Knocking Down Thomas Jefferson Statues Won’t Change Jefferson’s Legacy

Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. (matthewlee171/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
The belief that history and culture can be shaped by the manipulation of statues and other symbols is just one more superstition.


here is a difference between Thomas Jefferson and a statue of Thomas Jefferson. That much should be obvious, but, to our addled cancel-culture warriors, it isn’t.

Cancel culture understands people, living or dead, in the flesh or in statuary, as moral placeholders. Its mental model of the moral universe is zero-sum, a fixed hierarchy of status and prestige carefully arranged by degree — it is a kind of moral Tetris game in which some blocks must be eliminated in order for the others to advance.

If you listen, the would-be cancelers will sometimes tell you exactly what they are thinking. Those who

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