Dead Man Walking thinks that the answer to that last question is "yes": any and all killing is wrong. "Kings and Popes and military generals and heads of state have killed, claiming God's authority and God's blessing. I do not believe in such a God," Sister Prejean writes (1.116).
Twenty years ago, when Dead Man Walking was first published, people cared about it because the death penalty was a controversial issue. Some people supported capital punishment, and it was legal in some states. Some people didn't support it, and it was illegal in some states. Those for and against tried to convince each other. Sometimes a legal death penalty state would switch to banning the practice, and sometimes the opposite would happen. Folks argued about it; politicians argued about it; everyone argued about it; so everybody cared.
and feels the earth go automatic
under his feet.
Home, a daughter comes to greet
him after her bath.
Her skin is wet on his skin
and clothes as she
climbs into his lap
and he holds her.
He has won this moment
with his daughter in his home
where no bullets stir the leaves
in the ginkgo trees outside.
He has survived.
I want to ask him how it was that day.
I want his daughter to listen
to him explain how the bullets entered
my brother's body
and exploded, and how what we hold inside
is torn irrevocably apart.
I want this, and I don't want it.
I want his daughter in his lap.
I want the trees outside still.
I want him to pick up a book
about the creation of the world.
I want her to fall asleep
to the sound of his voice,
telling how near a high plateau
over the Muang Ten River,
the Moon became the wife
of the Morning Star, and they gave birth
to the human race
whose dead children become stars
and how glorious it was
on the first day on this earth
in the beginning.
had left the black iron gate open.
Someone, maybe, the same person,
or another from the dancing,
costumed mob had left apples,
oranges, and skull cookies
on top of the graves.
Even as the gate creaked
free in the wind, even as
Mabel Dodge Luhan’s copy
of The Pied Piper rustled
its pages in a come hither way,
the dead stuck to their roots,
their quiet passageways.
Perhaps, we partied too loudly
with our whizzing sparklers,
or all that erratic light hurt the lonely
sockets where their eyes once stood.
Maybe, we danced too hard on their roofs.
Certainly, we did we not show enough
fear as we read their names
chiseled on stone, and ignored their
bones changing to humus
under piñon’s rocky soil.
For whatever reasons, the dead remained
under the earth, and we walked home
lonely for them, having brushed
their names with candle flames and
the limb-watered light of the moon.
Two of Prejean’s books, “Dead Man Walking” and “Death of Innocents,” are on sale at Barnes and Noble at Louisiana Tech and in the Howard Center for the Performing Arts, prior to the event. A book signing will take place in the lobby of the Howard Center following the event.
A panel discussion on social justice and the death penalty will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Musical Arts Center and a video interview with composer Jake Heggie will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Sweeney Hall. Performances of the “Dead Man Walking” opera will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Musical Arts Center.
The book version of “Dead Man Walking” is full of statistics painting the brokenness of the criminal justice system in the U.S. But the opera brings viewers on an emotional and visceral journey, Prejean said, one that they most likely could not experience otherwise.
Her “awakening” came in 1981 when she became the spiritual advisor to Patrick Sonnier and recorded her experiences as an eyewitness to an execution in “Dead Man Walking. “
But after seeing her dead, beat up, broken body, he was all for it. I believe this is Sister Helen's only weakness in her arguments opposing capital punishment. Although she tried to comfort the Harvey's, and show them that capital punishment was wrong, she was missing something. Sister was missing the dreadful feeling of a loved one brutally murdered at the hands of a killer. Who is to say that people can not change their minds about capital punishment? As of now, I am opposed to the death penalty. If someone killed a person I loved or cared about deeply, and they faced a death sentence, I would really have to consider my views again. This just shows that you should never be truly positive on your views about capital punishment until you have had the opportunity of experiencing a loss by the hands of a killer.
“Dead Man Walking” author Sister Helen Prejean says being a good Christian means taking action. So to learn what Prejean believes, she says to watch what she does. For her, that means her work with death row prisoners and with victims’ families.
Sister Helen Prejean’s work as spiritual advisor to death row inmates formed the basis of two books, including “Dead Man Walking." A native of Louisiana, Prejean became a nun in 1957, and in 1981 she dedicated her life to the poor of New Orleans.
Following the New York Times bestselling book “Dead Man Walking” and the subsequent movie and opera adaptations of the same name, Sister Helen Prejean’s anti-capital punishment advocacy has permeated religious, legal, cultural and social debates.
Sister Helen successfully defends her views on capital punishment while stating that capital punishment should be illegal. Her experiences have taught her that although these criminals were dangerous and deadly, and that their crimes were inexcusable, a death sentence should not be the answer. I believe Sister Helen's success in dealing with the issue of capital punishment falls on the two cases for which she was a spiritual advisor. In these cases, Sister Helen always tried her best to grant stays of execution or a court appeal. She fought for what she believed in and tried her best to abolish the death penalty