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subject 농촌에 사는 대통령

한국의 지도층은 은퇴하고도 고향보다 대도시를 활동지로 삼는다. 그러나 인터넷과 교통이 발달된 지금 전원의 한적함을 누리는 발상의 전환이 필요할 때는 아닐까?

조지 w 부시 미 대통령이 취임 후 고향 텍사스주 크로퍼드 목장에서 보낸 기간이 매년 2개월이 넘는다고 한다. 그의 잦은 방문으로 이 목장은 ‘서부 백악관’으로까지 불린다. 백악관에 있어야만 일을 하는 것으로 생각하는 사람들에게 그는 “반드시 워싱턴을 지키고 있어야만 지혜가 생기는 것은 아니다”고 일갈했다 한다. 하기야 목장에 와 있어도 온라인 화상을 통해 현안을 보고 받고, 대책 협의와 수시 업무 지시가 내려지며 헬기 등이 항시 비상 대기하고 있을 터이니 업무 수행에는 별 지장이 없을 듯도 하다.

삭막한 도시를 떠나 공기 맑고 소음 적은 전원에서의 생활이야 누구나 꿈꾸는 것이겠지만, 가축과 농작물이 자라는 농장을 거닐며 대통령의 직무를 수행하는 부시의 모습이 무척이나 신선하게 다가오는 것은 무엇 때문일까. 그것은 초강대국의 대통령인 부시가 아무래도 여러모로 불편할 수밖에 없는 농촌(목장)을 일상의 직무 공간으로 적극 활용할 수 있는 것에 대한 부러움 때문이 아닐까 싶다.  

이를 굳이 부시 대통령의 농업관과 연결 지을 것까지는 없을 것이다. 다만 우리의 대통령이나 지도층 인사들이 부시처럼 농촌을 직무나 생활의 한 공간으로 활용하는 것이 보편화된다면 우리의 농업과 농촌도 지금과는 크게 달라지지 않을까 하는 기대감에서이다. 미국의 대통령들이 퇴임 후 고향 농촌으로 돌아가 남은 여생을 다양한 사회 봉사활동에 전념하는 데 반해 우리는 선거 때는 죽기 살기로 농촌에 손을 벌리다가도 그 뒤의 생활은 언제 그랬느냐는 듯 농촌과 멀어진다는 점이다. 일시적으로 고향을 가도 농촌 주민들과는 어울리지 않는 유리된 삶을 살아간다.  

이는 아마도 서울 등 도시를 떠나면 주류 권력에서 밀려나는 것으로 생각하고, 또 고향을 금의환향하여 허세나 부리는 곳으로 생각하는 잘못된 의식 때문이 아닌가 생각된다. 그런 의식이 강하다 보니 쉽게 서울을 벗어나지 못하는 것이다. 그것은 농촌을 생활의 한 공간으로 받아들이지 않는 결과이기도 하다. 퇴임 후 농촌으로 돌아가 이웃들과 논밭을 일구며 막걸리를 나누는 삶이라 하여 자신의 위상이 낮아지고 인품이 깎이는 것이 아닌데도 말이다. 어디 대통령뿐이겠는가. 기업가 등 각계각층의 지도자급 인사들의 의식 변화가 절실히 요구된다.

이제는 인터넷 등의 발달로 어디서나 업무 처리가 가능하고 교통도 편리해져 단 몇 시간이면 서울을 오갈 수 있는 생활환경이 구축되었다. 문제는 의식이다. 발상의 전환이 필요한 것이다. 생각만 바꾸면 당장이라도 실천할 수 있는 현실인 것이다. 농촌에 살고 있는 사람들도 열린 가슴으로 이들을 받아들이는 성숙된 자세가 필요하다. 농촌을 생활의 근거지로 하여 사회 활동을 하는 지도층 인사들이 해마다 늘어났으면 하는 바람 간절하다.

권갑하 (나래시조시인협회 회장. 농민신문사 부장)
27호 (2006.8.31)

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