UNITED NATIONS—In a sternly worded resolution citing "a shameful violation of Americans' basic right to dignity while on vacation," the United Nations Commission On Human Rights condemned the U.S. Monday for its tolerance of tourist traps, calling for an immediate ban on mystery spots, wonder caverns, and fantasy worlds.
"For America's leaders to speak out so forcefully against human-rights abuses in other nations while they permit such atrocities as Wall Drug, Bear Country USA, and Tommy Bartlett's Robot World right in their own country is hypocrisy at its worst," said Aliz al-Ghauri of Egypt, chair of the U.N. human-rights panel. "We implore President Clinton and other American political leaders to do the right thing and dismantle these traps before they can cause any more harm."
The U.N. based its report on evidence of abuse collected by investigators touring the U.S. over a three-year period. On one 200-mile stretch of I-80 alone, the investigators discovered a shocking 845 class-C tourist traps, including six holy lands, 32 giant fiberglass mammals, nine wax museums, three alligator farms and 12 meteor craters.
"The loss of human dignity one suffers at such places cannot be expressed in words," investigator Eduardo Casale, of Chile, said. "No one should have to endure the Foam House Of The Future."
Also factoring heavily into the U.N.'s decision to condemn the U.S. was testimony from many of the victims themselves.
"The Corn Palace sounded incredible, but then when I paid and went inside, all I saw was more corn and a few autographed photos of the Gatlin Brothers," said Pensacola, FL, resident Joseph Theime, appearing before the U.N. commission last month. "I never saw those six dollars again."
Theime said he was further victimized in the Corn Palace's souvenir shop, where he was brutally stripped of an additional $37.85 through the purchase of T-shirts, postcards, snow globes, refrigerator magnets, miniature statuettes and personalized spoonrests.
Columbus, OH, resident Sarah Deville also testified before the U.N. panel. "I had a bad feeling about exit 14, but the kids kept yelling, 'Kentucky Wigwam Village! Kentucky Wigwam Village!'" Deville said. "How was I to know the kinds of horrifying indignities that awaited us there?"
Deville said that by the time she neared the exit for the Kentucky Wigwam Village, she was unable to avoid stopping, her ability to resist systematically broken down by the village's relentless saturation-billboarding campaign for over 400 miles along I-75.
Roy Trout, head of the Pennsylvania Department of Tourism, was angered by the U.N. condemnation.
"This is unfair, not just to the owners of these businesses, but, more importantly, to the American people," Trout said. "Without such places as ChocolateWorld, ReptileWorld and Roadside America, featuring the world's largest miniature-train village, where will families go during their road trips and summer vacations? Contrary to what the U.N. will have you believe, the American people both need and want these traps."
Members of NO MORE, a San Francisco-based human-rights group that has long opposed the tourist traps, hailed the condemnation as a victory for human rights.
"This is a major step in the right direction, no doubt," NO MORE director Janet Orvis said. "But the fight is not over: There are still a lot of people out there snaring helpless tourists in these sick, cruel traps—and our government knows the name of every single one of them. But as long as the feds get their cut at tax time, they just look the other way and let the atrocities go on."