaps originally "make with bast" (see baste (1)).
But let me try to summarize the conversation that led us to that quote.
1. I was saying how impressed I am that the American people genuinely care about the Constitution and that we believe our elected representatives must abide by it. I was thinking of this poll that showed that only 20% of American voters think the individual mandate is constitutional and only 37% think the Supreme Court should uphold it. That, despite the media effort to treat the challenge to the law as trivial or worse and to promote the idea that it's embarrassingly retrograde to think courts should enforce constitutional limits on Congress's enumerated powers.
2. After I used the word "sacred" to characterize the way Americans think of the Constitution, Meade expressed suspicion about regarding worldly things as religious, and I agreed, noting the way we Americans have come up with our own alternative to ancient ideas about monarchs embodying God's will.
3. We talked about how, when we were young, coming out of the culture of the 1960s, we thought of "patriotism" in a negative light. It was all about mindless deference to power (which, I note now, is the opposite of what constitutional limits on government represents).
4. Meade comes up with the quote.