I met Carlos at a Black History Month event I attended at COCC at which Marcus was doing some readings. While there, I ran into Carol Delmonico and both she and Marcus pointed to Carlos as someone who should participate here. Carol introduced us and we chatted briefly. Then we exchanged a few emails over the next month or so. Carlos was not sold on the idea originally, but he eventually decided to participate. And then when we met for the interview, he expressed his hesitance in more detail. In the end, I gave Carlos the opportunity to forego this process, but after more deliberation, he decided to go through with it. He talks a bit about his internal struggle with the idea in our conversation and makes a valid point. It was a pleasure chatting with Carlos and it's a pleasure to introduce you to him here.
ACT: Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
CS: My name is Carlos Salcedo and that's a tough question. How do you describe yourself? I think I'm just a person who lives in Bend, Oregon.
ACT: So, we'll just dive right in because I think this next question sets the tone. What concerns you? And what is it that breaks your heart or makes you sad or deeply affects the way that you personally interact in the world - that affects the way you live your life? Maybe, what is it that holds you back or what is it that holds society back? And then, what motivates you to do something about it?
CS: What concerns me is the thought of, What if I'm wrong? And kind of the mundane stuff - us kind of going through what we're living and not really being genuine with ourselves. That is concerning. What motivates me is the same thing. You know, to find out, What if I am wrong and there's a different way to do this? So, I think the answer for both of those questions is the same for me.
ACT: What if you're wrong about what?
CS: About the way we engage with people. The things we strive for. What we hear and what we get told and how we perceive it. Like, it seems like we chase money a lot. And is that really the right thing to be chasing? Or when we judge people - not we, but I'm gonna say I - when I judge somebody, what if I'm wrong? Right? Because I don't know every aspect of that person's life or that group's life or whatever. And that blind spot bothers me. It bothers me, but at the same time, it motivates me to want to know a little bit more. To find out the real path for me.
ACT: Do you have a sense of how you might know the real path or the right path for you?
CS: I don't. I don't know. I haven't figured it out. Maybe I won't figure it out. 'Cause if I go out there and I get hit by a bus - not that there's a lot of buses in Bend, right? - that's it. I didn't figure it out. I don't let it torment me, but I do think about it. Most of my day is kind of that, of like, when I'm gonna think of something or go into that judgment phase that we all kind of default into, I do ask myself, What if I am wrong? And at some point you have to move forward, so you just go forward with the best that you can do, but I do ponder that. When I'm driving, that's the question that's going through my head - What if I'm not correct? And what if I'm wrong and I just did something that's not for the benefit of the person?
ACT: What do we mean to each other, person to person, out in the world?
CS: What do we mean to each other? That's a good question. I think we should mean everything to each other, but we don't. Even what I just told you about the judgment piece, like, we're constantly judging and making assumptions that we know. And we treat people that way. And even when it's unintended, we're constantly marginalizing out people... with the best intention in mind. So, what do we mean to each other? I don't know. I don't know what the we means to each other.
For me, I just try to enjoy the people that I know and I have contact with and I try to respect the people that I don't know or have contact with. And that's kinda the extent of my exposure to that question.
ACT: What does it mean to you to be part of a community? What does community mean to you? I don't ask that question in the geographic sense. I think it might be fair to say that there's a lot of people out there that are wondering that 'What if I'm wrong?' question. And then a lot of people live that out in different ways. So what does it mean to you to be engaging with all these different people, with all these different agendas?
CS: It means everything - I like it. I like hopefully bringing the voice of the unheard and allowing that to happen. And not that I bring it or we bring it, but hopefully providing the space for people to bring their voice and kind of moving out of the way. How do we move out of the way to let those people that don't have the great opportunity to voice their opinions to voice their opinions and talk about it? And I think that is community.
And that is something that when I'm trying to answer that question of What if I'm wrong?... if we move out of the way to allow these people who don't normally speak or have a position where they can speak to a large number of people, hopefully we can get more information from that. And we can answer that question, What if I'm wrong?
ACT: Do you have a sense of purpose or a compulsion to be a certain way or a responsibility to affect positive change?
CS: Explain that question more, I guess. Is it just, What is my purpose?
ACT: Well, I don't know. These three words together - sense of purpose - tends to have this meaning for whoever hears it. So, I'm asking if those three words resonate with you in any way. And then what might yours be if they do. If not, do you feel compelled to live to some ethical code or a values-based system? Or do you feel responsible to affect positive change out in the world?
CS: So, the way I kind of govern my life is I hope to be able to speak openly with my mother at any moment in time. And if I do something wrong out there in the community or if I treat people negatively or if I'm a "bad person" - whatever that bad may be- I won't be able to speak openly with her and I don't want that. So, I guess, what kind of governs my actions on a day-to-day basis is my mother. I really want to go home and be able to talk to my mother in a very open way about my daily actions and activities without having to hide something. And she wouldn't approve of me being that societal bad person and, you know, that does stick in my head.
So, I guess my purpose is my mother's purpose that somehow she imbedded in me and us, maybe - as siblings - of hopefully trying to do the best that we can. So that when, at least for me, when I'm done with work or I'm engaging with her on the weekends and stuff like that, it's not an uncomfortable conversation with her. I can be completely open because I know I don't have anything to hide.
ACT: Have you had the conversation with your mother on the topic of 'what if you're wrong?'?
CS: Oh, we do it all the time.
ACT: If your mother's your barometer, what do you come up with her? And does she say, 'Well, what if I'm wrong?'? Because then that really affects you, too.
CS: Well, we haven't come up with the answer. But I guess that's the beauty of our relationship is that it's a conversation that doesn't end. You know?
ACT: Do you want to ask me anything?
CS: I think the question I asked you before we started this is 'Why are you doing this?' and that was a question before I agreed to do this and even before we agreed to turn on the mics. And then the other question was why are other people deciding to be part of this project?
ACT: I'm doing this to find a connection with other people through vulnerability and to grow connection because I believe our relationships with each are really the path forward. It's not about this collecting and consuming and money and wealth and homes and cars. I feel, mostly bad about the state of the world, so this - I can't exactly explain how everything in my life led up to this project - is a curiosity about people in a way that I'm looking for deeper connection. And then I want to model that behavior to hopefully grow that desire for other people.
The second part of your question - Why do people participate in this? - is a question, actually, that I have a really hard time with. Because I worry that people participate in this for what I would consider the wrong reasons. And if I could be really frank, that fear or worry is fed a lot because I don't think that Bend cares a single damn about this project. And because they don't care about this project, I get the sense that they don't actually care about what's beneath this project - the foundation of this project. And that's after 125 interviews before this one. That's after a lot of hard work and a lot of hours - you know, too many for me to count - spent working on it and trying to present this in a way that the world will respond to it. And so I've held the project up to my standard over and over and over, looked at it through a microscope, and at the end of all of this introspection the only thing I'm left to do is just keep doing it. I don't know how many more tweaks might come and I can tell you there have been many throughout the course of it.
I wish that people participated in this project because they really actually did care about each other. And not just the each others that fit into their economic status or their social status or the others that participate in their hobbies or like to vacation in the same places. But, I don't know. Something I've said in a previous interview is even if people are saying the politically correct or rote expressions that sound good, I've started to believe that even that is almost like an admission and it's like a goal. Right? People say this thing because it's actually how they want to be; it might not be how they are. And so I've started to find a little bit of peace just in that.
CS: Before we started I told you I had a conflict in doing this - because of that question. And I don't think that I am necessarily the right person to do this. I think there's other people whose voice should be here. Because a lot of the people that were on this page are the people that I hear from already out in the community. And I'm one of those people, too, right? So, I'm hypocritical. And I'm a hypocrite right now by doing this. But, at the same time, I did it exactly for that reason - to be able to kind of say this. Which is this spot deserves to be held by somebody else. By those people that don't get the opportunity to speak their mind all the time the way I have the privilege of doing and the way a lot of those on that page have the privilege of doing. And I do like your project because I think it can give that voice to some of these people who don't normally get to have that voice. And that is the voice that I'm most interested in and that is the voice that I want to step aside for. So, I hope it does work out that way.
ACT: Me, too. You can help connect me to those people.
CS: Yeah. For sure.
ACT: Do you want to say anything in closing or was that it?
CS: That's really it for me.